Friday, December 19, 2014

Allie's Parent-Teacher Conference

Allie jumping from a 1 foot tall stool during PT.
This was really hard for her to land just a couple months ago.

We had our semi-annual meeting with Allie's teachers a couple weeks ago.  Here is her summary.

Social-emotional:  Allison seems to enjoy her classroom, classmates, and teachers.  She does well following the classroom routine/rules and helpfully reminds others of the rules.  Allison seems to enjoy playing alone but sometimes during visiting time (right before nap time) enjoys reading stories with her friends.

Physical:  Allison is still gaining an understanding of balancing while walking or running.  She has been doing well stopping herself completely while running.  She enjoys running, jumping, and climbing activities.  She is also learning to ride a tricycle.  She has been doing well using her right hand to support tasks that she is completing with her left hand.

For example:
- Using her right hand to hold a string while she laces beads with her left hand.
- Holding a food bowl with her right hand while scooping with her left hand.
- Using her right hand to hold her cot while she uses her left hand to pull on her cot sheet.
- Most recently, she has been using her right hand to manipulate table utensils while eating snack or lunch.

She has been doing well using her right hand without reminders or prompting, in addition to stretching out her right hand when she is not engaged in an activity.

Language: Allison's language has greatly developed since the beginning of the school year.  She is able to express her wants, needs, and ideas.  She is able to directly answer questions that she is being asked.  She also enjoys asking questions and initiating conversations with reachers.

Cognitive:  Allison happily participates in all of the activities that are offered daily.   She is not easily distracted when engaged in an activity and sustains an appropriate attention span.  She can also make connections about experiences that occur at home/school and can recall experiences that she has at home.

Literacy:  Allison has begun to show an interest in rhyming words and letter sounds.  She is able to identify her name, the names of others, and letters.  Allison enjoys listening to stories and pretending to read stories to her friends.  She eagerly participates in conversations about stories that we read at school.  She is also able to create a picture and provide a description of the drawing.

Math:  Allison is able to identify numbers and complete number correspondence activities.  She also has a great understanding of positional words and can identify shapes.

Social Studies: Allison is aware that she has a mother, father, and brother.  She is also aware of the state that she lives in.  She understands that people live in different places, eat different foods, and wear different clothing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Grandma Visits

My mom and her friend Joyce (or Grandma and Miss Joyce as Allie calls them) visited this past weekend from California.  We were happy to have them.

They got in late Thursday night so we spent most of Friday walking around and playing with the kids.  On Saturday, Jonathan threw me a great birthday party complete with a pop-up tent over our deck.

On Sunday, we got to play, see some sites, and go to a ballet.  The ballet was a mini-nutcracker designed for kids put on by the local youth ballet.  Allie seemed to like it and said she wanted to dance like them too, although even the hour-long version seemed a bit long for most of the kids to sit still.
Waiting to enter the theater 
Waiting for the show to start
Claiming she wasn't tired
While we were doing some site-seeing with Andrew, Allie and Jonathan went to her BFF Abby's house for their annual holiday pretzel-dipping party.  (She sure has grown since last year's party.)

Grandma and Miss Joyce they left this morning.  We hope to see them again soon!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Feelings

Waiting for Mommy to come home from work
I have been enjoying Christmas prep so much this year.

One source of joy: we're not traveling (yay!) and have family coming into town (double yay!).

Another: Allie really understands the Christmas routine this year.  She has an advent calendar that I made her last year filled with assorted chocolates.  She's so excited every morning to see what will be in it.  She loves the Christmas lights and tree.  She likes all the decorations.  She is excited about Santa, making cookies, and getting presents.

In an effort to give her some perspective about how fortunate we are, we decided to sponsor a low-income family with two kids through our city-run Holiday Drive.  We got a wish list from each of the four family members (a mom, a dad, a teenage girl, and 2-year old girl we'll call J).  Their wish list really put things in perspective for me.  All they asked for were coats, hats, gloves, and blankets.  Their dream item was a microwave.  We bought all their wish list items plus a few toys for the little girl.

We also boxed up all of Allie's old clothes that would fit J.  To combat Allie's urge to take her beloved boots, etc. out of the box, we talked with her about how J didn't have many clothes or toys so we were helping them out.  This really hit home for her.  She said "I have a lot of toys.  J can have some of mine."  So, she went into her playroom and filled a box with toys and books that she thought J might like.  Some of the toys were things that Allie likes a lot.  When she was boxing up her Mr. Potato head that she plays with often, I asked "Are you sure you want to give that away?"  She looked at me with shaming eyes:  "Mommy, J doesn't have one and she'd really really like it."  In the box it went.

Jonathan and I were tearing up watching her look through her belongings.  She looked up and said "Don't be sad!  I'm just helping J!"  We explained that we were so proud of her.  She seemed really proud of herself.

Jonathan tucked her into bed and I peaked in a little later to see what she was up to.  She was sitting in bed flipping through her favorite Curious George book.  This book is a collection of about 10 Curious George stories and probably totals about 100 pages.  She reads it every night while she falls asleep.  Allie looked at me and said "This book has a lot of pages.  Maybe J would like to have some of it?"  I kissed her goodnight and told her we'd find more ways to help.

I'm going to go ahead and call this Holiday Drive a success for us.

We also had my work's Children's Christmas Party this past weekend.  Allie had a blast, especially when she decided to join the dance troupe.  She loves showing off her dance moves.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving celebrations

Jonathan's parents came out to visit for Thanksgiving and we had a great time.  We also had some local friends and their two kids over for Thanksgiving dinner and Allie was stoked to have her own kids table.

One of the nice thing about having grandparents around: Andrew finally makes it into some photos.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Constraint therapy, round 4

I got an unexpected call the other day from the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) where Allie does her constraint therapy.  At the end of the last session, I had told them that we wanted to do another round of the month-long casting next spring.  The woman on the phone called to offer us a spot.  

Allie will be doing her fourth round of constraint therapy mid-April to mid-May 2015.  

The best part is that Allie is really excited about it.  She wants her new cast to show her friends and to make Righty "REALLY strong".  

We have been so impressed with Allie's Righty usage.  She does things regularly that I didn't think she'd be able to do.  She uses Righty naturally and sometimes we don't even jump up and down about it.  Stuff like watching her rub her itchy nose with her right hand or picking up a big toy with two hands no longer gets wild praise; it's just what she does.  I can't tell you what a relief it is to watch her flourish.   

I believe that a large part of her Righty success is due to constraint therapy.  It will be interesting to see how the logistics of this round go with Andrew in tow.  But, logistical pains aside, the program is totally worth it and we're excited to see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Botox update

Self portrait, while "helping" me organize her shoes to donate.  

It's been almost two months since Allie had her most recent Botox injections in her right leg.  Things went really well.  So well that I had functionally forgotten about it.  Allie walks more evenly, runs faster, rarely trips, and has a great range of motion.  She's also grown a lot over the last couple months so our timing was perfect in terms of getting some extra stretching in during the growth spurt.

It will be interesting to see how things go as the Botox totally wears off.  The results are supposed to last for about 3 months and we have a follow up with the physiatrist in late January to see how things have evolved.

This time around has been so much more pleasant and helpful that last time.  I'd definitely be open to doing it again, if she needs it.  But, most importantly, I think she would be in favor of getting it again too. 

Here are some more unedited photos from her photo shoot yesterday.   I think they're beautiful!

Cat food

The tray on our ottoman, loaded with her toys

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sick Photographer

Allie, Andrew, and I have been sick for about a week now.  We're all getting a little stir crazy, although Allie not-so-secretly loves being waited on.  I'm pretty sure eating oatmeal off a tray in bed while watching Curious George was a highlight of her year.

When I was asking if she wanted anything to go with her oatmeal, she paused to think about it.  After about 5 seconds, she placed her hand on mine and sweetly said: "Yes... I'd like a spoon too so I can scoop the oatmeal into my mouth."  This girl thinks of everything.  

And Andrew is loving all the TV time he's getting.

In an effort to keep her entertained today, I gave her my phone and showed her how to take pictures.  She walked around for an hour and amassed over a thousand photos.  It was really cool to see things from her perspective.   All of the following unedited photos are taken by Allie.

The back basket of her bike, loaded with toys.

The bell.

Sam, the cat. 

Close-up on the pillow.

"Hi Big Sister!"

Mommy making lunch.

Look how amazed he is by her

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Andrew's 4 month check up

Our little boy is now over 4 months old!

Andrew loves to play on the ground, grab stuff (with both hands!!!), and giggle at his big sister.  He enjoys tummy time and can roll over both from front to back and back to front.  He's an easy going kid and a good nighttime sleeper, but his nap schedule could use some work.  I think he's just too curious about the world to sleep when it's light out;  who can blame him?

Here are his stats:

Length: 25.5" (~70th percentile)
Weight: 14 lbs, 10 oz  (~30th percentile)
Head diameter: 17"  (~95th percentile)

Isn't he a cutie?

The 4 month check up is when we first raised the issue of Allie only grabbing with her right hand and the pediatrician assured us that she was just a "strong lefty".  This time, the pediatrician spent about 5 minutes just examining Andrew's muscle tone and symmetry.  All looks well!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things I thought I'd never see

I am so in love with Allie's gymnastics class.  I can hardly describe it.  

I feel like we have found this sweet spot with her occupational and physical therapy, where they work on developing skills, and with her preschool and sports, which motivate her to use her skills and push herself.  

I was sitting back watching her in gymnastics yesterday in complete awe of all that she could do.  Below are two videos of her awesomeness.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Party weekend

We had a busy weekend with a birthday party at the local firehouse and a get together with a bunch of families of kids with strokes.

The firehouse was fun.  It was the second birthday party we've been to there.  Allie was scared of the fire engine the first time but was much braver this time around.  When she was going to bed that night, she wanted to read her Curious George goes to the firehouse book.

After the birthday party, we went straight up to Baltimore to visit with the families.  We talked a little about how all the kids have Rightys just like Allie, but she didn't seem to care.  She just wanted to know whose birthday it was and if there would be cake.

She had fun with all the kids.  The oldest girl was 10 years old and is an amazing harp player.  Allie gave it a try and loved it too.  Who would have thought.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Family pictures

Drawing people is a big developmental skill that Allie couldn't do at her last check up with the developmental pediatrician. Today, she suddenly drew the whole family.

Hooray for semi-lifelike portraits! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Allie is being discharged from her county run therapy.  

We knew it was coming.  Allie's doing really well and has a great private team in place.  But ending services just feels so... unknown. 

For the last three years, we have seen assorted physical, occupational, developmental, massage, speech, and vision therapists on almost a weekly basis.  Three years.  It makes me pause and reflect upon how quickly time really has passed.  

Our physical therapist has been with us since the very beginning.  She reminded me recently how Allie used to hate her. I had honestly forgotten because their relationship is great now but Allie did indeed cry her way through the vast majority of their early sessions.  It was so bad that Allie would burst into sobbing tears as soon as she saw the PT.  I don't know how she stuck with us but we're glad she did.  

We've received occupational therapy through a number of therapists, but the our current OT has been with us for nearly two years and is so impressed with all that Allie can do.  I really hope to one day see our first OT who encouraged us to quit therapy because, she said, Allie would never use her right hand in a meaningful way.  I wish she could see her now.  There was also the young OT who worked with us temporarily but she sat in the corner of our playroom and colored by herself.  It was weird.

Our developmental therapist was always helpful and encouraging, in spite of the fact that I never once remembered she was coming.  This woman must have thought I was so disorganized as I answered the door with a surprised and slightly panicked look every other week.

And there is our ever chipper speech therapist who declared herself Allie's "academic adviser" so that Allie would still qualify for therapy services for a little longer.  Once Allie had met all of her speech goals and was scoring age appropriately on everything, I'm pretty sure we were supposed to get kicked out.  We definitely appreciated the academic advising for our three year old; plus one for competitive parenting.

Then there was the massage therapist who was secretly a social worker.  I think that is the most brilliant way to get a family engaged with an otherwise stigmatized profession.  I can imagine being a little defensive if I knew that we were being evaluated by a social worker.  Very sneaky indeed.

And, lastly, the vision therapist who occasionally evaluated Allie to check for vision impairment.  The therapist was partially vision impaired and, even though she told me which eye I should look into when we talk, I forgot and then felt like jerk every time we met. In spite of my own issues, she was always very reassuring and comforting.  Something about her always made me feel like a potential visual field cut isn't so bad because Allie's doing so well.    

They will be missed.  

In their honor, I'd like to present our contender for the most awkward sibling photo ever taken.

Could they like each other any less? 
At least the individual photos were cute.

Monday, November 3, 2014


This year was the best Halloween I've ever had.

Allie was a cowgirl and Andrew was a puppy.  Andrew was a little confused by the whole thing but Allie loved every moment of it.  Their school has a Halloween parade every year so the kids can show off their cool costumes.  Andrew was the parade leader and was concerned with the drummer marching along next to him.  

He lightened up a little once we got home.

Allie was so excited to go trick-or-treating.  She woofed her dinner in record time and anxiously stared out the window waiting for other kids to start.  Once the first wave began, we were off.  Andrew and Jonathan came to a few houses with us but then it was just the two of us going on the candy hunt.

She did such a good job, especially with Righty.  She knocked on all the doors with Righty, picked up the candy with Righty, and put it all in her bucket with Righty.  She got so much candy.  A friend of her's joined us for a few houses and, since he is a year younger than her, she showed him how it was done.  Her little bucket was almost full by the time we finished our neighborhood loop.  After every house, she'd look up at me and say "I want to do MORE houses!  LOTS MORE houses!"

Andrew went to bed shortly after Allie and I got home, then the three of us camped out on the front steps to pass out the rest of our candy.  Allie was the candy distributor and she complimented the kids costumes and wished them all a happy Halloween.  Jonathan and I would chuckle every time she'd shout "That's a cool costume!" to someone.  It was a blast.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ophthalmology check up

Allie had her annual ophthalmology check up yesterday and everything is looking really good.  (It's fun to see how much she's grown between checkups; here is the one from last year and the one from the year before.) They did an actual vision test for the first time where Allie had to identify different objects of various sizes.  Instead of the letters or weirdly oriented Es that I usually get, Allie got shapes like a birthday cake with candles, an airplane, a bird, and a house.  She scored perfectly and was deemed to have 20/20 vision.  They also did some depth perception tests where Allie had to wear glasses and grab the 3D objects that popped out.  She grabbed at them all with Righty, which made me particularly proud.  

She hated the dilating drops but recovered quickly and was happy to color in the waiting area until they kicked in (shown above). She got a little nervous once the drops started working and she suddenly couldn't see the picture she was coloring.  She said "my eyes feel just like your eyes".  Apparently she thinks my vision isn't so great. 

Her optical nerve still looks fair, which may imply some vision issues, but the doctor said that everything looks great.  If there is a visual field cut, she suspects it is "not large" but we won't be able to tell until Allie is older and can undergo more rigorous testing.  It was a good but exhausting appointment.

Things at school are going well for both kids.  Allie seems to be getting less shy with some of the new kids.  In a rare feat for us, we managed to finish her "All About Me" class book on time this year.  These are little books that the kids make about their life, family, interests, etc.  They keep them in the class to share with their friends.  We're normally embarrassingly slow getting our homemade book in but this year we actually made the deadline and it paid off.  Since many of her friends still don't have their books in --- we're not alone in our procrastination! --- Allie gets plenty of opportunities to share her book and bond with the kids over shared interests.   

For therapy, Allie has been trying a new hand splint to help keep her thumb out and more functional.  We've gotten two loaners from Allie's occupational therapist and, in spite of my resistance to bracing, it seems to help.  We went to McDonald's after OT one day and Allie made Righty in charge of drinking.  Her cup filled with water is heavy and I was impressed to see Righty pick it up and navigate it with ease.  I guess the little extra support helps.

However, she did complain that the splint makes her thumb "tired", so her OT lent us a slightly larger size to see if it is more comfortable for her.  She seems to like it.

Here's a shot of her at her physical therapy working on coordinating her arm and leg motion.

And, of course, Andrew is tagging along for all of these adventures.  He's really such a great baby.  For now, he's happy to hang out and watch all the cool things his big sister gets to play with.  I'm not sure how we're going to juggle things once he gets more mobile so we'll enjoy his compliance while it lasts.

Andrew had his first parent teacher conference, which Jonathan attended solo, and he got rave reviews from his teacher.  In spite of being the youngest kid in the class, he is the most chatty.  He can roll front to back and back to front now, so he's a little more able to explore.  And, he seems to really like interacting with the other kids.  The teacher's only complaint is that he won't nap more than a few minutes at a time.  I think he's just too excited.