Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tomorrow is the last day of preschool for Hartley before summer break, and this whole week I've been feeling "all the feels", as they say. It's wonderfully bittersweet. While I am over the moon to have her home for summer, I look back on this past school year so happy, so grateful and so immensely proud. 

I can still remember the road that got us here. I remember crying right before Hartley turned two when a doctor told us she was "behind". Up until that point I was a woman who was blissfully unaware of what it was like to have your child's development scrutinized. I entered into a world I knew almost nothing about. I'll never forget driving home from an Infant Toddler Connection assessment where they told Brian and I that Hartley could qualify for special education preschool through the county. And I remember telling him that I did not want Hartley to attend special education preschool. I remember thinking she would have a speech therapist work with her, and that would be that. She would eventually go to community preschool and all of this would just be a faded memory soon enough. 

I don't look back and think that I was ignorant. I don't look back and think I was unaware of what was going on. Every time someone attempted to comfort me by saying Hartley would "catch up", the words cut me because, as her mother, I knew it wasn't a "language delay". For God's sake, my daughter knew the  alphabet in and out of context by the time she was 18 months. Before two, she was counting to 20. She knew her colors, animals, shapes. You name it - she knew it or could learn it almost instantly. But we couldn't get her to answer to her name. We couldn't get her to follow a one step direction or answer the most simple questions.  

But there was still something about the idea of my child being special ed that I was uncomfortable with. That's so horrible and not politically correct but in the beginning, that's where I was. 

As those assessments and meetings and times of talking to professionals added up, and when the words "autism spectrum" started popping up on the radar more and more, things changed a lot for me. I went from a mom who just wanted everything to be typical to a mom who just wanted help for her child. I remember at the end of last summer feeling a lot of desperation and helplessness. I didn't want people to know that that was how I felt but it was. I felt in my heart of hearts that preschool was the answer for Hartley. 

That was also a feeling that evolved so much. In the beginning I wanted anything but special ed preschool and in the end all I wanted was a start date. 

From that start date, the changes in Hartley's development felt almost instant. We noticed progress within the first few weeks. I'll never ever forget after a few weeks of school, we went out to dinner Brian, the kids and I, and Hartley said a couple purposeful sentences. I cried that night. It felt so good to hear my child do more than just labeling. Hearing her thoughts after she synthesized information for the first time was so cool. 

It just kept getting better and better.

I remember writing holiday cards for Hartley's teachers and thanking them for allowing to be able to enjoy my daughter in a whole new way that holiday season. 

I will never ever take for granted being able to ask my child questions and having her answer me. As time went on I could even ask her what she did in school or who she played with, and she could tell me.

With each progress report that came home, there were higher scores indicating her getting closer and closer to mastering the goals on her IEP. 

And not to mention, everyone who saw Hartley regularly before she started school has noted the very noticeable change. As I wrote in my last blog, her developmental pediatrician said she's never seen anything like it.

The past few weeks, she is talking up a storm. It's so fantastic. Even driving through a parking lot, she'll be in her car seat telling me about the different stores we're passing. What they sell and if it's a store or a restaurant. She plays pretend restaurant with stuffed animals, and it's adorable. She also uses these skills at the playground with playmates. Even though she still doesn't always know exactly how to engage kids, she always tries to. She follows them around and is now making fast friends wherever we go. It's been so much fun to watch. Last weekend she "played baseball" with a group of three brothers at the park. She also played tag with another group of boys when we went out to get ice cream. And when the boy's parents called them to leave, they went over to Hartley and said bye to her. 

She tells me everything lately. What she likes and loves and needs or wants. She asks me questions. She also loves to tell people she likes their outfits, and that they are beautiful. The other day I got home from bathing suit shopping, and Hartley found my shopping bag. She pulled out my new suit and said, "Wow, mama! Your new baby suit is beautiful!" Those priceless moments make me feel like I could easily keep her as a three year old forever. I mean, she tells me I'm beautiful in my pajamas! All the heart eye emoticons to that. 

Outside of Hartley's development, I feel like her starting school was great for Patrick and I, too. While I did and do miss having her around, it was the first time I got to really have one on one time with Patrick. That really allowed us to bond. It also really allowed him to come into his own, I think. When I had both of them home his role was more just being in tow and tagging along, and that shifted once he and I starting having our many "mother son dates". 

I also found that school finally gave me a defined schedule, which I had actually greatly been missing since becoming a stay at home mom. Some days it's been pretty stressful to get them both ready for the day and out of the door for drop off by a certain time but it's given us structure that keeps me much more sane. It also got me into the habit of going out many different places with Patrick this spring. Since I already had him loaded into the car we'd almost always go somewhere after drop off. Although, since this has been my life Monday through Friday since the beginning of October I am looking forward to having some mornings this summer where we hang at home in our pajamas ;)

I also feel so lucky for Hartley's wonderful teachers. You seriously could not find a nicer, more patient group of people on the planet. They are amazing at their jobs. I can't believe the crafts and activities they do with the kids - everything from yoga to sensory tables to crafts for any and all occasions. They organized a fun field trip to a local nature center that I got to chaperone. We had a blast as a family at their "water day". 

At water day I got to talk to each of Hartley's teachers, each told me what amazing progress she's made. I had to hold back tears as I thanked them. I told them that we truly could not be any more grateful for what they've done for our daughter and our family. I will always truly believe that this program will have changed my daughter's life because it laid down the very best foundation she could possibly have. 

Our experience with Hartley attending preschool has been so positive that we actually decided to enroll Patrick in preschool two mornings a week next fall. Originally I felt he would be too young but after I see all it's done for Hartley, I'm hoping Patrick has the same experience, and it helps him continue to grow and develop, too! 

Well that was long and all sorts of rambled but I felt like an ode to preschool was in order. I'm so happy for Hartley to have had such a wonderful school year, and I'm pretty excited for summer break to finally be here!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Yesterday we took Hartley for her follow up appointment at Children's Hospital with her Developmental Pediatrician. Brian and I talked the night before how, for once, we weren't dreading an appointment because we could plainly see all of the phenomenal progress Hartley has made since starting school. 

When we got there the doctor could see the change within the first few minutes; it is that noticeable! And maybe 30 minutes into the appointment she told us that Hartley's amazing transformation, in such a short period of time, was the best she's seen in her eight years of working. Brian and I already knew that her progress has been nothing short of incredible. We went from an appointment in the fall where she wouldn't respond to her name, wouldn't give eye contact, and wouldn't answer questions to having a child who could do almost everything that was asked of her. 

I said to the doctor that I think Hartley's teachers are miracle workers. That's seriously how I view them. Her doctor said that while she's sure Hartley has wonderful teachers, not to discount Hartley. She said that even back last fall we knew Hartley was very bright. The fact that she is very intelligent and very willing also deserves credit for her great progress. When I think of it that way, it kind of makes me realize she had all of this inside of her, and her teachers and school seemed to be the magic key to unlock it for us. There will never, ever be words to express how grateful I am for that, and how much I truly believe that early intervention is a life-changing tool for children like Hartley. 

For now, her doctor still thinks Hartley's Autism Spectrum diagnosis is still appropriate for her. She is making incredible strides but her social communication skills are still not completely in line with what you'd typically see for a girl her age. The doctor did said, however, that she could foresee Hartley progressing to a point where a Social Communication Disorder diagnosis would be more appropriate or even possibly someday outgrowing any sort of diagnosis! 

For us, we don't get too caught up in worrying about diagnoses or labels. In the beginning her ASD diagnosis was helpful to me because it felt like an explanation for some of her eccentricities. Now it's helpful because it is giving her access to these services that are helping her so much. However, I can't lie and say that I wasn't excited at that though that Hartley could be in the small percentage of young children that do outgrow their ASD diagnosis. 

She gave us our homework. Someday I'll come on here and elaborate about this. I kind of wish I'd documented from the beginning the various tips and exercises that we've been given throughout the last year or so. I actually think it would be helpful to look back on for ideas of things to do with Patrick! 

And Hartley will be seen again at Children's downtown office in the fall after school starts to do more in depth diagnostic testing. I love how thorough this doctor is. Something Brian and I vowed when we first heard that Hartley was "behind" (doctor's words, not ours) last winter was that we would never allow Hartley to slip through the cracks. We vowed that we would take her to receive whatever testing she needed, and we would follow up to get her whatever help she needed, and we would do all that we could. Now that Hartley is getting better, we will still forge on with the same attitude; she's getting better BECAUSE of these professionals and services. Her doctor said that yesterday. She likened it to antidepressants. She said if someone starts taking antidepressants and they feel better, it doesn't mean they shouldn't continue on with treatment because it is the treatment that's making them better. Hartley's services through the county and her doctor are making her better, but that definitely doesn't mean she shouldn't continue with them. 

All in all, this appointment wasn't exactly new information. As Hartley's mom, and the world's leading Hartley expert, I already knew that she had drastically improved since her last appointment. But there's nothing like a doctor at a renowned children's hospital be blown away by the progress you've been lucky enough to witness. 

If I could talk to me back in September, the woman wiping away tears while she heard her daughter receive her "official" diagnosis, I would give her the biggest hug. If I were to tell her it would all be okay, she wouldn't have believed me. She loved/loves her child so much that she couldn't help but worry for her. But I would tell her that next spring her daughter would be able to tell her about her favorite things and her feelings. I would tell her that Hartley would grow to become the absolute best big sister, so maternal. I would tell her that Hartley would engage her! She would ask her to come to the playroom to have a tea party! I would tell her Hartley would be picking out her outfits and her snacks. That she would put on her own rain boots and proudly boast, "Mama, I did it!" All of those little things that so many parents out there are wishing and praying for, I get to have every day. 

It is never, ever lost on me how lucky Brian and I are. I know that it's a beautiful combination of hard work from lots of various people in our lives including ourselves and our little girl, and someone up above looking out for us.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Baby Ballet

A week ago I was on Facebook and the picture that popped up on my "On This Day" feature was a picture of Hartley at her very first ballet class. I remembered like it was yesterday how hard it was to take that picture. She was beaming because the teacher had given her a purple foam sticker on her hand for a great first class. We, however, didn't actually have a great first class.

Hartley was so excited to go to ballet that day. But as soon as we got there, that changed. It was a new setting with new faces, and she wanted to go home. She clung to me like a tree frog for the entire class. So I galloped and her hopped and danced with her little leotard clad body plastered right against mine. From time to time she would cry. Conservatively she cried at least a quarter of the class. I wanted to cry. I wanted to just storm out and go home. But I didn't. I stayed as calm as I could. I comforted her as my tired body did the moves that all the tiny ballerinas were attempting alongside their moms; I was doing it with the added weight of my 2 year old on my hip. 

I remember talking on the phone with my mom after the class about how I was going to give it a couple more classes at least but my true goal was to make it to every session unless we were sick. But I cried. I knew Hartley was one of the youngest in the class. She wasn't the youngest because another mom of a sweet little blonde girl confessed to me that she signed up for the class even though her daughter was just shy of turning two. 
I also knew that being a Saturday class there were probably some working moms in the bunch, and their daughters had a leg up on being in a "classroom setting" at daycare. So I knew I couldn't expect Hartley to exactly be in the upper echelon of the class. But Hartley stood out in class like a sore thumb. She was the only one who cried, the only one who had to be carried the majority of the class. She was the only one who couldn't even attempt most of the moves. 

Now before you think I'm being tough on her, that not all girls are cut out for dance - this class wasn't/isn't about "dancing" for me. Sure, I think it's wonderful to expose even the youngest of children to the arts & sports but these classes are mainly to learn other skills. You learn social skills, being in a structured environment, following directions, respectful behavior. Heck, Hartley took swimming lessons as an infant. That wasn't about her learning how to swim. It was her getting acclimated to a new environment (the water) and new people/faces. I've heard parents say classes like these are pointless because the child isn't learning the actual skill that young but that's not why we do these activities with our kids. Hartley has taken swimming lessons, music classes, ballet & basketball - not to be a prodigy but to try new things and socialize. 

I'm also not saying that I expected my two year old to obediently follow directions like some perfect little solider either but I'll admit, I was a little surprised just how much we stood out. 

Each class got a little better than the one before. I only had to carry her about half the duration of the second class, and she only cried a couple times. Most of the girls weren't being carried at all and none of the other girls cried. The first handful of sessions of my goals for her didn't have much to do with following directions - mainly just to walk on her own and not have any meltdowns. 

As time went on, I'd push to have her maybe try a few moves throughout class. Usually me contorting her body into a stretch unless she fought me greatly. 

I'd find the songs from class on YouTube and try to get her to practice at home. I got her to practice the forward roll at home. She eventually did it during class with help but I was the only parent who had to walk up each class to stand next to their child and help them. The teacher actually pulled me off to the side one day and told me what a great job I was doing; she could see us getting better each class. Our goals were very different from the other mother daughter pairs but we were accomplishing them little by little! 

One day I was sick and couldn't attend so I sent Brian in my place. I was surprised when they were home so soon after leaving the house. Brian said Hartley kept trying to run out of the room, and when he'd bring her back in she would cry. He said it was awful so they only made it about 15 minutes before throwing in the towel. I knew what he was talking about because that happened in the beginning for me, too. The next week the teacher told me that Hartley was much more comfortable with me than with Brian so we should stick with me bringing her. 

Now, we were making progress but when I say we stood out - I mean that. We did. I wasn't always okay with that either. This was a chapter in my life when there was a big part of me knew something wasn't quite right, and there was another big part of me that wasn't willing to accept that. 

Well, her "recital" ended up being one of the hardest moments of parenthood for me to date. It was terrible. All of the progress we'd seemed to have made over 12 weeks disappeared on the day that family members were invited to watch our class routine. It wasn't just "not following directions", it was running around interrupting all of the other girls trying to dance and focus. The other girls were accepting their certificates. Their proud dads snapping pictures of their perfect ballerinas standing with the teacher and beaming for the camera. And my daughter entered the scene like a tornado taking down anything in her path. She ran in front of the girls as their parents were trying to capture the moment. She'd throw herself in front of them on the mat and wouldn't get up. So I'd run and pick up her thrashing body. She'd be laughing like a mad man or shouting. 

Before they could even call Hartley's name to get her certificate, I did it - I stormed out of the classroom for the first time. I absolutely couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't be the calm, patient mom anymore because what she was doing was no longer just a trivial annoyance. She was ruining things for the other girls in her class, and I wasn't okay with that. Brian and Patrick followed us out of the room. Once we were all in the van and the doors were closed - I bawled. It was like I finally just hit this wall, and everything came out. 

And I'll never ever forget what I said to Brian in the car. I said, "do those people think I'm the world's worst mother or do you think they can tell?" 

"They can tell, Page." 

I think after 12 weeks of seeing her around peers - seeing where we were and where they were, I knew. And even though I said on the ride home I would never do another baby ballet class ever again, I went home and researched adaptive ballet for children on the autism spectrum. I didn't want my daughter not to get to do something just because it was harder for her. Alas, there are no adaptive ballet classes offered in our area. I'll never forget the amount of frustration and helplessness I felt that day. 

And yes, over something as silly as baby ballet. But I said it before, it wasn't ballet. How was she ever going to learn to focus or listen or follow a direction? How was she going to learn to partner with a classmate or take turns or sit still when she needed to? These things aren't perfect for even the most advanced of toddlers but they were (and sometimes still are) mountains for us. The answer as to how she would learn these things? We had/have to do them over and over and over again, far more times than her peers. 

Hartley wanted to take ballet again in the fall. I had no desire to go back but I did it anyway. The first class was great. We still stood out but we picked up where we left off at the end of the spring session. So I didn't have to carry her and there were no tears. Each class, she improved. And get this, for her recital, she accepted her certificate proudly and got her picture taken. She didn't interrupt any of the other girls' spotlight moments. 

A month ago I met a woman in my MOMS Club, and I thought she looked familiar. She asked if I was "Hartley's mom" - turns out she'd been in fall ballet with us. When she asked if that's who I was, I knew that my girl and I still weren't hard to miss. I'm now much more okay with that. I wonder far less about "do they know?" I think most people do, and that's okay. My daughter marches to the beat of her own drummer; that's who she is, and it's not a bad thing.

And I will say this, while some parents have seemed put off by us at times, there actually have also been some really cool parents out there, too. Her spring and fall sessions there were parents who identified that Hartley was unique, and they did the coolest thing about it - they pushed their daughters to partner with Hartley. Hartley never wanted to chasse with a partner, and a few mom's would seek Hartley out and have their daughters take her hands and guide her. Those moments made my heart so happy. And I'll say it, those are great parents who will raise great kids. 

Kicking off her third season of baby ballet has been very smooth. Her first session last week I felt so good. We do have a leg up because these other little ladies are doing this for the first time and we aren't but she now keeps up well. We are still very much learning though. She still loves to do things her own special way. Today wasn't quite as good as last class as far as focusing and following directions, and we'll have days like that, and that's okay. 

Someone recently said to Brian and I that you can always seek comfort in the fact that no matter how your child is behaving, there's always someone else's kid in the room behaving worse. Well, while Brian and I can appreciate that that sentiment is true for most parents, we've had the humbling experience of being the parents wrangling the child who is doing things far differently from other kids. It isn't always easy. You always hope people around you will be kind and understanding, well knowing that not all will be. But we keep trying. And Hartley is incredible at how she keeps trying, too. And I've come to learn at the end of the day, that's what makes good parents and good kids. They keep trying. I learned that from baby ballet ;) 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Early Intervention

Okay, welcome to another venting blog entry. Recently all I want to do is write a blog entry regarding all of the fabulous progress Hartley has made in school but time always escapes me. Well, that and the weather has been so nice that we've been outside every chance we get. 

Disclaimer before I write this: I truly am not writing this to attack an individual. My purpose in writing this is to set the record straight so to speak.

I was hosting Patrick's playgroup at my house this morning when one of moms asked me an interesting question. 

She started talking about some local politics that would affect the county school budget drastically. She said she heard that the "free preschool" might be cut, and that it would be an obvious place to cut back. Now, I'm going to be a stickler here and correct her - let's call this "free preschool" what it really is: special education preschool aka early intervention services for special needs students. Ok, I'm going to be a bit snarky in this because it was highly inappropriate for me to be snarky with this woman in a room filled with toddlers. Let me start by saying I haven't received any information about special education preschool being cut but how do you think I would feel at the prospect? My daughter is flourishing because of these early intervention services, that I happen to think will literally change her life. All of the light I see in my daughter's eyes and all of the communication this service has made possible for my beautiful little girl - how do you think I feel? And I'll even say this, I know we probably have it the best of all the families that would be affected. Our daughter has high functioning autism. If need be, we can afford to send her to private preschool (though finding a fit as good as her current school would admittedly be very hard to come by). But for the families out there who aren't as lucky in these aspects as we are, it would be devastating, catastrophic. 

She couldn't get past the "free" aspect of this preschool. Taxpayers paying to help these children, who have done nothing but merely designed a little differently. Now, in my immediate family we were not affected by special education services; my siblings and I didn't need them. However, my parents raised us to be helpful and accepting of others. They raised us to believe that even if something doesn't directly affect you, you should help others where you can. So honestly, having Hartley brought this cause closer in to my life but my beliefs on this are not because I have a child who has been diagnosed on the spectrum. I'm actually surprised that people who having opposing beliefs to mine have brought them up to me because it is a very personal, very sensitive subject to me now. And this is pathetic but when I spoke to this woman, I had to try to not cry. 

I explained to her that these services will change the lives of many of these children. Early childhood development is so important. My mom who was a teacher for many years always reminds me that the years children don't remember, 0-5 years, are actually the most crucial to their development. I'll admit, before Hartley started preschool I had days where I wondered if she could learn social skills. That lead me to worrying whether or not she could ever go to college, get a job or live independently. I always tried not to get bogged down in those feelings of uncertainty but they would creep in. Other moms were worrying about vegetable-eating, sharing and time outs. And I'm over here breaking out at the thought of my daughter not going to college or getting married. I know that was dramatic of me because she was only two but I didn't see her "getting better". Thanks to special education preschool, these teachers, this county - I believe the sky is the limit for her. I see my daughter walking around in her doctor dress up outfit performing check ups on all her family members, and I think, "maybe she'll be a doctor someday". And when I say it out loud to her - I believe it. 

This mom mentioned people taking advantage of these services and these tax payer dollars simply because their children "talk late". I explained to her that it's not easy to receive these services. Another mom chimed in, "there's an interview, right?" Ok, well I didn't even go into detail. You can read this blog if you want to know how easy it is (read: I binge ate Chinese food, drank lots of wine and barely survived that shit). I did mention to them something I didn't even really address at the time: it was the most stressful period of my life to date. And I know that's not just me being weak because Brian affirmed to me that it was extremely stressful for him, too.

I didn't feel like having this conversation but what I said to this woman was this: I think any parent of a special needs child would rather pay money for preschool and have their child get to develop typically. I love my daughter fiercely, and I would much rather pay a few grand for preschool and never have to worry about her struggling or being teased. And like I said, she's high functioning. She's high functioning and hell, last summer I would've paid those preschool thousands just to have someone guarantee that everything would be okay for her. I don't know - saving money on preschool I guess is nice but I definitely wouldn't choose for Hartley to need it. I am, however, beyond words happy that it's there for her because she needed/needs it. 

I wrote this to get it off my chest. I get that many people can't empathize with something they simply don't understand. But I want to say this in case anyone is receptive to hearing it: I believe in early intervention. I believe it is changing my child's life. No need to ask me where I fall on this issue. And if you don't agree with me, that's fine, but you don't ever need to let me know :) 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Happy 3rd birthday, Hartley!

Whenever Hartley's birthday rolls around I always reflect back to her actual birthday, the day she entered this world. She was a 7 pound peanut with a set of lungs and loads of sensitivities, and I was an overwhelmed new mom who was usually feeling exhausted or defeated. It's funny, I think my friends miss their children's earliest days when their birthdays come. And while I would enjoy a sniff of one of Hartley's old dreft-washed itty bitty sleepers, on birthdays I genuinely find so much joy in how far we have come. I think about how she went from feeling like a teeny stranger who often felt impossible to read to this little girl I feel like I know better than anyone else in the world. 

This past year from 2 to 3 was my favorite, and it was also the one where she made the greatest leaps and developed even more personality. Our bond strengthened, too.

Hartley at her third birthday is so caring and sweet. She is wonderfully spirited and quirky. She is sensitive and intelligent. Her teachers have said she is so enthusiastic, that she always tries so hard. They've said she's very willing to learn, she's nice to her classmates, and that she's a pleasure to have in class. My mom says to know Hartley is to love her - and I think that sums her up perfectly. She is a very special little girl; Brian and I are such lucky parents. 

This past year the things I'm most proud of are her growing as a protective and helpful big sister, and her doing phenomenally in preschool. 

When Patrick was born, Hartley really didn't pay attention to him but over this past year their relationship has blossomed so much. I sometimes just write down the things she says to him. They make my heart swell. The other day we were on the driveway using sidewalk chalk and drinking juice boxes, and Patrick's juice started to make that empty slurp sound. Hartley got up and walked over to him and asked, "more juice, bud?" Or today I asked her to share her markers with him. She handed him a red marker and said, "here you go, Patticks. You have red!" She'll retrieve his sippy cup for him when he throws it from his high chair tray, and she'll take bits of her snack and place it on his tray to share with him. If he starts crying, she'll come let me know or she'll walk over to tell him, "it's okay". The other day he started to cry and she asked him, "what's wrong, bud?" For a little girl who is just learning to use conversational language and to see that she is channeling it to her brother first has been incredible. As she finds her voice more, I realize how kind her little heart is. 

And how well she has done in preschool simply amazes me. There are certain parts of development that come naturally to other children that are challenging for Hartley. So five mornings a week she goes to school and learns. They do learn through fun, playful activities but she also meets with a speech therapist and does certain exercises pretty intensely for a child her age. She tries so hard, and it shows. Every single day she has gotten a smiley face for behavior. I see how kind she is towards the other children in her class, all children of different levels of abilities, and it makes me so proud. 

A little bit about her at 3. 

She has just now started answering questions, and she's told me her favorite color is pink.

She loves art: painting, coloring, glitter glue, beading necklaces, chalk. She actually is becoming a talented artist; she draws figures with heads, facial features, bodies, and sometimes arms, legs and ears. 

The activities she's done this past year are swimming lessons, music class, ballet, and basketball. She liked all except swimming lessons. She likes the pool, but mainly just getting in and out of it and playing with pool toys. 

She loves to play outside; she continues to be a very active kid. She likes being read to. Her favorite books are the Olivia books and a new Peppa the Pig Valentine book my mom got her.

She has lots of different interests from dress up to sports to cars to princesses. Her favorite movies shifted from Frozen, Tangled & Little Mermaid (last Fall) to Cars and The Peanuts Movie! She likes Sesame Street and Paw Patrol.

She sleeps in a big girl castle bed.

She is a picky eater but has a sweet tooth! 

She loves letters and numbers. She is starting to write letters and can spell her name. Her memory is incredible; I'm constantly floored at how she can hear a song or book a couple of times and memorize it. 

She loves her friends. She actually calls everyone a friend, which is just the sweetest. 

I wish I had the time or the words to really capture her but I feel like anything I can write would fall short. There aren't words to do her justice.

To Hartley on your birthday, 

You are an incredible little person. Your dad and I are so proud of you and so lucky to call you ours. You have taught us that there is overwhelming beauty in uniqueness. Always keep your kind, quirky, fun personality. Remember that you are strong, capable, and beautiful. Continue to be a person who thinks of others. And keep your enthusiasm for learning because I know with that, you will be unstoppable. 

We love you, forever & always, our sweet Hartley Glenn.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Life Lately

If you're reading this, thanks for sticking through my last venting blog entry. I love my children so much, truly to the moon and back and then some. With that said, I still have days where they drive me crazy. I'll actually go ahead and say it - I'm an extremely patient person, kind of a requirement if you are going to survive spending 24/7 with a 2 year old and a 1 year old. But I have my days, especially in January, my least favorite month of the year. I genuinely don't want my blog to sound like a complain fest but there's some cathartic about blogging your honest thoughts and feelings. There's something oddly liberating about admitting to the world that you are an imperfect human who gets frustrated. 

Just wanted to say that. It was one of those blogs where I hit publish and then immediately texted Brian like, "wait, did I just do something really bad?" He's totally a biased person to ask because his response is always, "Nope. It's honest." 

I'm here today to actually talk about the kids and how much they are growing and changing. I can't help but be so proud of them. It's cliche (and I've said it many times before) but this is my favorite age so far. No, it's certainly not without challenges or bad days but the kids get more fun by the day. 

We are in this whole new phase of a sibling friendship slash rivalry. It actually took us a long time to get to "fighting", I think. I think this is because Patrick has been so easy going that he used to be willingly dominated by Hartley. But not anymore. He is becoming a toddler with his own idea of what he wants now. They fight over things like toys but also attention. Also, gone are the days of giving something to Hartley and not to Patrick. Like juice boxes are a "big kid" thing in my house because they can be so messy but Patrick now has to have his juice box, too. The rivalry/fighting is a hard thing but if I'm being honest, a lot of the time I let them kind of sort it out on their own. I definitely intervene if it's big enough but I also want them to learn how to work through this stuff without me constantly playing referee. 

Another thing we're currently working on in our house is self-care. Now, people are going to read what I'm about to say and laugh, and I totally get it, you are free to LOL at this. A big thing is walking. Yes, both of my children, and this is fueled by rivalry, are only wanting to be carried. It's straight up crazy. For a few weeks there I was carrying each down the stairs one at a time, same with to the car. Finally, my body started to ache so badly that I decided I couldn't do it anymore. At almost 1.5 years old and almost 3, they are totally able to walk so I'm trying to give in to the carrying thing less. 

For Patrick, that boy just loves, and I mean LOVES, being a baby. He loves to be picked up and carried. Of course, then Hartley wants it because Patrick is getting it. And let's get real, while I often think of myself as a mini pony, I can't carry 70 pounds around. And I also can't take two trips to the car or up and down the stairs all day.

I'm also trying to get them to come and sit on our entryway bench to have their shoes put on; I was getting so tired of chasing them around in the morning and tackling them to get on their shoes. Wrestling Patrick is like wrestling a wild boar. The kid is crazy. I'm working on them walking to and from the car, only lifting them and fighting them when I need to buckle them into their carseats ;)

Hartley I've actually started unbuckling and letting her slide herself out of her seat when I unload. I've just been trying to get her more self sufficient and trying to save my back. 

I've also been working on getting Hartley to help with certain things. Cleaning up goldfish she spills, we're at like a 10 percent success rate on that ;) I'm trying to have her take off her own coat if I unzip it. I actually hung a couple hooks by the door so I'm going to eventually have her take down and hang up her coat. She can put on her rain boots, and sometimes even on the correct feet! It's seriously the cutest thing ever to watch her walk around with her shoes on wrong. She's so proud of putting them on, and it's the sweetest thing. 

Other big things she's helping with is sometimes bringing Patrick a snack or finding her drink cup. "I go get it, Mama!" I've actually gotten to have her help carry in groceries a couple times recently! 

I'm sure a lot of these things are tiny for kids her age but it's been hard not jumping in to help her with everything and watching her have to try to do things on her own a little bit. But once she gets it, she's so proud, and it's always worth the frustration and tears we see along the way.

And while I love that my baby boy loves being a baby, I'm having to push him a little, too. I'm finding that to be hard. More often than not I think Patrick is my last baby so I want to prolong his babyhood as much as I can. But truth be told, I'm physically starting to not be able to carry him as often as he'd like. There's a gigantic part of me that just wants to tell him to take as much time as he can growing up but at the end of the day, my body is saying it can't do it. 

I also thought for a bit that Patrick's growth had slowed but it hasn't. Being around friends from his playgroup or other toddlers at the playground, I realize he is still massive. The kid is a beast. He still looks like a gigantic baby as opposed to having that little boy toddler look. It cracks me up. What we must look like together, my 5 foot 2 self carrying around the world's largest 1.5 year old. 

He is a total mama's boy. He just started giving me kisses right on the mouth. Those big ol slugs come at me nice and slobbery, and he blurts out a loud "MWAH!" He loves to clap and make music. He likes being read to. He's learning new words little by little bur in true boy fashion he's not in a rush to talk. He mainly says, "car" "bus" "mama" and "bub gup" (that last one means the show Bubble Guppies). He's actually got a minimum of a dozen words but he mainly says those four! We'll be driving down the street and it's all "CAH! CAH! CAH! BUH!" from the backseat. He calls out every car and bus he sees. It's ridiculously cute and silly.

He loves Pete the Cat. My dad actually calls him Pete the Cat sometimes. I bought Patrick a Pete the Cat Valentine book that came with paper Valentine's in it. He loves giving his mom Valentine's. Today he'd hand me a slobbery valentine and shout a demonstrative, "HERE!" The book also came with a poster; so shock of the century, Patrick's first poster is not a Celtics or Patriots one, it's of a groovy beatnik Cat ;)

He is now in a forward facing car seat. I know that's probably a horrific thing to many modern moms but the kid couldn't fit backwards anymore, and I could've lift him into the backwards car seat anymore so it actually had to be that way. 

We are pretty much down to one nap a day unless he's having an off day. We are trying to kick the bottle but he loves the bottle so it's been a struggle. 

Ok, I was going to write a boatload about Hartley because all of a sudden starting yesterday she's had an incredible language burst but I have written too much already! But in the next few days I plan on a serious Hartley update. I actually just scheduled her next meeting with her developmental pediatrician for March so I'm actually going to be making more of a point to chronicle and record her development leading up to that. Sometimes I get into those appointments and feel like I should've written more down to "present", so my goal is to be more prepared this time :)

Thanks for reading another crane babes novel. Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Non-Sleeping Beauty

So I really haven't blogged this January. For the most part I've been in this very good, healthy zen state. Not because life is perfect. Every single one of us has already had a cold in the 19 days that have made up this year. My kids fight like cats and dogs... daily. And my healthy eating is sabotaged every other day by the energy slump that accompanies being a stay at home mom to two toddlers. But almost every day I've found something to be grateful for. I've been able to see the bigger picture. I've genuinely enjoyed my days.

But today I'm coming on here not in my positive, zen state. I'm coming on here for a moment to vent. To clear my mind of the jumble that's being floating around. And hopefully once I've purged these thoughts, I can take a deep breath and just move on. 

Before Hartley was diagnosed with ASD, I once saw a meme on Facebook that got me thinking. It was a cartoon a friend posted of a skeleton in a rocking chair that said, "me waiting for my ASD child to fall asleep". At the time, ASD was on our radar for Hartley. I never knew there was a correlation between autism and sleep disorders. The cartoon actually prompted me to research. What I came across is that it is believed that up to 80 percent of children on the autism spectrum suffer from sleep disorders. I remember reading that and thinking it was just another thing that supported the possibility that Hartley had autism. 

I can't tell you how many hours I've researched how to get a baby/toddler to sleep. If that number was actually put in front me I'd probably want to cry at the amount of life I've wasted. Napping has been a problem for Hartley literally since infancy. Eventually her doctor told me that Hartley (when she was a baby) could have 1 "morning nap" and 1 "afternoon nap", in which she'd spend a quiet hour in her crib for each. We actually did this all the way up until she was 18 months old, which is when I had Patrick. 

There were days as a baby where she didn't nap. Usually she'd nap for one of the hours and not the other. Regardless, I did get a "break". 

The older she got the harder naps became and the harder it was for her to fall asleep at night. 

Nothing works for her. You name it, we've tried it. Lavender room spray. Lavender Oil in her bath. No screen time for several hours before sleep. A white noise machine. Only calming books. A strict routine. Laying down with her. 

Some days she doesn't nap and she still stays up until 10 or 11 pm. Some weeks she'll only nap once (they are supposed to still be napping daily at two years old).

And for a long time I thought I was okay with it. Yes, I'd prefer to have a child with fantastic sleep habits (like Patrick actually!) but it isn't in the cards for me so why dwell? I actually came to this realization a while back, some people's parenting lot is harder than others but if you think about it that way all the time, you'll drive yourself completely mad. So I decided to try my hardest to kick the green eyed monster me who was envious of all the people who had children who napped - even though she still comes out every now and then. 

A few days ago Hartley didn't nap. Instead she tore out all of the pages in the Olivia Fairy Princess book I had bought her for her second birthday. She ripped out all the pages and tore them up into tiny little pieces. Brian wasn't happy but I just wanted to maintain my January zen so I just figured we'll buy her a replacement once she learns not to tear up books, whenever that may be. I tried to get her to clean it with me but I ended up crawling around on the floor by myself picking up all these scraps of paper and stuffing them into a trash bag. It hurt to shove the adorable turquoise book cover - this was not a remotely green moment - in the bag but what's a Mom to do, right?

Yesterday afternoon, my zen January streak ended. That woman who calmly crawled around searching for paper scraps was gone. This woman who'd played the Pollyanna game for several weeks just didn't have it in her anymore. 

It was another day of Hartley not napping. Now, not napping is annoying, but what I hadn't mentioned is that when Hartley isn't remotely well rested, she is on another level. The vast majority of things she says are just non sensical. She has these super hyper spells. She simply can't focus at all. She's extremely fragile. I mean, the kid has a meltdown if you ask her to take a bite of her pizza dinner. And after a few hours filled with crying, hitting her brother, gibberish, screaming - I just put her upstairs in her room, and I called Brian crying. 

I swear, 98 percent of the time I'm this woman who loves that my child is "quirky". I think it's wonderfully endearing that she says it's Christmas on a random Tuesday or tells me "Happy Mother's Day" in January. I laugh about the fact that we listen to the same song over and over again every day in the car (The Peanuts Movie song that Meghan Trainor sings - Better When I'm Dancing). I even have thought about how cute it is that my daughter likes to sleep with random objects in her bed or lines up her fruit loops. 

But the past couple no nap days, I'll admit I've thought - I'm not cut out of this. My daughter is almost three and I just want her to rest so she can focus and learn. I want her to get that sleep that helps her grow and develop. I desperately want us to get to a point where I can ask her a question and have her do more than repeat the last couple words back to me. 

And I know very well that it could be worse. That thought even makes me feel even guiltier! Because some mothers have kids that don't talk at all;  they would kill to be in my shoes. But at the same time, I know most mom's of girls my daughter's age can ask them a question and get something. And the vast majority of the time, I can't. And on the days she can only bounce off the walls and speak extra oddly, I just feel like we are climbing the steepest mountain in the world. 

She's getting better and better with her social skills and her language skills but wow, none of that progress is without work. None of it happens without some amount of struggle. 

I've become this woman who is almost always okay with that. I actually shock myself at how much I genuinely don't care that my child is developing a little differently or a little behind the curve. The other day when her teacher said Hartley's not at a point where she's ready to start potty training, I actually felt relief! I actually thought, oh the joys of not having to race to hit these milestones because we get to do everything at our own beautiful pace. 

But sometimes that woman is nowhere to be found. 

I'm writing this not to say, "woe is me". I don't feel that way. But I write this to purge my negative thoughts. To spew them out of myself so I can clear my head and rally on. To get back to my January zen. Because apparently coffee and wine can't fix everything, and some how this space seems to help me. 

Today is the third day in a row where Hartley won't nap. It will surely be another long afternoon of jumbled speech and walking on eggshells. But now that I've emptied my frustrations, I feel like I can do it. I can calmly and patiently make it until Brian comes home with a fresh amount of patience and sensitivity.