Sunday, September 27, 2015

21 Month Update

Time for Stella's quarterly update!  I know I was going to post this last weekend, and I actually had it ready to go but the old desktop and sketchy middle-of-nowhere Internet wouldn't upload my pictures.  So today it is!  This summer technology was pretty much non-existent in our house, so we did a lot of playing, relaxing, and of course a few fun little outings.  To read more about our summer see THIS POST

Over the past 3 months Stella was (for the most part) healthy.  In May her eczema flared up pretty good and even turned into hives so we put her back on Zyrtec full time (was previously only using it as needed).  In June she got a really bad diaper rash (luckily the first one that every required a prescription cream) because she had a round of diarrhea.  But I am happy to say that after a follow-up visit with her allergy specialist this summer I began to slowly pull her medications.  I started by pulling the Zyrtec, only giving it to her as needed.  From there I completely eliminated dairy from her diet to help the constipation.  I was so sick of relying on Miralax, and we know I'm not a huge fan of medication (only when needed-don't get me wrong I am so thankful for it, just don't like to use it unless absolutely necessary!).  I started with soy milk and then switched to almond after a few weeks.  Eliminating dairy foods wasn't too hard because she was still eating pretty simple meals so we just cut out butter (subbed non-dairy mayo), cheese (tried soy cheese and YUCK!!), cottage cheese and yogurt.  This helped her constipation soooo much and I haven't had to use Miralax since (I have started adding a little dairy back in but more on that in the next update because I didn't do any at all for a few months).  In July I slowly pulled the Singular, so by the time she turned 21 months she was off all medications with the exception of her inhaler (which I planned to pull in September).  This has been a long time coming and made us all very happy!
Loves her Frozen couch/bed.  She flips it up and down several times a day :-)

Developmental Delay:
Stella didn't make a whole lot of progress with her gross motor skills during these 3 months.  At 18 months she was pulling up and crawling, by 21 months her only additions included getting on and off the couch independently, getting up and down from her new table and chairs, and finally bending her knees to sit down instead of falling straight back.  Therapy continued once a month, and we focused on walking while holding her hands.  I did this SEVERAL times a day with her, hoping it would eventually catch on and she would be confident enough to step out on her own.  No such luck yet.  It was frustrating, especially when she stood right up from the floor on her own around 18.5 months.  I thought for sure walking was around the corner, but it just wasn't in her plans yet.
Standing up on her own and finally able to get on her elephant by herself!

We saw some small progression in her speech development, but certainly not enough to get her caught up.  She started by mimicking sounds in her favorite songs ("Do you want to build a Snowman" and "Oh Toodles"), and then she started saying "hi da" when Mark gets home from work (still no "mama" dang it), "yea" all the time, and replying "MMMM" when we asked her if her food was good.  So a little responsive language, which was nice, but again just not enough.  We did a speech evaluation at the end of July and she qualified by a landslide.  Here it is almost October and her services haven't even started.  The EI (Early Intervention) program frustrates me, so much red tape preventing kids from getting what they need.  Meanwhile Stella falls further and further behind!  I know there is a budget crisis in Illinois and they are shorthanded, but I also know there are therapists out there that can take her on there's just too many peoples' hands in the fire trying to work it out.  I saw it firsthand teaching.  So for now I work with her as much as possible at home and we wait (I will say in the past month she's made some gains but more on those in the next update...)

OK, the last piece of the puzzle- her overall cognitive development.  When I took Stella to her regular doctor in May, he expressed some concerns with her overall development.  Concerns that I greatly share.  There is definitely something different about Stella, but no one can put their finger on it.  She is very social, never meets a stranger, and is generally a happy baby.  But there are things that push her over the edge, and it's a nightmare to get her to snap out of it.  Some of the major things that set her off are public restrooms (can't say I blame her there!), elevators, the scale at the doctor's office, when her motion comes to a stop (in the stroller, car, shopping cart, etc...), and when you try to re-direct her if she really has her mind set on something (common for kids I know, but Stella takes it to a whole other level).  She thrashes in your arms, bangs her head, and screams.  Full blown meltdowns.  The public ones are the worst.  I get so frustrated because I see kids do that often, and it's usually a result of no discipline at home.  Mark and I are very consistent with Stella and she does NOT get her way.  Yet she still thinks she's in charge.  So at this point we think there's more going on.  I hate to throw a diagnosis out there when no official one has been made, but there are a few things we are wondering about and I am happy to say that tomorrow we will be taking Stella to a pediatric developmental specialist at OSF in Peoria (her regular doctor referred us there).  He is rumored to be very stern yet excellent at his job.  I can handle that.  At this point I just want to know what's going on so we can give her the help she needs.  I have been doing some research on different things and preparing a lot for this appointment.  It took us 4 months to get in so to say we are ready is an understatement.  Keeping in mind that we love Stella more than anything no matter what, and that she is a beautiful, unique, happy and healthy girl, all prayers are appreciated as we navigate this journey.
Thought it was pretty funny to have kitty ride elephant!

The Routine:

Eating is one of Stella's strong points ;-)  She loves almost everything, although veggies aren't a favorite (except sweet corn!)  As I mentioned before, we did cut out dairy for these few months.  Thankfully Stella loved vanilla soy milk, but after hearing a lot of negatives about soy we did switch to almond milk.  We mix half vanilla with half unsweetened to give it a little taste but cut some of the sugar.  This works well for her!  At 20.5 months I was determined to get her to start using a big-girl sippy cup.  She bit holes in all the nipples of her old cups, so it was time.  Of course she refused and threw them at first, so one determined mama spent the majority of one morning teaching her.  I held her like a new baby and put it in her mouth, a little at a time, dripping milk out of it onto her mouth, until she finally started sucking out of the cup.  And then just like that she was fine and has used them ever since.  Stubborn little thing!

Still using her baby tub.  Once she started crawling she kind of slimmed down.  Now it's safe to say she is actually petite!  She must have daddy's metabolism because she eats like a horse!  She weighed in at 24 pounds (60%) at her doctor check up and is currently still in 18 month clothes.

Stella is still sleeping from about 8pm-8am with a 1-2 hour nap from about 1:30-3:30.  She did start to think she was too big for a nap and refused to sleep for a few days.  We started playing the TV music box on her crib set to the nature settings, and it put her out immediately.  Now I have to play that almost every day to get her to sleep.  I tried to save it for days when she REALLY needed a nap, but as long as it works I guess we'll roll with it!  Mama loves nap time (that's what time it is right now in fact!)

A few of Stella's favorite things: 
  • Highlighters, pens and pencils
  • Sitting at the computer watching videos of Ryder with mommy
  • Being outside (wagon rides, sitting at the deck table with mommy, swinging, playing on a blanket in the grass)
  • Hanging out with daddy
  • Trying to play with Kaiser
  • Reading books
  • Music, dancing, and learning to sing
  • Snuggles (hugs around 19 months and kisses around 20 months!)
  • Building pillow forts on the couch (and getting up and down from the couch all day!)
  • Her new table and chairs
  • Painting her toenails with Aunt Abby
  • Giving high 5's
  • Playing out in the shop with daddy

Around the house:
  •  Mark's new job is going well, but the drive (about 35 minutes one way) is starting to wear on him.  We looked at one house and one piece of land so far, but nothing fits yet.  Hoping that dream home comes up on the market soon!  We are slowly but surely working around our house to get it ready to sell.  Not too much to do, Mark's been doing some landscaping and I haven't been doing much.  Just keeping it real!  Lots of sorting and organizing to do (and probably a yard sale) but I'm saving that for winter when we're cooped up inside :-)
  • I know I still need to do a postpartum "after" update about my journey losing the baby weight and recovering from an awful c-section.  I have that on my to-do list, should get done in October.  Just trying to get Stella's situation all figured out and enjoy my favorite time of year for the time being, but it is coming up I promise!

As always, visit my Facebook page HERE for more pictures of our beautiful girl.  I only put a small portion of them on here ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sweet Summertime (2015)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people rush the seasons and holidays.  By the time the actual season/holiday arrives, you are already burnt out on it!  I wish society could just slow down and take the time to appreciate each special holiday and season while it's here.  My summer starts on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day (maybe it's just the former teacher in me).  This summer I decided to just unplug and really enjoy my time with Stella.  We spent a lot of time hanging around the house and playing outside (I say "playing" lightly because there's only so much you can do with a toddler who won't walk and is afraid of the grass!)  We also worked a lot on her speech, gross motor and fine motor skills (with some good progress!)  I will be doing another blog post this weekend with more on that (her 21 Month update finally).  Anyway...unplugging was so nice.  Other than my blog and facebook, I don't do any social media.  I don't even have a smartphone.  I just don't want to become a victim of being glued to my phone.  That's not to say I'll never upgrade, anymore they are pretty much forcing everyone to, but for now I like my pay-as-you-go Wal Mart phone ;-)   So for the summer I decided to delete my facebook for a few months and just detach altogether.  not the kind of "hey facebook I'm deleting my account here's my number if you need me" kind of attention-grabbing delete, just a general mind detox and to dedicate all of myself to my family (not just say I am and then secretly keep logging on when I think people won't notice.  Can you tell I have friends who do this?)  And it was GREAT.  I think social media is nice and can serve a great purpose, but too many people rely on it to validate their looks, parenting, career, etc...  I think a little break benefits everyone now and then.

So off my soapbox and onto our summer...

We kicked summer off with a pretty low-key Memorial Day weekend.  We did a picnic at the park in Atkinson with Stella's cousins, and then a Sunday cook-out at my sisters complete with wagon rides courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa.

Relaxing after a fun day at the park with Beau and Mo

The first week of June was Mark's last week of work for Ag View.  We celebrated his last day with a fun cook-out at home.  He took a 4 day weekend in-between jobs, which fell over our hometown's annual Fun Days celebration.  Saturday we went to the local bar for Mark's 15-year class reunion.  We got together right after he graduated high school, so it also marked 15 years since we've been together.  Time flies when you're having fun!  We stayed in town at my mom's that night since we'd had a few drinks, and took Stella to the parade the next morning (which is really just a long line of firetrucks and tractors!).  She LOVED the parade and watched very intently.  Afterwards we got some carnival food and then headed home because we ALL needed naps!

Think we all feel like this after Fun Days!
Almost every Tuesday in June was spent in town at my sisters (her day off) so Stella could play with her cousins.  She enjoyed just sitting on a blanket all day playing with Ryder's toys while the boys swam and played with squirt guns! 

Can't wait to be big enough for the picnic table!
June 18th brought our 4th anniversary.  We celebrated the day with  a steak dinner at home on the patio and watching the sun set after Stella went to bed.  The next night we went out to One World Cafe in Peoria (great variety of delicious food, fun atmosphere and excellent drinks!) and then we picked up some wine and dessert at Hy Vee and enjoyed it at home while watching our wedding video (yearly tradition!)

Our wedding was on Father's Day weekend, so we always celebrate the two of them around the same time.  This year for Father's Day I cooked a brunch for us at home.  Mark chose to mess around outside all afternoon, and then we went to a cook-out at his parents that evening.

Stella even made a "hand-made" card for Daddy this year!

The end of June brought another round of sickness for us (surprised?)  This one hung on right into July and we were just recovering when the 4th of July hit.  I also woke up one morning with TMJ again.  I had to go to the clinic and they told me I grind my teeth too hard at night.  I wear my retainers (from all my previous dental work) almost every night, but both mornings I woke up with TMJ I hadn't worn them the night before.  Every night now it is!  TMJ is MISERABLE, and this time they wouldn't give me a shot or painkillers like last time (probably because that time I went to the ER).  So for the 4th we just stayed around home since we were all recovering.  We went to fireworks and a cook-out at a friends in Geneseo Friday night, and Saturday I took Stella to my grandpa's pool for a little family swim party and cookout while Mark did some landscaping.

Gotta have red, white and blue pancakes on the 4th!

At the end of July Mark had his seed kickoff meetings in Chicago.  They invited wives to attend, so we went up there for a couple of days.  Unfortunately I wasn't feeling the best so it really wasn't that great of a time.  This string of sickness I tell ya!  I just hung around the hotel room while Mark attended meetings all day, and then we went to a dinner/drinks banquet in the hotel that night.  The next day we did some shopping at Oakbrook before heading home to get our babies :-)

August was a great month.  The weather was beautiful and we made it through the ENTIRE month without being sick!!  We started the month with a White Sox game for Mark and a family pool party for Stella and I.  We played a lot at home and took several trips to Windmont park to enjoy the walking path and swings.

Trying her best to climb up to the slide!

On the 23rd we had Stella baptized.  We went with a low-key, family only ceremony after church in Mineral.  We asked the pastor who married us to baptize Stella.  It was a hot day, but she did very well and didn't even cry!  It was a nice little ceremony and I am so happy to (officially) bring her into God's family. 

After the ceremony we went to the Station House in Kewanee for lunch.  The service was awful, but the food was good and everyone had a nice time, especially Stella!  She loves going out to eat.  While trying to get a photo next to her cake (that a girl Mark used to work with made, and it was beautiful!) Stella grabbed a huge handful and took a bite!  Musta thought it was her 1st birthday again! 

The week after her baptism we had family pictures taken.  I just picked out our favorites and ordered some adorable framed collages so I will be sharing those soon.  The pictures are beautiful and the photographer is brilliant! 

To kind of wrap-up our summer we decided to take a weekend get-away.  I love taking trips, exploring, sight-seeing and flying, but you usually need a vacation after your trip because you are so exhausted so this time we opted for just a relaxing, nothing on our agenda vacation.  Much like our summer!

Mark just loves being outside and nature and Stella takes after daddy in that department.  Don't get me wrong I love nature, I just like enjoying it while in a comfortable, screened in porch ;-)  I hate being too hot or too cold!  But I'm trying to adapt and get better at it, so this vacation was centered around Mark's interests.  I booked us a little cabin outside of Shelbyville, IL for two nights.  Mark took Friday off.  I spent the morning packing (I had made a list the night before so it would go smoothly) and getting things in order around the house (I hate coming home to a messy house after vacation).  We left Kaiser in his outdoor kennel and Mark's aunt and uncle stopped over a few times a day to feed him.  The plan was to also let him out, but he was being very territorial and protective so he just stayed in his kennel (which was OK, plenty of indoor/outdoor space for bathroom breaks and sleeping).  We were surprised he acted like this, but I suppose it is a good thing that he protects the house while we're away.  Because otherwise he is the friendliest, most gentle dog you'll every meet! 

We left around 12:30 and stopped in Peoria at Panera for lunch.  Stella loved it of course and ate her entire PB&J meal!  We drove on through from there (it was about a 3 hour drive from our house), stopping at Casey's in Shelbyville for snacks and drinks.  After a little trouble finding the place, we finally got all checked in.  It is owned by a family and rented out.  The cabin sits on 40 acres and is surrounded by a state park on 3 sides.  There was a little private lake right next to the cabin and trails carved out throughout the woods around the house. 

After some exploring we headed back to town for some groceries.  By the time we got back to the cabin Stella was pretty tired so we put her right to bed.  Mark and I had hot dogs and s'mores and a few drinks by the fire before bed.  We turned in pretty early because we wanted to enjoy the early morning.

Saturday morning brought a little drizzle, but when that ended Mark walked the trails while I took a quick nap in the living room until Stella got up.  We spend the morning lounging and enjoying cinnamon rolls.  After that we headed outside to walk to trails, sit outside and just relax some more.  We had a light lunch inside and then put Stella down for a nap.  While she napped Mark took a nap in the boat on the lake and I enjoyed some coffee and reading from the front porch.  It was great!  After Stella's nap I was itching for a trip to town.  We got cleaned up and headed to Shelbyville.  We placed an order for pizza at Joe's Pizza and then walked the historical downtown until it was ready.  Back at the cabin we had pizza and wine, then treated Stella to her first s'more.  She loved it, naturally!  Mark and I sat by the fire after Stella went to bed.  There was a skunk that wouldn't leave us alone!  We also saw an opossum.  Very interesting night!

Sunday morning we slept in and then had some coffee and breakfast.  Mark took Stella and I for a quick boat ride.  She loved it!  We walked the trails a bit and sat outside, but then it was time to shower and pack up since check out was at noon.  We were gone by 12:30.

We stopped at IHOP for a late lunch on the way home.  Stella slept most of the ride home...a sure sign of a good vacation!  Kaiser was sure happy to see us when we returned!  It was a wonderful weekend getaway, one that we hope to take again soon!

September had been mostly very HOT so Indian summer!  Of course our AC broke not once but TWICE during the hottest week of the summer.  We ended the summer with a family pool party over Labor day weekend and Mark took Stella to the annual Labor Day parade in Bradford (I sat this year out :-) ) 

Loved the big pool by the end of summer!

Next summer I hope to actually do more things with Stella.  It was hard this summer with her mobile limitations, but I am happy to say she is starting to (slowly) walk and is no longer afraid of grass!  I just learned to make the best of it and enjoy the slow pace this summer allowed. 

Now I can officially close the page on summer and begin my FAVORITE season of all time...FALL!  Tomorrow morning we are doing a 5K by the canal in our hometown (we also had one last weekend!), and next week we are going to the pumpkin patch and doing some fall decorating and cleaning.  The weather is beautiful, the windows are open, the pumpkin candles are purchased, and I am excited :-)  Hope everyone else enjoyed their summer and have some fun plans for fall!