Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2 Year Update

I am a little overdue on this post, so I am actually going to include months 21-25.5, which will take us right up through the new year to where we are at today!  So much has changed, so I have a lot to write about!  With another baby entering our home this spring, I will probably cut back to once a year updates from now on.  I will still do holiday and seasonal posts, and since most of Stella's growth will show on those I think once a year will be sufficient now that we've passed the 2 year mark.  I can't believe we are to that point already, honestly I started this blog as a way to document our family memories since I enjoy writing and really stink at scrap booking!!  It was a very wise decision as I will cherish this blog for years to come and it is starting to develop into something more!

Typical kid playing with a box :-)

First just a quick recap of what we've been up to this fall/winter.  In September we went to Tanners Orchard to celebrate my mom's birthday.  I was all set for a pumpkin-everything fall when I got pregnant and developed an aversion to pumpkin anything and coffee.  Boo, my favorites!  I was also very sick during the first trimester (read more about that HERE) so it was a pretty slow and lazy fall.  Mark and I celebrated our birthdays in October, and we announced our pregnancy at Halloween.  November was filled with Stella's birthday and Frozen party (read all about that HERE) followed by Thanksgiving.  Christmas consumed December, as it always does, and that's fine by me!  You can read about our December HERE.  We got sick after Christmas, so I'm wrapping up the year this week and my next post will be a New Year's one!  Alright, let's get down to business...
Tanner's Orchard fall fun!
Celebrating daddy and mommy's birthdays in October!
Happy Halloween!  Coloring and checking out her loot from her therapy party, reading her Halloween books, and our Halloween pregnancy reveal to our families.
Happy Thanksgiving!

On the health front Stella has been completely healthy since the last post.  YAY!  I pulled her inhaler at the end of August and we've never looked back!  That was officially the end of her breathing issues.  She did catch the sniffles in October and again right after Christmas, but recovered in just a couple days without any medications or doctor visits both times.  This has been such a change for Stella, and I think being so healthy has allowed for tremendous developmental growth!

Developmental Delay:
Gross motor development did a complete 180 this quarter!  Right at 21 months Stella took 4 baby steps to her table on her own!  That was the extent of it for a couple of weeks, but at least it showed us that she was capable and considering a different mode of transportation!  During the next few weeks she started being a little more adventurous and climbing more, and about 2 weeks later she took 11 steps on her own!  The next two months were rough.  Even though Stella was starting to walk, she wasn't completely confident with it.  She had a really wide gait, and she looked very awkward when she walked.  This caused her to become frustrated and have meltdowns.  A LOT of meltdowns (especially in public).  I took her to tumbling a few times and left in tears.  This time frame was also the beginning of my pregnancy, and even though I wasn't sick yet I was really emotional.  Months 22-24 (September to November) were a very frustrating time for both Stella and mama.  We increased her physical therapy to twice a month, and I kept taking her out in public no matter how hard it got.  I wasn't about to give up!  We saw the pediatric developmental specialist at the end of September, and I will mostly go into that visit when I talk about her cognitive development, but he did find some abnormalities with her physical development.  She has hypotonia, which is basically low muscle tone.  This is partly why her gross motor development has been delayed since the very beginning.  She just has to work harder at everything, and he said there's a chance she'll never be a great athlete, but we believe anything is possible if you work hard enough.  And work hard we have!!  Lastly she has abnormality of gait and mobility.  This just means she walks with her legs wider apart than she should to compensate for the low muscle tone.  His recommendations were to just keep up with PT, he thought everything would correct itself over time.  And I can confidently say we are well on our way!  Around 23 months she finally began to walk outside and on various surfaces, just in time for summer to be over :-(  At 24 months her walking got faster and smoother and we would occasionally see a little run.  It melted my heart!  She also became confident enough to push her baby stroller and shopping cart!  Today her walk is almost normal, just slightly wide still.  She can't yet do steps (but to be fair we don't have any), but she got a slide for Christmas so we are working on it!  We still go to PT twice a month, we are focusing on kicking a ball.  I am very pleased with her accomplishments and all our hard work.  It has paid off!!

On to speech.  At 22 months she started mimicking sounds, trying to sing, and repeating all animal noises.  The pediatric specialist wanted speech started ASAP, he felt that was the most important step for Stella's growth and a huge part of her frustrations.  Stella was very social, but got upset when she couldn't communicate.  We still heard mostly babbling.  So I made phone call after phone call until FINALLY we found a speech therapist that was willing to see Stella.  She is out of a reputable therapy group in Peoria, Shine Therapy, but the catch was I had to drive Stella to Brimfield for speech.  Done!  Whatever she needs.  It was still through EI, so it was covered under our monthly therapy co-pay.  The gas cost doesn't hold a candle to paying out-of-pocket.  Our insurance, and most from the sound of it, doesn't cover any therapy.  She started speech on November 2nd and I am convinced her therapist is an angel.  Stella and I love her.  She is patient, pleasant, and has brought out a whole new side of Stella in just 2 short months.  We won the lottery finding her.  Stella started by saying her favorite characters (from Mickey, Barney and Frozen), and then said Ready Set Go!  Finally at 2 years old she said Mama.  Music to my ears!!!  She also started to count, just 1-2-3 but now she can get up to 14 (usually skipping a few numbers though).  At 24.5 months she started to recognize letters and call them "ABCs".  She also finally started to put two words together, starting with "hi doggie" and then onto "hi mama"  and "hi daddy".  She also began labeling items quite often.  Now at 25 months she can ask for a few things (milk, eat, help please), show expressions (I sad, OH MY!, oh no, uh-oh) and can say Kaiser.  She repeats lots of words we say (yep, even a few bad ones!) and the babbling is few and far between.  We go to speech twice a month, but her therapist wants to do a re-eval since her progress from her initial evaluation in July is so incredible.  I am excited to see where she stands.  There are a few factors that might have caused this delay:  genetics, poor mouth muscle tone (kinda matching her overall hypotonia), and all the sickness she endured for a year.  Whatever it was, it happened, we dealt with it, and we are moving in the right direction!!

Alright, we are finally to the cognitive development.  At my last update we were ready to take Stella to the pediatric developmental specialist the very next day.  I was really nervous, especially since I'd heard he was a real hard a**.  I am pleased to say we very much liked him.  He was thorough, to the point, great with Stella, but didn't sugar-coat anything.  Just how I expect a specialist to be!  After several tests, he found that Stella has hypotonia and abnormality of gait and mobility, as discussed above.  He also found she has encephalopathy.  It sounds a little worse that it is (don't Google it mom!!).  Basically her brain has difficulties processing information.  This is the primary cause of all her delayed developmental milestones.  There is no real known cause for this, just one of those things that happens.  He said the future is uncertain, she might grow out of it, she might always need extra help in school.  It's just too early to tell.  He also had some concerns about autism, which I had as well for a while.  Based on the survey I filled out (some sort of autism test) she failed.  He put her on the list to be officially tested, but the list is backed up about a year.  He didn't want her tested before then, she is still so young and can grow out of her abnormal social behaviors.  But he did want her on the list in case she doesn't in the next year.  Taking the safe route.  Stella shows a lot of red flags for autism, but she is very social and has great eye contact, so it is so hard to tell.  He recommended increasing Stella's exposure to other children.  Lots of play groups don't start until age 2 in our area, and I don't want to put her in daycare.  After her second birthday she started "playgroup" at therapy twice a month.  With the holidays she has only been able to go once so far.  They do crafts, have a snack, play and sing songs.  I sat out in the hallway.  She cried the entire time, not really wanting me but just overwhelmed with a different environment and also being directed what to do.  It was hard to hear, but it is good for her.  She will keep going!  We are also going to try the YMCA childcare a few times a week again this winter.  Now that she can move around and play with the toys I hope she enjoys it again (and mama can have her gym time back!)  With Stella's recent improvements I no longer have autism concerns, but we will see what the doctor says at her follow-up this spring.

For the first month or two after her appointment I was scared and sad, yet relieved.  I hated watching my daughter struggle with things that came easily to most children.  But then that was nothing new.  I was relieved to have a professionals opinion, and I was so thankful for her health and all that she can do.  Stella is very unique and I love her exactly how she is.  As time has gone on her growth has blown us all away.  Without formal evaluations I would say she is almost developmentally caught up to her age level.  I am going to work really hard the next 3 months to further close the gap with the help of her 3 wonderful therapists.  She will have her yearly eval in March, which is great timing.  I hope to have her caught up by then before her sister arrives.  And if not I know we have the strength and resources to keep giving her the help she needs.  It might not look how I pictured it and I may cry a few extra tears, but I am thankful for my teaching background and the patience I developed through teaching.  I highly doubt I ever teach again, but I believe the education path I took has helped me be a better mother to Stella, and I am so glad God gave her me.  And me her.  This whole experience has taught me to throw expectation out the window, work hard, and make the most of what you have...being thankful every step of the way.  Life is good.

Oh and we go back to the specialist at the end of March for a follow-up.  I think he's going to be surprised ;-)
So much growth, so much happiness!  My little helper cleaning up her mess :-)

The Routine:
We have officially entered the picky toddler eating phase.  She is now refusing all meat and veggies and basically only likes carbs, fruit, pizza and pasta.  She still loves those fruit & veggie pouches, but they are expensive!  We still do one a day since that's the only veggies she gets.  I got a new cookbook for Christmas, Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, Jerry's wife!).  It teaches you how to puree veggies and add them to meals without kids tasting them.  That is my goal for this month!  Stella's flexible sippy cups also became a thing of the past at 25 months when she bit holes in those too.  After failing at hard top cups again, I got some disposable cups that my mom had.  She does great with them and they are only $3 for four!  I can tell they will need to be replaced more often (we do re-use and dish wash them of course) but for that price it's no big deal.  They are very durable and don't leak at all I'm impressed!  Stella is not really using silverware, and her speech therapist wants her to start drinking from a straw.  She is also a feeding therapist so she is going to help me a little bit.  She said Stella just has weak jaw muscles so needs a little extra help.  I got her a special straw cup and chewy toy on Amazon.  We are going to start using them this month to develop her muscles.  The therapist said this is why Stella never went through the typical "put everything in my mouth" baby phase.  I never would have dreamed that could be a bad thing!!
 
Newest sippy cup:  the disposable!

Cloth diapering is going well, but I still use disposables (size 5 still) at night and on the go (size 4).  Around 24 months she started saying "I poop" but that didn't last long.  Honestly potty training isn't even on my agenda yet.  She's just not ready and we have bigger fish to fry.  Not even setting a "try" date.  Going to play it by ear, but my goal is to have it done by age 3 for sure.  

Around 24 months Stella started to freak out in the tub.  I bought a bigger tote (remember we don't have a bathtub) to use and she loves it!  She only got upset when we took her out, but now she doesn't even really do that anymore unless she didn't have enough playtime.  We do a bath every 2-3 nights because of her eczema.  I have been using the Aveeno baby eczema cream and running a humidifier every night and nap, and her skin is completely cleared up!  I can't remember what she weighed at her 2 year check-up, but I did switch out the clothes to the 2T ones around 24 months so she is still right on track.  She is wearing a size 5 shoe but has almost outgrown them.  I ordered a size 6 and it's ready to go!  At her 2 year check-up she only had to get one shot.  She didn't even flinch and then proceeded to take the pen she was holding and stab herself right in the shot wound to give herself a shot.  Didn't flinch again!  She has an extremely high tolerance to pain...not sure that's a good thing!
Stella's eye is banged up from falling down 3 concrete stairs at Thanksgiving.  We will master those pesky stairs yet!!
Stella is still sleeping from about 8pm-8am with a 1-2 hour nap from about 2:00-4:00.  However.  Stella LOVES to play in her crib.  She also loves to poop in there.  Naps are getting exhausting, she usually screams and laughs (happily) for an hour before she falls asleep.  And that's after she poops when I lay her down.  Might need to re-arrange her sleep schedule a bit, maybe wake her up earlier, because that hour of yelling drives mama CRAZY!  I am thankful it's happy yelling, but frustrating nonetheless when you desperately need some quiet me-time!
Waiting by her door for ni-night; snuggling puppy of course; and up and ready for the day in the morning!
A few of Stella's favorite things: 
  • Getting in the cupboards when we're not looking
  • COLORING!  started asking to color about 20 times a day around 23 months.  now we are down to once or twice a day, but she has really refined her coloring skills.  and she is definitely a lefty!!
  • anything Mickey Mouse (mainly Pete the bully and Donald, go figure!)
  • pushing around trinkets in her shopping cart and doll stroller
  • carrying around trinkets
  • playing ball
  • playing with her "smart phone"
  • playing with Kaiser, sitting on Kaiser, touching his ears and laughing when they twitch
  • watching kids on the computer and TV
  • PUPPY!  we don't go anywhere with out her.  in fact we bought a spare for when one is in the wash and should anything ever happen to her.
  • sucking her thumb when she's sad, tired, or watching TV.  not concerned yet but will pry start getting her to wean it within the year.  don't want her doing it in school!!
  • people!  still a very social little girl.

Around the house: 
  • Nothing really new around the house.  I kept busy with my pregnancy, our birthdays, and the holidays.  Mark did get the landscaping done.  It has been a mild fall/winter so he was able to finish it up after harvest.  We are still house hunting, going to look at a place this week.  Not sure how I feel about moving while I''m pregnant so we will see how it goes!
  • I feel really bad I never did a postpartum health/fitness update before I got pregnant again like I kept promising.  Time got away from me and then BOOM I had a belly again!  I will tell you I lost all of my baby weight except the last 6 pounds.  Since I started with 40 to lose on my own, I consider that a victory!  For now I will just say that I used the 21 Day Fix, but I PROMISE to keep better records and post more after this pregnancy.  Having a baby in the spring this time will force me to start sooner since I can't hide under my clothes all winter ;-)  I feel confident it will go better this time now that I know what I'm doing!!
Refused to let the picture bear sit with her for her last picture.  Threw him out and put puppy in his place.  Oh well!!
So that concludes my Stella updates for the first 2 years of her life.  The next time I do one she will be 3...excuse me while I go sob.  Of course I will check in several times throughout the next year though!!  And as always, visit my Facebook page HERE for more pictures of our beautiful girl.  I only put a small portion of them on here ;-)

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