Monday, November 30, 2015

The Snow Day

I don't have much time to blog today (story of my life..) but I posted this on my personal Facebook page a week or two ago and wanted to document it here as well. 

Ella has never been a fan of snow. (I tried to find the picture I know I have somewhere of us trying to take her sledding but couldn't find it. Use your imagination.. then add a little more screaming and some big fat alligator tears. There you go..) She has refused to put her feet down in it, walk in it and generally doesn't want to be outside when the sun isn't shining and the temperature is below 65. I've come to accept that it's just the way it's going to be and I won't be planning any big family skiing trips in the near future. But that didn't stop me from trying to encourage her to put her snow pants and boots on when we had a snow day the other week. For two days straight while her brothers went out and played in the snow every chance they got she would watch them go, sometimes bringing me her snow pants and acting like she wanted them on, then running away saying "No no no!" when they actually came close to her body. Finally Sunday came and I was talking about how I probably wouldn't even pack snow pants for school the next day since I KNEW she wouldn't put them on. Then at lunch that day I was telling the boys how glad I actually was that Ella doesn't like the snow, because forever and always now I will have an excuse to stay in the warm cozy house and drink coffee and hot chocolate and bake cookies and watch Christmas movies with my girl. I suppose I could make that sacrifice.

Right after lunch the kids went out again to play in the snow and Ella and I watched them out the window scooping off the patio. 
Or something...

Eventually she ran off and I thought she went to play. Instead she came back to me, bringing her snow pants and boots (neither of which she had ever actually worn). I wasn't super surprised.. she had done this before. But never followed through. I held them out to her, imagining she would run away crying again, but much to my surprise she actually slid her legs in the pants and let me pull them on! Then she actually put on her boots (HUGE for the girl who only wears very specific shoes).
 I was completely shocked at this point, but thought.. she'll never let me put her coat and hat and gloves on over all this. I had to document even this accomplishment with a picture in case it all went sour soon after. 

And then she put the rest on.. 
I thought--Well.. maybe she put in all on, but she'll never actually go out and walk in that white stuff.

Okaaaaayyy... but she probably won't want to get on the sled. 


Well how about that..

I think it was at this point that Nolan yelled out "What's your excuse now, MOM??" 

Needless to say this girl, who never stops surprising me and absolutely never ceases to amaze me, was rewarded with a warm cup of hot chocolate and all the cookies she could eat.

The kids are all home again for another snow day today.
It's gonna be a good winter.. :)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!!

From: The Wizard, Glinda, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and Toto.

Monday, September 21, 2015

School: Not What I Expected

Ella has been going to school for a month now and I can honestly say things really aren't going at all like I expected..

For example, I expected her to have a hard time leaving me in the mornings. I thought she would be upset and scared and unsure and take a long long time to transition to riding with a 'stranger.' 
Instead? I can't shut the door fast enough after I put her in the car in the mornings to go to school. If I even try to chit chat with her aide for a minute, Ella is pointing at the door saying 'shut.. door. shut.. door.' This girl has no issues whatsoever leaving me and cannot WAIT to get to school.

I expected her teachers and aides to have a hard time communicating with her and knowing what she wanted or needed. I was worried that I was the only one who knew her so well and no one else would be able to understand. 
I didn't expect that everyone would pick up on her signs so quickly and be able to know exactly what she is trying to tell them.

I expected to have to be diligent about pushing for what she needed and ready to advocate on her behalf at every turn.
I didn't expect every single person who works with her to go above and beyond their role to get her things I never even thought of her needing (pencil grippers for her silverware at school, a 'teething' necklace so she doesn't put the toys at school in her mouth..) and bringing things from their own homes, or buying her special things to help her.

I expected the kids in her class to have reservations about playing with her and including her when they couldn't communicate with her very well. 
I wasn't expecting the school to text me this picture of eleven little girls waiting their turn to be able to push her in her new swing at school.

I expected to be content with sending her only 2 mornings for a long time.
I certainly didn't expect to be the one setting up the meeting only a few weeks into school to discuss sending her more days because she is doing so well and wants so much to be there on days she's at home.

I expected her to be crabby and exhausted when she gets home.
I didn't expect one of my very favorite parts of the day to be when she comes home from school and seeing her eyes light up as we go through her folder and read the notes her teacher, aide and therapists have written and talk about the things she did that day. She is SO proud of herself and it just shines through her.

I expected her be the same little Ella she always has been.
I didn't expect two separate people to tell me last week, the minute she walked in the room that they could tell something was different. The librarian at story time said she immediately could see the difference school is making as Ella was just so much more confident and independent. And one of the gymnastics teachers asked what we did this summer because she was so different (after we'd been there about 2 minutes)

I expected her to maybe learn a few colors this year while she was at school, but my ultimate goal was mostly just get used to the idea of being in a classroom and listening to a teacher. 
I most definitely did not expect her to point at the correct letters on my t-shirt on the 2nd week of school and say, "EEEEE!" I did not expect her, after only a handful of half days of school, to know the letters E, O, C & L and be able to find them on her own, in books, on signs.. everywhere! I did not expect to hear that academically she's right on track with her peers. 

Ella pointing out the 'E' appropriately enough in "DREAM BIG"
Well, at least I was right about one thing.
I absolutely expected everyone to adore her.
Spot on. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ella Goes to School

Last week was the start of another official 'first day of school.' Now is the time of year I would typically write a post sobbing about how hard it is to let these kids go and grow up, how much I miss them and summer, and how quiet the days are now.
WAAAAHHHHH!!!! Okay.. got that over with.
But this year was a little different. This year I wasn't just letting my older boys go.
This year was Ella's first day of school too. 

For Ella's first day there was so much more to plan for. So much more to prepare for. I had a hard time letting the boys go to preschool when they were 4. (Let's face it.. I still have a hard time letting them go at 9 & 7) but this was much more than buying them a new backpack and pulling out my hair trying to locate the extra large 12 count triangle tip box of Crayolas on their back to school list while navigating the crammed-with-people-because-its-tax-free-weekend-way-too-narrow-Target aisle with 5 kids in tow. This was much more than a stereotypical emotional 'how did my babies grow up so fast' morning. This required months of planning. Therapy sessions, IEP meetings, conversations with other special needs parents, transportation negotiations, piles of paperwork, and sleepless nights worrying. How would she do at school? Would she be scared? Would she cry and wonder where I was? Would the other kids accept her? Would she make friends? Would her teacher be able to help her? Would it be too overwhelming? Would it be worth it?

My very top concern was who her aide would be. 
Fortunately we had a plan.

And this is where the story goes completely wrong.

We planned to have an aide hired last spring. She could attend her IEP meeting and learn all about CdLS. I made a sign language book to give her with all of the signs Ella knows so she would have time to learn her language. We scheduled dates for summer visits so Ella would be comfortable with her at school. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and I almost hugged her at our first meeting because I was just so relieved to know the person the school had hired was kind and calm and loving. That all started out smoothly enough. Until the aide backed out halfway through the summer. Mere weeks before school another aide was hired. We were able to meet with her a few times, but oh wait--she wouldn't be there the first day of school. That's okay--the preschool room aide who Ella was semi-comfortable with would fill in. Oh wait.. nope. Two days before school started I found out she resigned as well. So the very first day of school left us showing up having absolutely no clue who I was turning my child over to. My precious girl, who only last year started allowing other people to look in her general direction without screaming bloody murder, was now to be left in the hands of a complete stranger. 

Ella knew something was up from the very start of the day. Why is mom fussing with my hair? Why are we rushing through breakfast? Why is that crazy lady taking all these pictures? We've visited the school many times to get Ella comfortable there and every time she LOVES it. She knows her brothers and grandma are there, so I really wasn't all that worried that she would be scared. I mean.. we planned for this. Except when we got to the school Ella refused to get out of the car. And when I finally did pry her out she refused to walk, which motivated Hudson to also decide his legs wouldn't work either. *sigh... Once in the room it took awhile for Ella to warm up to her surroundings and her temporary aide who is now going to be the preschool aide who was filling in for Ella's real aide who was unable to be an aide that day. Understand why Ella might have been confused?

Anyways.. I ended up staying in the room with her for about an hour while Hudson played and Levi slept in his carseat in the corner. (Thank you God for a baby who is still content to sleep a lot!!) When their class went down to an assembly and I peeked in to see Ella sitting alongside her classmates with her aide by her side I snuck out. I worried about her all morning, but when I showed up to pick her up at noon she was walking down the hall, hand in hand with her aide. When she saw me her eyes lit up and she reached for my face and said "Mom!" in the sweetest little voice. She then proceeded to walk down the hall blowing kisses to everyone we passed. She was SO proud of herself and had the biggest smile. She was ready for this.

However, I couldn't breathe too big of a sigh of relief yet. I knew we still had a big hurdle ahead of us. Transportation. The first day of school I drove the kids the almost 15 miles to school and picked them up again. The rest of the days the older boys would get on the bus at 7:00 and Ella's aide would pick her up separately around 7:45. We had it all planned out. Until this morning rolled around bringing with it a giant thunderstorm. Because of course.. Rain was pounding down, lightning was flashing all around us.. I ended up driving the boys to the end of the lane right before 7:00 so they didn't have to dodge the lightning bolts on their walk down and we waited. And waited. And waited. And no bus showed up. Eventually we drove back to the house and sprinted back in the door, soaking wet, only to call the bus barn and find out they changed the bus route and the boys would now be getting picked up about a half hour later. Oh. Would have been nice to know.. By the time we got that all figured out it was almost 7:30 and I had only just started getting Ella ready. So we hurriedly got dressed and ate breakfast. You guys.. it's day 3 of school and already my plans of providing the kids with a healthy breakfast to fuel their day have been ruined. White bread with butter and cinnamon/sugar. Because you know.. breakfast of champions right there. Due to our little construction project going on here, we had to walk up the hill behind our house to meet her aide because every time it rains there is no place to drive remotely close to our house. Pretty much every direction 50 yards out from our house looks like this.

  and this

and this..

As we walked to the car Ella's aide stepped out to greet her. And I see she's wearing a dark rain jacket with her hood pulled up over her head. Uh oh.  Ella is terrified of that look. For all the planning we did, for all the scenarios we tried to envision, for all the possible situations we tried to foresee happening, we neglected to include this obviously important piece of information in her IEP: 
'Please don't come to our house Grimm Reaper style asking for our daughter.' 
Side note: Ella's aide was wonderful and went and sat back in the car and took her rain coat off after realizing it was scaring her. She also rode home with her when Ella was scared of her afternoon driver so she would feel safe. THANK YOU!

So for all our planning.. pretty much nothing went as planned. Did I mention we all started to come down with colds this weekend? Nothing says back to school like a bunch of crabby snot nosed germ kids. However, Ella had a great day at school again today and I think this is going to be a really really good thing for her. I already love reading the notes from the teacher about how well she does following her classmates and participating in all the activities. I love seeing her face light up when I ask her questions about her day or mention things they say she did at school. I can tell she is proud of herself and after our start to today, things can only get better, right??

Monday, July 27, 2015

Levi Anthony

"You should probably go pack a bag," he said.
"Yeah.. yeah.. I will."

"Go pack a bag."
"In a little bit."

"Maria.. you really need to pack a bag."
"I KNOW! I will."

Guess who never got around to packing a hospital bag? 

I didn't really think that entire day of not feeling well, a very sleepless night, and those pesky little pains in my lower abdomen meant I was going into labor. In my defense it didn't really feel like the other times I started having contractions. Yes, I've had 5 c-sections, but have gone into labor THREE of those times. (By default, Charlie and Hudson are the only two children still eligible for 'Mom's Favorite Child.' The others were out of the competition before they were even born.)

Anyways, 2 2 1/2 3 weeks ago (its taken me awhile to finish this blog for some reason..) on Monday morning July 6, 2015 I made an appointment with my doctor 'just to be sure', gave a hasty good-bye to my children, told them I'd be back in a few hours, and headed off sans hospital bag. (and consequently sans camera as well). :( I had so much to do planned for that week. We had scheduled our c-section for July 14 so I was expecting to have 8 entire more days to make freezer meals, dig some baby clothes out of the attic, maybe a bassinet, possibly a few blankets or burp cloths, heck.. I might have even gotten crazy and bought a box of diapers or 2.. but that was not to be so. As I sat alongside the road and waited in road construction (in labor.. unbeknownst to me) I pulled out my '10,000 Baby Names' book to pass the time. (Oh yeah.. come up with a name for our child was also on the list of things to do that week).

Once I was at the hospital I was hooked up to monitors, which showed I was having contractions every 3-5 minutes. WHAT?? I could barely feel them. I was like one of those women you really love to hate who go into labor saying "Well.. I kindof felt a pinch and then the baby was just out!" :S I laid in the hospital bed for a few hours being monitored before my doctor officially made the decision to take the baby that day. She went to talk to the surgeon about what time would work best, while JJ stayed at work for awhile. I hadn't heard back about a specific time, wandered off to use the restroom, came back, chatted with the nurse awhile.. Around 2:00 the nurse casually asked if my husband was on the way. I said no because we weren't sure what time the surgery was scheduled for. She looked surprised and said, 'Oh! When you were in the restroom the doctor came in and said we would do it at 3:00." Aghhh! Since he was about 45 minutes away this caused some minor panic. 

TEXT: "Hey.. uhh.. you might want to get on your way. Baby is being born in an hour."
(That's about the highest level of panic possible for me.)

Nevertheless, JJ made it in far less than the 45 minutes it should have taken him to get to the hospital, and was there in time to see his fourth son come into the world. Levi Anthony was born at 3:39 pm and weighed 8 lb 5 oz and was 21 inches long. Considering he was 2 weeks early, he might have been a family record breaker had he been full term. (The other boys were all over 9 lbs.) 

Oh, and no camera? No problem. That is.. if you have an awesome anesthesiologist who happens to have his iPhone on him.

I was pretty much in shock the rest of the day considering we had NOTHING ready for baby but at the same time so SO relieved he was finally here. This one, in true typical youngest child fashion, has been vying for our attention ever since conception. It seemed like every week he was giving us something else to worry about or monitor closer, having us drive 2 hours to see a perinatologist on multiple occasions and at one point requiring twice weekly ultrasounds for about a month or more. When he was born, his cord was wrapped around his neck two times, so he was more than ready to come out and we were more than ready to have him here! Besides.. you know... not at all being ready to have him here. ;)

I'm happy to report that Levi's youngest child shenanigans haven't continued outside the womb (yet). He has been THE sweetest baby and his older siblings absolutely adore him. And let's just say, I now completely understand how the youngest child would get to be a little spoiled at times.. I can already feel myself holding him just a little tighter.

Everything has been going surprisingly really smooth. That is.. if you don't factor in the massive construction that is our home right now. And the fact that the first full day we were home from the hospital our water heater got knocked over, leaving us without running water (and still today without hot water), then 2 days later we got the word that our furnace had to be removed, only you know.. on the hottest 110 degree day of the year. And then there was that chimney that had to be removed that covered our entire house in a layer of dust that will. not. go. away. I've seriously mopped the floor more times in the past week than I have the entire past year and it still seems to always be dirty. SO thankful to have grandma's house nearby to be able to wash our dirty dishes, bathe our dirty children, escape the heat, and have somewhere to nap while tractor fumes invade our house from digging out a basement underneath. 

So yeah.. just your basic ideal living conditions to bring a new baby home to! 
Despite that, we are all doing well and have even survived an entire week with daddy back to work.
That's a success!

We love you Levi Anthony and we are so glad you're here!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Five Minutes Underwater

10 Years. A Decade. 3652 Days. One Third of my Life. 
It alternately feels like so so long ago, 
yet at the same time only yesterday 
that we walked down the aisle toward our happily ever after.
The years have gone by so fast.
Being married to you has felt like only 5 minutes. 

Happy 5th 10th Anniversary to the man who still surprises me every day.

To my middle-of-the-night baby bat killer.

whose sophisticated sense of style 

always leaves me impressed.

To the mature, grown man who cares for us

and protects his family (note: the foot that is barley missing whacking Ella's head..)

To my husband who takes us on such adventures as whale watching


and horseback riding.

Who never lets his boys down
"Daddy! How high can you climb?"
Me muttering to myself: "More like, how far can you fall.."

And takes his kids fishing wherever they want

whenever they want..


This guy is all those things and more. 
He is also the world's strongest dad

who is always there to help our children with their homework, 
(even when I'm not sure who 3rd grade math is more confusing for..) ;)

Who goes on the sweetest picnics with his little girl

and takes the coziest naps with his boys.

Who watches Saturday morning cartoons with the kids so I can sleep in,

reads bedtime stories every night,

and who I spontaneously see taking the kids on a walk to get them out of my hair so I can make supper

You are the best dad I know, the most supportive husband, the first person by my side when I'm struggling with something and don't want to talk about it, yet you somehow get me to. You are still my best friend and even after 10 years and (almost) 5 kids later we actually still like spending time together. 

Happy Anniversary to the guy who still picks me wildflowers from the side of the road, 
who supports all my dreams, and loves me unconditionally.

Thank you for being by my side the past 10 years, for building this crazy beautiful life 
we have together and for always, every single day, making me laugh.