Sunday, August 30, 2009

crazy days

Wow I've become a stranger to my own blog! Sorry about that! Life with 5 kids is pretty busy, to say the least. The summer seems to have rocketed by and now we are only 1 1/2 weeks away from school starting - Kindergarten for Cade and PreK for Parker. With the 20 minute drive each way for PreK, two non-walkers going on three and a belly I can no longer bend over, I don't see any relaxation in my immediate future LOL. I thought I'd best get in an update on us though before true chaos sets in.

Cade is nervous but excited about Kindergarten; we've spent a lot of time this summer working on helping him with basic skills so he feels more accomplished at the start - he can usually identify his whole alphabet now and is even beginning to sound out simple words. Fine motor has never been his strong point (hence him receiving OT and continuing to do so this school year) but he has made a lot of progress with writing his own name. He knows so much but is rarely willing to show it to his teachers. He's shy and perhaps a bit too introspective and deep-thinking for his age (hmm... I wonder where he gets that from?) so I worry about things like sitting on the bus, who he will eat with at lunch, etc. I wasn't much moved by him going to PreK last fall but the thought of Kindergarten can send me into near-tears everytime. My big boy!

Parker is er... less than thrilled about starting PreK. Although he has a sweet, bubbly personality with people he knows (though he seems to be going through a minor identity crisis, as I think he feels pushed out by Emerson's high needs and anticipates less attention with Holden due so soon) he is much more of a mechanical-minded child than a social one. Luckily we were able to get him in with Cade's former teachers so he does know and like both of them. He's also going to be starting Speech Therapy (he's the last one to do so - now every single one of our kids has at least ST!) and will be working with the same therapist who saw Cade and sees Macy. So he will at least be surrounded by adults he knows. Hoping his transition is not too hard on him - and us!

Macy is doing well and hitting the Awful 3s (what the hey are the Terrible 2s anyways? 3 is the big number in our house!). She had her 6 month re-evaluation for Speech and has made some improvement with articulation and as with Parker both expressive and receptive were above age - she actually came out 9 months ahead for receptive. We're hoping to get her into a dance or gymnastics class so she has her own little activity to look forward to with her beloved big brothers both in school. She is the queen in the Shy Department so we are hoping to get her a bit more open to new experiences before she starts PreK next year!

Our Dawson is wonderful as ever. He seems to have at least two or three new words each week and has gotten a bit more expressive with the therapists (he is normally such a quiet observer of people outside the family), he has twice now informed his Physical Therapist with words and sign that he is "ALL DONE!" hehe - little stinker. He sings "Row, row, row a boat" while rocking whatever object he deems worthy of pretending to be a boat, I will have to try to get a video and post it as it's simply the cutest thing in the world. He says "Thank you" all the time now when we put his food in front of him or hand him a toy - adorable now but yeah, all our kids are polite until about age 2 1/2 LOL. He is big on referential pointing now, he points to everything when we're out and asks, "That? That?" while we name every object we can for him to store away for future use I suppose. He has rediscovered his reflection in mirrors and will spend at least 5 minutes making silly faces at himself and laughing hysterically. We are still waiting for those days of walking - he pulls himself to stand much easier now and sometimes will cruise a bit to the side on the coffee table and will take assisted steps when we say "Walk" but balance and weight change are a lot of work for him - not hard to understand since he's 26 lbs and at least 32" long. It's got to be tough figuring out how to get all of that moving LOL! ^_^ I am still hoping a bit he might be starting to walk independently by his 2nd birthday, but he'll get there when he's ready. For now he is commando crawling when he wants to, scooting forward and backwards (very fast LOL) when he feels like it, and I can only thrill at his communication skills and revel in how much delight he takes in his world.

Little Emerson is a study in contrasts. Some days I could rush to the laptop and post about what great progress it seems we made, but others it feels like the progress has been pulled out from under us - and then some. The one major development is that she is eating baby food! I should qualify that statement quite a bit, I suppose... she eats some baby foods very well, when she wants to LOL. About two weeks ago she went through a frustrating bottle strike where she basically had 2 bottles each day for 2 days straight and then suddenly the next day when I offered her a jar of Turkey Tetrazzini she had discovered how to command her tongue and ate two jars of the stuff with barely pushing out a drop. We have since come to realize that there is more to Emerson than meets the eye. I honestly do not think she was incapable of eating baby food when we first came home - I think it was simply that she did not care for what we were offering her. She has a few hard favorites now and we continue to try new things and she continues to stubbornly spit out and cry at anything she doesn't like, no matter how hungry you'd think she should be. I admit it's a bit frustrating but it's progress regardless and we're happy for that. She was 18 lbs 3 oz at her check-up last week.

Emotionally it feels like we're struggling more and more these days. Her teeth grinding has gotten so bad it usually leaves my nerves completely frayed at the end of the day. It's hard to believe anyone can grind teeth so loudly, so slowly and deeply - especially since it is only being done with one top tooth and one bottom tooth. If you can imagine someone scratching long, jagged nails down a chalkboard right next to you, over and over again for about 30 minutes of every hour for 10 hours each day... then you might have some inkling of what we endure each day. She has actually been grinding so hard that she has caused the bottom tooth to bleed several times. It was pretty unsettling last week when I went in to the room at night to check on her since she had not yet fallen asleep and was grinding particularly loudly to find her face and shirt covered in blood. We thought she was grinding a hole into her lower tooth.

She finally had her long-awaited dental appointment on Friday and as always, it was good news/bad news. Good news is her teeth and gums are actually still healthy with no obvious decay and there is no apparent damage to her teeth yet from the grinding (apparently she has a bit of gum caught over the lower tooth in question which is what is bleeding, not a hole). The bad news is this means there's nothing they can do about it but hope that it stops. The dentist was a bit surprised by how few teeth she has (only 8, compared with Dawson's 14 going on 16) but that might just be due to poor nutrition. The bottom teeth are also angled so much and her gums are so short that she often cuts her bottom lip on them... again though, nothing that can be done. We have tried consistently gently but firmly squeezing her cheeks and saying NO each time she grinds, I've tried doing some gentle gum massage and vibrations... she dissolves into tears each time but within minutes goes right back to grinding.

It's always nice to feel like we've escaped one more huge medical issue, but it's also disappointing to know the problems we did get are the ones that can't easily be fixed. I've come to the conclusion that somehow, although cognitively she's barely a 6 month old, she has come to use grinding as a tool of manipulation. I suppose it's not that surprising - kids in institutions probably get much better use out of quickly learning attempts at manipulation than true communication - but it makes it all the more frustrating. I think she's a bit jealous of Dawson, especially as I rock him to sleep at night, so I started rocking her first. It was nice to have her fall asleep in my arms, a silent trust that had finally been earned, but everytime I put her down carefully she immediately wakes up... I then give Dawson his turn and she sits in the crib pressing her face against the bars, watching us. After a minute she starts grinding her teeth harder than ever, slowly, seemingly painfully... so much so that my teeth usually start aching and I have to press them tightly together to try to relieve the pressure. She does this constantly in between giggles and pulling up to standing against the crib rail. At first I was responding - getting up with Dawson and laying her back down and telling her no, night-night. But then I realized the pattern to her game and I now sit there, eyes shut tightly, teeth pushed together and silently chanting to myself, I will not respond to this, I will not respond to this, I will not respond to this... she does not give up until I lay Dawson down and leave the room. She rarely babbles anymore; she simply grinds. And though we all try not to react to it, to not try to reward any attempts at using this as a form of communication and manipulation, oh my gosh is it hard to hear it all day and not try to do SOMETHING to make it stop.

She has days where she makes such good eye contact and interacts more with us and even with toys, and I get so excited and start to think perhaps we're coming upon that turning point... but then the next day she wakes up seeming to have regressed, her eyes refusing to look at you, sitting there grinding her teeth and poking herself repeatedly in the forehead with one finger absentmindedly. When she does that I go overboard with trying to tickle her, calling her name over and over, as if she's gone behind the curtain and might be lost forever. Usually she looks around me, unmoved. It's strange, it's scary and it makes me feel like it will always be like this. Dawson has finally started to attempt interacting with her... tonight at dinner he reached over and tickled her foot (oh, he says "Tickle tickle tickle" too in the most adorable way LOL) and stared smiling at her face, seeking her eyes... she wouldn't look up at him. He tried a few more times before he gave up and went back to eating and communicating with us. I felt sad for him, and for her too. And though I think I've reached a point of peace with the journey we're on, I feel unable to truly bond with her, unable to truly love her with a mother's love instead of simply with a worldly love, a humanitarian's love. I know other moms have felt the same way and that time is the only cure for that, but sometimes I wonder if this too will be an undefinable problem, a thing that cannot be fixed, even by time. We just hope.

Holden is doing well, very big and very active. I'm only measuring 2 weeks ahead in the height of my uterus but that's mostly because he's lying transverse right now - I have no silly notions of a little baby. :) I am guessing I will go into labor closer to 38 weeks, which is very scarily about 6 weeks away. I still need to get that birth pool ordered and the cord scissors and we need to get yet another crib for our growing collection LOL, but otherwise I am very much ready to NOT be pregnant anymore!

This post is long enough, but the last piece of news is that we got a kitty two weeks ago! We'd talked about getting one for Christmas for the kids but a trip to the pet store for some dog food ended up with the adoption of a 5 month old beige tabby. The kids named him Alex (after the boy in Signing Time), a close second to Butt, which Matt and I unfortunately had to veto. ^_~ Luckily he is a very sweet and tolerant cat, loves the attention from the kids and doesn't twitch an ear when his tail is mistaken for a pull-toy. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the pregnancy perk of avoiding litter box duty. If only that could last forever... :)

Some pictures! (I'll get some new ones of Cade and Parker on their first days of school!)

Had to do a before/after of Emerson eating baby food. The top is from nearly a month ago and the result of her thrusting everything out with her tongue. The bottom is her happy after finishing a whole jar with hardly any mess. :)

Introducing Butt... er, I mean Alex!

Oh yes, Alex is a strange cat... I'm beginning to think he is truly a dog's soul trapped in a cat's body. :)