When Dinosaurs Start Talking

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I was a couple of weeks behind on grading Brynna’s schoolwork.  I settled myself on the couch and I was determined that this would be the day that I would get completely caught up with my grading.   As soon as I opened the first book I became distracted.   I was totally mesmerized by what was happening.  This was a moment in time that I wasn’t sure I would ever see.  I put my pen down because this moment deserved my full attention.

Hope was sitting on the area rug playing with her dinosaurs.  She was pretending she was Poppa.  Then she would switch and pretend that she was Arlo.  Poppa gave Arlo a rousing speech on what he should and shouldn’t do.  Arlo was grateful for Poppa’s advice and he said “Thank you, Poppa. I love you.” And then Poppa said “I love you too, Arlo.”

Pretend play.  It comes naturally to a lot of kids.  Our older girls had no problem with pretend play.  Taylor and Brynna were mommies to a lot of dolls throughout the years.  Tea parties were a frequent social function that we attended in our living room.  Taylor dressed up as Tigger and bounced to the back door every day when her Daddy came home.  He had to remember to call her Tigger and not Taylor or he got in trouble.  Brynna enjoyed dressing up in a ladybug costume and playing with her Dora the Explorer castle.   Brynna, Dora, a unicorn, and a dragon had a lot of adventures together.  I’ll never forget the day that we were playing in the backyard and Taylor told me that she used to live in a puddle when she was a duck.  You used to be a duck? Yep.  Pretend play.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Pretend play doesn’t come naturally to all kids.  Mikayla and Hope have never had the desire to play with a doll.  We’ve had a few tea parties but they lasted about 3 minutes.  Dress up has never been fun because of their sensory issues.  It’s hard to have fun when the itching is driving you crazy.  Why can’t they be like their older sisters?  Why can’t we have fun pretending?  I used to force pretend play on them.  They didn’t like it.  So I gave up.  Now that they’re 11 years old pretend play is finally happening at our house.

The girls bought a SpongeBob play set with some of their Christmas money.   I was walking through the living room when Mikayla yelled.

You’re going to jail.

What?  Is she talking to me?  What did I do to deserve going to jail?  Guess I better find out.  So I asked her Who’s going to jail?

Charlie.  He’s going to jail.

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Charlie is the criminal who came with the SpongeBob play set.  Mikayla looked at him and she named him Charlie.  He does kind of look like a Charlie.

Why is Charlie going to jail?

He stole somefun  

That should be “something” for those of you who don’t speak Mikayla.

So Spongebob dragged Charlie off to jail.  Not sure how many years he’ll get.  I guess we need to schedule a court date and start the trial.

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Progress never comes as quickly as I would like it to come.  And when it comes it rarely looks like I thought it would look.  I never thought that pretend play would be sparked at our house by a policeman named SpongeBob and a criminal named Charlie.  Or that it would come when they were 11 years. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from Mikayla and Hope is that faster isn’t necessarily better.  When progress is slow I’ve learned so much along the way.  I’ve learned to appreciate the uniqueness of each of our girls.  I’ve learned to love them because of who they are and not because of what they do.   I’ve learned to breathe in and take time to appreciate the little steps they’ve taken along the way.  I’ve learned that pretend play is a gift that can be unwrapped at any age.  When dinosaurs start talking I listen, smile, and wipe a tear from my eye.  And I thank God for creating a special moment in time.  A moment that I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t had to wait for it.

Top Posts of 2016

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Can you believe it’s the last day of 2016?  Thank you for following my family’s journey this year.  Here are the top 5 posts for 2016.

#5  Sensory Processing Disorder: A Day at the Dentist

I still cringe when I think about Mikayla and Hope’s visit to the dentist in July.  I was embarrassed and I felt like a horrible mom.  But then I found a note in my mailbox from the ladies at the dentist’s office.  They didn’t look at me and see a bad mom.  They looked at me and they saw a good mom having a bad day.  It’s no surprise that this post would resonate with my readers.  I think we often listen to and believe the lie that we’re bad moms. But the truth is that we’re good moms just having a bad day.

#4  Putting My Trash Out for Everyone to See

I didn’t want to write this post.  I put off writing about it for months because I didn’t want everyone to know that I struggle with anxiety.  But then one day as I was cleaning the basement I felt that it was time to write about it.  So I hit publish and here it is at #4 for the year.

#3  The Case of the Missing Coats

This post makes me look a bit foolish.  I ran all over our church looking for coats that were still in our van.  But God used my foolish moment to lead me to the right person at the right time.  I learned a valuable lesson.  Searching for the answers to our girls futures is much like searching for their missing coats.   I ran all over the church trying to find their coats but I didn’t find them.  It was when I stopped and asked God for His help that the coats were found.  I can run all over this earth searching for services, therapists, and schools for our girls and not find them.  But if I just stop and ask God to help me He will answer.

#2  Putting the Pieces Back Together Again

This post was about my husband fixing our washer for $15.  God reminded me that He wants to fix those areas of our life that are broken.  Sometimes a part of our life will work for years and then it will suddenly no longer work as well as it used to.  Homeschooling was a piece of our life that was no longer working for Mikayla and Hope.  We decided to enroll them in public school and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made

And the top read post in 2016 was:

#1  The Night Her World Fell Apart

This post was about Mikayla processing the disappointment of Grandpa’s birthday party being canceled.  She experienced her first ugly cry.  It was a moment that broke my heart but yet it made me happy at the same time.  Because once upon a time our girls didn’t show emotion.  We crawled into bed and I just sat and listened to Mikayla and Hope share with me what things are most important to them.  This moment taught me to slow down, listen, and savor the moments with our girls.

Happy New Year!

When Your Child Asks for the Toy of the Year

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A few weeks ago I asked Hope what she would like for Christmas.  She didn’t hesitate to give me an answer.

I want a Hatchimal for Christmas!

A Hatchimal?  What in the world is a Hatchimal?

I went on Walmart’s website and here’s what I found out:

Hatchimals are magical creatures that live inside of eggs. Who’s inside? It’s a surprise! Each egg contains one of two interactive Hatchimals. Love and care for yours inside the egg and its eyes will light up as it makes cute sounds, telling you how it’s feeling! Once you’ve played with it enough, you’ll see rainbow eyes—that means its time to hatch! Hatchimals can’t hatch on their own. Your touch encourages them to peck their way out of the egg! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Now you get to raise your furry Hatchimal through 3 stages, from baby to toddler, to kid. Your Hatchimal sings “Hatchy Birthday” each time it enters a new stage! Teach yours to walk, dance, play games and more! It will even repeat what you say in its own voice!

That sounds like the perfect present for Hopey.  A couple of clicks and we’ll have a Hatchimal on our doorstep in a few days.  Online ordering.  It’s the most magical thing about Christmas.

Uh-oh.  Walmart’s out of stock.  I’ll check Toys R Us.  Oops.  Out of stock there too.  So I checked Amazon.  They’re in stock.  Wait a minute!  You’ve got to be kidding me.  $200-$300 for a bird that hatches out of its egg?  They were $50 at Walmart.  I’ll keep looking.  I checked Ebay.  $150-$300?  And suddenly I realized that something was happening to me that has never happened in my 19 years of being a mom.  My little sweetheart had picked the toy of the year.

Every time Hope was asked what she wanted for Christmas the answer remained the same.  And she would say Hatchimal with so much enthusiasm that it would send me racing back to my computer.  I’m going to snatch my sweet girl a Hatchimal if it’s the last thing I do.   Let me rephrase that.  I’m going to snatch my sweet girl a $50 Hatchimal if it’s the last thing I do.  I’m not paying $150-$300 for one.  I signed up for in-stock alerts.  I checked multiple websites several times a day.

And then I saw the announcement on the manufacturer’s website:  The consumer response to Hatchimals has been extraordinary, exceeding all expectations. Some of our first shipments have already sold out. While additional product will hit retail shelves in November, we anticipate this inventory will also sell out quickly. We have increased production and a whole new batch of Hatchimals will be ready to hatch in early 2017.

Great.  Looks like Hopey isn’t going to get a Hatchimal for Christmas.  What am I going to do?  What if she cries on Christmas morning because there’s not one under the tree? I don’t think my heart can take that.  Should I talk to her and explain to her that Hatchimals are hard  to find?  Will she understand what I’m telling her?  Or will she keep insisting that she’s getting one for Christmas?

I decided to sit her down and be honest with her.

Mommy is having trouble finding a Hatchimal for you for Christmas.  A lot of kids are wanting one and the stores are sold out.

Hopey:  They’re sold out?

Yes.   They’re sold out.  It’s really hard to find one.  I think it’ll be easier to find one after Christmas.  Maybe we could get you one for your birthday.

Hopey:  Get one for my birthday?

Yes.  We’ll try to get you one for your birthday.  Will that be ok?

Hopey:  Stores are sold out.  I want a Hatchimal for my birthday.

And just like that I witnessed our Christmas miracle of 2016.  The miracle wasn’t that Mommy was able to snatch the toy of the year.  The miracle was in that moment that I looked at my little girl and I saw her process a situation that she once wouldn’t have been able to process.  Hope understood what I was telling her.   She didn’t cry.  She didn’t stomp her foot and insist that she is getting a Hatchimal.   She decided to patiently wait for her Hatchimal to arrive on March 29.  We won’t have any memories or pictures of Hopey smiling this Christmas as she opens her Hatchimal.  But we have a greater memory than I ever expected.  We have a little girl who has processed a very disappointing situation and she handled it with grace.  And I couldn’t be more proud of her.

He’ll Make the Crooked Places Straight

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Hope was a teeny tiny 7-year-old when she and her crooked little smile walked into the orthodontist’s office for the first time.   We were told it was important for her to get braces before she turned 10.  I couldn’t picture our little spitfire sitting still long enough for them to put braces on.  They took her into a room to get a panoramic x-ray. It sounded simple.  Put your mouth around this piece of metal and stand still for 20 seconds.  Wait a minute.  Stand still for 20 seconds?  I’ve never seen her stand still for 20 seconds.  But maybe I’m about to witness a miracle.

They brought her up to the machine and there was a problem. She was too short to wrap her mouth around the metal piece.  The nice lady asked her to stand on a stool. Balance on a stool?  She has trouble balancing while standing on the floor.   I was getting a bad feeling about this.  But maybe she’ll surprise me. Hope tried her hardest but she couldn’t balance on the stool.   The x-ray was blurry.  We had to try again.  Hope was tired of trying and she started acting goofy.  She put her mouth around the metal piece and started fidgeting.  The nice lady told her that she could break her teeth if she didn’t stand still.  Hope didn’t stop.  Ok.  We’re done.  I would like to leave here with her crooked little teeth still inside of her sweet mouth.  They scheduled an appointment to put the braces on.  If she couldn’t sit still for a 20 second x-ray how’s she gonna sit still long enough for them to put braces on?  I went ahead and made the appointment because I believe in miracles.

I was nervous as we walked into the office the morning of her appointment.  Hope was 7 years old and she has ADHD and sensory processing disorder.  Will she sit still and let them put the braces on?  Or will it be too much for her?  The first thing they did was put a contraption in her mouth to pull her gums away from her teeth.  She started gagging.  We’re 2 minutes into this and it’s not going well.  Once she gagged she was done.  They made a note on her chart to not use the gagging contraption in the future.  The orthodontist said that her sensory issues were going to make it harder for her to withstand having braces put on.  They decided we should wait 6 months and try again.

Life got out of control during the 6 month wait and I had to cancel Hope’s appointment for her braces.  We finally took her back in when she was 9 years old.  We told her if she would sit still and let them put her braces on then we would take her to Toys R US and buy her a prize.  Hope sat very still while they put her braces on.  Is this really happening? or is this just a dream?  Is she really letting them put braces on her teeth?  If I didn’t already believe in miracles I would’ve started believing in them at that moment.   Hope walked out of the orthodontist’s office that day with braces on her teeth.  I was dancing as we made our way through the parking lot to get in the van.  Well, not really.  I was dancing on the inside anyway.  We danced our way into Toys R Us and Hope picked out her prize.  I don’t remember now what it was but I’m guessing it was a dinosaur.

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September 2014

The estimated treatment time for Hope’s braces was 9-12 months.  She had appointments every 5 weeks to have her braces checked.   She never once complained that her braces hurt.  She had to give up popcorn, caramel, peanuts, gum, and so many other things that she enjoyed eating.   But she never complained.  12 months passed and it wasn’t time for her braces to come off.  The doctor was waiting on some of her permanent teeth to come in.  He decided to do another panoramic x-ray.  Hope marched up to the x-ray machine.  Well, would you look at that.  She’s tall enough to reach the metal piece without standing on a stool.  And she stood still for the whole 20 seconds.  A lot can change in 3 years.

Hope’s 9-12 month treatment time turned into 2 years.  September 26th was her big day.  The day for her braces to come off finally arrived.  And she was excited.  The night before her appointment she was naming off all the foods that she was going to be able to eat.  I can eat peanuts.  I can eat caramel.  I can eat popcorn. At bedtime she wouldn’t stop talking about peanuts, popcorn, and caramel.  The excitement was getting to be too much for her.  She was over the moon as we sat in the waiting room listening for them to call her name.

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Her excitement escalated as we waited on the doctor.  She’s usually really quiet when the doctor is in the room.  But she talked his ear off this time.  He thought it was pretty funny.  It didn’t take long for the braces to come off.  Ok Hopey show us your smile.

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Very funny, Hopey.   Now show us the smile that we paid for.

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She had to have an impression made for her retainer.  She gagged the first time.  The second time she wouldn’t open her mouth because she was afraid she would gag. The stuff for the impression got hard before they were able to get it in her mouth.  The third time she cooperated and they got the impression.  The doctor handed her a bag full of all the stuff that she hadn’t been able to eat for 2 years.  Cracker jacks, snickers, tootsie rolls, and laffy taffy.  The smile on her face as she gazed at that bag of goodies was priceless.  The cracker jacks were almost gone before we even got out the door.

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We ended her big day with a trip to Toys R Us.  Because any girl who wears braces for 2 years deserves a prize from her Mommy and Daddy.

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Isaiah 45:2 says I will go before you and make the crooked places straight.  This verse has come more alive to me now that my little girl’s crooked teeth are now straight.  God is with us as we go through all the crooked places in our lives.  He’s with us as we go through things that we don’t understand.  He’s right in the middle of our chaotic mess.  It seems like most of the time our trials take longer to get through than we want them to.  We hope it will take a year but it will actually take two. We look around and we notice that some people are able to get their braces off after only a year.  But we still have to wear ours.  Everyone else gets to have the things we long for.  They’re eating caramel, peanuts, taffy, bubble gum, and popcorn.  But we can’t eat those things right now.  We want to feel sorry for ourselves and start complaining about how hard life is.  But then we stop and we look at a little girl.  A little girl who didn’t let sensory processing disorder keep her from getting a brand new smile.  A little girl who never complained even though her trial took twice as long as it was supposed.  She inspires us and she reminds us that we can overcome some hard stuff too.

As our journey comes to an end God reminds us of how far we’ve come.  We see that moment when it was impossible to stand still and balance on a stool.  Time went by and we grew up a little.  The day came when we marched into the room for the x-ray and this time we left Mommy out in the hallway.  The stool we once needed sits in the corner because we’re tall enough now.  And after what seems like forever we finally make it to the end of the race.  There’s a bag of gooey, crunchy goodies with our name on it.  The race was definitely long and hard.  But it was worth it because of the new smile we now have on our face.

Two New Bikes For Two Happy Girls

Mikayla and Hope have never been able to ride a regular bicycle.  Their feet would slip off the pedals. They always wanted to pedal backward instead of forward. They couldn’t overcome friction to make the bike go.  And we were told that they would probably never be able to balance a bicycle.  But I always hoped that someday I would see them ride a bike.  And I did.

Last year I saw them ride an adaptive tricycle at Easter Seals.  It was the moment I had waited for.  But it was only a moment.  I wanted to see them be able to ride their own bike at home.  I told Brett that we needed to buy them a bike like the one at Easter Seals.  I searched the internet and was shocked by what I found. $1200 for an adaptive bike.  We would need $2400 for our girls to have a bike of their own.  My dream for our girls to have their own bike seemed impossible.

In February my friend Francie sent us papers from an organization that gives adaptive bikes to those who need them.  I filled out the papers and sent them in.  At the beginning of March I took the girls to be measured so their bikes would be the right size.  The exciting day finally arrived and we took the girls to pick up their new bicycles.  I’m thankful that Francie sent me the papers.  I’m thankful for the organization that supplied the bikes and for the people who made donations to purchase the bikes.  I’m thankful for people who took time out of their Sunday afternoon to put the bikes together.  All of these people working together made my dream for our girls come true.

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Mikayla and Hope with Laura and Marti. These ladies helped them get their new bikes.

My friend Francie's daugther Abby got a new bike too. Mikayl & Hope love Abby

Francie’s daughter Abby got a new bike too. Mikayla and Hope were hugging Abby and saying “I love you”.

Mikayla and Hope are 11 years old and they can finally ride a bike.  It’s happened slower for them than most kids.  Yes, we have to strap their feet to the pedal for them to ride.  And they can’t ride without someone going with them.  But they have their own bike and they can ride it.  And that’s really all that matters.

A Hexagon, A Fat Cat, And A Rubber Chicken

I allowed the words they spoke to keep me up at night.  They said the girls aren’t progressing.  They’re not doing as well as they were several months ago.  It was one of those times when I wished I could put my fingers in my ears, hum a tune, and drown out what they were telling me.  I know what they said is true and fear began to grip my heart.  But then I began to truly look at our girls and I noticed that they are progressing in everyday life.

Hope crawled into my bed with her iPad and asked me to watch her play Monkey Math.  The game showed her 3 different shapes and she was supposed to press the oval.  Every time she pressed the oval it gave her 3 new shapes.  She was pressing ovals like crazy until she accidentally pressed the wrong shape.  She said “Oops…..that was a hexagon.  I need to poke the oval.”  What?  She knows what a hexagon is?  I had no idea she knew that.

We were working on auditory memory cards.   This is the story that I read individually to the girls.

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These were the answers the girls gave me to the questions.

Who has a magic backpack?    Hope: Zack        Mikayla: Jack (Oh….so close!)

Why is it magic?    Hope: Because things won’t break     Mikayla:  Holds only things that aren’t heavy

If you look inside it, what will you see?    Hope:  A rubber chicken    Mikayla:  A cat.  Zoe’s too big for the backpack.  (Zoe is our cat)

We worked on these same cards last year.  The girls could never remember the name of the person mentioned in the story.  Remembering names has always been hard for them.  But Hope got it right and Mikayla’s answer rhymed with the correct answer.  I couldn’t believe it.  That’s progress.

Why questions are the hardest questions for our girls to answer.  I didn’t expect them to answer the “Why is it magic?” question.  But they gave me answers. They weren’t the correct answers but I thought they were good answers.

When Hope blurted out rubber chicken I laughed and she grinned.   When Mikayla said Zoe’s too big for the backpack it showed that she’s developing critical thinking skills.  Our cat is huge and she wouldn’t fit in a backpack.  That’s the truth.

As I was putting the cards back in the case I was thinking about how I answer questions.  If I don’t know the answer I will say “I don’t know.”  It’s safe to respond that way.  I’m certainly not going to blurt out an answer and possibly be wrong.  That would be embarrassing and risky.  But our girls aren’t afraid to risk.  If I ask them a question they’re going to give me an answer.  If it’s the wrong answer they don’t care.  They just go on with life.  If they don’t know the answer then they’re going to make something up.  And let’s be honest.  Isn’t a backpack with a rubber chicken and a cat in it more fun than a sock, a rock, and a clock?  Oh how I need to be more like our girls.  They live life and they don’t worry about what anyone thinks.

Progress doesn’t always show up in a 45 minute therapy session.  But it shows up in the moments that we’re just living life.  It shows up when a little girl recognizes a hexagon.   It shows up when a fat cat can’t fit in a backpack.  Progress is important.  But I’m learning to not worry so much when progress doesn’t show up on a piece of paper.  Worrying takes away the joy of living life.   And sometimes I just need to stop, laugh at a rubber chicken in a backpack, and savor the grins on the faces of little girls who make my world a better place

Turtle Tales – What Happened At Our House This Week

Speech progress is a really big deal at our house.   I used to wonder if our girls would ever talk in complete sentences instead of just using two word phrases.  So I got really excited this week when Hope got mad at Mikayla.  I guess that sounds kinda funny.  But I’m thankful for speech progress no matter how it shows up.

Mikayla touched Hope’s iPad.  Hope got really mad and she yelled “You ruined my life….and I’m not very happy!”   Obviously she overreacted just a smidge.   But I honestly didn’t care.  I was laughing too hard.  That was a really big sentence that was even delivered with the proper emotion.  Go Hopey!

Our friend Jennie invited the girls to stay all night at her house.  They were well behaved and were having such a good time so Jennie asked if they could stay a second night.  Of course, I said yes.  I had a wonderful 48 hour break from caring for them.  The girls got to visit Jennie’s cat Sparkles and they went on a road trip to visit some horses.

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Hope had an appointment with her orthodontist on Monday.  They put a new band on one of her teeth. They finally found the perfect size and got it glued in.  Hope immediately said “Take it out.”  The nice lady told her that it would have to stay until her braces came off.  Hope decided to go along with it instead of throwing a fit.   Phew.  They told us that she would probably be sore because of the new band and a new kind of wire they had put on.  But she never acted like she was in pain.

After we got done at the orthodontist we went to Easter Seals for the girls therapies.  Hope usually has an off day when she has therapy after the orthodontist.  But since Easter Seals and the orthodontist are in the same town that is an hour and 15 minutes from our house I schedule them on the same day.  I was totally shocked when Hope’s occupational therapist told me that Hope had a much better day than she’s been having lately.  And then Hope grinned and handed me a paper.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.

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For Hope to do so well in her handwriting on any day would’ve been amazing.  But for her to do this well after being at the orthodontist is miraculous.  I was so proud. And her goofy grin told me that she was proud too.

Hope’s speech therapist showed me the scoring sheet from their therapy session.  Hope scored 92% and 93% with no visual prompts.  She said that the last time Hope got around  50% for both.  I couldn’t believe that she’d done her best after seeing the orthodontist.

I sat down with Mikayla and had her make me a paper like Hope’s.  I just felt the need to have a matching set.  I’m planning on framing them and hanging them on the wall.

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We got a few inches of snow this week.  Snow makes Mikayla feel anxious.  She worries about if Daddy is going to have to go to work.  She worries when he goes to work that he won’t be able to get back home.  And she worries that Grandma is out driving around in the snow when she should be at home.  When Mikayla is feeling anxious she follows me around ALL DAY LONG and she talks ALL DAY LONG.  So what’s a mom who has a chatty little sweetheart following her around all day supposed to do?  She thanks God for a husband who bought her a grand stash of chocolate for Christmas.  And then she eats it every chance she gets.  Snow is my enemy and spring can’t come soon enough.