I could hear the sound of the school bus approaching. This time of day is always an adventure. What are the girls going to say about their school day? Will I only hear about the food they ate? Or about what happened during recess? Or will they tell me something new and exciting? The girls slowly walked up to the porch. I wasn’t prepared for what I heard.
Hope: There’s hot dog buns in my backpack.
Mikayla: I hurt my butt at school.
I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the bench I was sitting on. I didn’t expect to hear either of those things. When I finally composed myself I asked Mikayla what happened. She said “I fell off the slide and landed in the weeds. It hurt” I told her I was sorry and asked if she was alright. She said “I’m ok.” So I moved on to Hope and asked her why she had hot dog buns in her backpack. She didn’t know. Sure enough there were hot dog buns in her backpack. I unzipped Mikayla’s backpack and found a loaf of bread. What in the world? I had a slight moment of panic. The thought that perhaps my girls were kleptomaniacs was racing through my mind. I took Mikayla’s folder out of her backpack and began to read about her day. There was a note that said a local organization had donated the bread to send home with the kids. I moved on to Hope’s folder and found a note from her aide explaining the hot dog buns were from the same organization. That’s good to know. The next time I find food in their backpacks I won’t panic.
All evening Mikayla complained about her butt hurting. We were getting ready for bed and Hope looked over at Mikayla and said “The neck doctor fixed my neck. The butt doctor can fix your butt!” And then she giggled. The girls clinical psychologist has labeled Hope as a slapstick comedienne. Yep. That’s pretty accurate. I don’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. I had trouble falling asleep because I kept cracking up. The next day we went out to celebrate Brynna’s birthday. As we drove by a McDonald’s Mikayla said “Sprite makes my butt feel better.” Nice try, sister. Now drink your water. Laughter filled our van. Maybe we have two slapstick comediennes on our hands. Interesting.
On the Friday before Labor Day the girls were very anxious when they got home. They were told there would be no school on Monday. They kept asking over and over again “No school on Monday? No school on Monday?” Yes, there is no school on Monday. When the girls get anxious they talk nonstop. When the girls talk nonstop I get anxious. After about 48 hours of listening to nonstop talking I was getting pretty edgy. And I didn’t have any chocolate hidden in my closet. This is not going to be good. It was bedtime and Hope was going on and on about something. I said “Hope, you have to stop talking!” She looked at me with her little, sweet face and she said “I don’t want to stop talking.” Then she continued what she was saying without missing a beat. Ok. That was obviously not my best parenting moment. If I had consumed a little bit of chocolate my response probably would’ve been much better.
I can’t help but think about how far they’ve come. Mikayla and Hope have expressive and receptive language disorder as well as language processing disorder. I used to wonder if I would ever be able to have a conversation with them. Or if they would ever talk in complete sentences. And I’m now seeing both of those things happen. Mikayla said “I hurt my butt at school.” Just a few years ago she would’ve said “hurt butt”. Hope said “I don’t want to stop talking.” Not long ago she would’ve said “don’t want to”. There was a time when we were trying to get them to say three word sentences. And on this beautiful, sunny day in 2017 my girls walk up to the front porch and say “There’s hot dog buns in my backpack.” and “I hurt my butt at school.” Those are both huge sentences. Years of speech therapy brought us to this day. I’m not proud of the moment when I told Hope to stop talking. But yet that moment makes me smile. My girls can talk until they completely wear me out. And it’s a miracle.
The girls are nearing the end of their first year in public school. There’s been a lot of trial and error to find what works best for them. But overall I’ve been amazed at how well they’ve done with the transition into school. They’ve gained a great deal of independence. The girls carry their own meal trays. They’ve learned how to maneuver through the building and they can find the restrooms, cafeteria, nurse’s office, and therapy rooms without any help. They call the speech therapists on the phone and tell them they’re on the way to speech. I’m thrilled with how much they’ve learned to do in just one school year.
I didn’t think the girls would handle the school bus well because of their sensory issues. So I’ve spent most of the year driving them to school. I was just sure the noise of the bus would upset them and make them miserable. But a couple of months ago we decided to try the bus and see how it went. The special ed. coordinator made arrangements for the girls to have a practice ride on the bus. They stood on the sidewalk and watched the bus pull up to the school. They were taught to wait until the bus driver motioned for them to cross. They showed the girls where their seats would be. They had their name above the seat so they would be able to easily find it. They took a bus ride around town and then they were dropped off at the same entrance the bus would pull up to each morning. I’m so thankful for our school system. They went above and beyond what I expected. They took the time to prepare the girls for what was going to happen when they rode the bus.
The girls were all smiles and super excited as we waited at the end of the driveway for the bus to pick them up and take them to school. I was a little nervous about it. A practice round on an empty bus is a little different from getting on a bus full of kids and a lot of noise. The bus pulled up and I reminded the girls to wait for the bus driver to motion for them to cross the street. They watched her and crossed after she told them to. They seemed a little hesitant about this new experience. They walked very slowly as they crossed the street. They kept turning around to see if I was still there. At the end of the school day the first thing I heard was “The bus was fun. Want to ride the bus again tomorrow.” I couldn’t believe it. I thought they would hate it because of the noise. What do I know?
The girls are in a self-contained classroom and they share an aide. They are constantly competing for the aide’s attention. Hope hates it when Mikayla’s getting the attention. And Mikayla hates it when Hope’s getting the attention. I can’t say I blame them. They have to sit beside each other all day long. Everywhere Hope goes Mikayla is there. Everywhere Mikayla goes Hope is there. And they get really tired of it. When my sisters and I went to school we got off the bus and they went to their classes and I went to mine. And we didn’t see each other until we got back on the bus. If my sisters and I would’ve had to sit by each other all day we wouldn’t have been very happy. It’s a beautiful thing for siblings to go to school and be able to get away from each other. It didn’t seem fair that Mikayla and Hope didn’t have that option. As the year has went on Mikayla and Hope’s frustration with each other has escalated. But what can we do? There isn’t any way to separate them. They’re the same age and this is the only classroom they can be in.
One of their therapists approached me with an idea. Would it be possible for one of the girls to come in the morning and the other one to come in the afternoon? We thought about it and decided to give it a try. The week after Easter we started the new schedule. I decided that Mikayla should keep going in the morning because she doesn’t like her routine messed up. So she rides the bus to school, eats breakfast, and then has her day by herself. I bring Hope at 11:30, she eats lunch, has her school day by herself, and rides the bus home. It’s been so good for them. It’s not easy being a twin. They feel like they’re always one of two. But now they get their own individual time at school and it’s made all the difference in the world.
The girls have made some academic progress this year. But what’s most important is that they gain life skills and independence. They’re learning to be independent of me. And they’re also learning to be independent of each other. Yesterday I walked Mikayla to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus. She turned around and said “Mommy, you need to go in the house.” Yes I do. You need to learn to go out into the world without me and I need to go in the house. You don’t need me as much as you used to. And I love it. But even though I’m in the house please know that I’ll be peeking out the window to make sure that you’re ok. And that will never change.
11 years ago these little gals came into the world. They’ve taught me to slow down and see things that I can’t see when I’m hurrying. They’ve taught me to giggle at things that most people don’t even notice. They’ve taught me that life is about the journey and not just the destination. Seeing the world through their eyes is one of the greatest blessings that God has ever given me.
Hope told me she wanted a bird feeder for her birthday. A bird feeder? That’s perfect. Absolutely perfect. And Grandma is the perfect person to give Hope a bird feeder. Hope loves to watch the hummingbirds when she’s at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and now she wants to see hummingbirds at our house. So Grandma bought a bird feeder for Hope and one for Mikayla too. They were so excited. Now we have to wait for it to get warm enough for the hummingbirds to come. The girls want them to come right now. Pray for me.
We took the girls to Chuck E. Cheese last Saturday to celebrate their birthday. They would see a game that they once loved and would say “That one’s boring.” or “I’m too big for that one.” What a difference a year can make. They gravitated towards anything that vibrated and would make them bounce. Their favorite game was one where they had to hold onto these silver levers that vibrated. They called it the “shocking” game. They loved that thing and would grin from ear to ear every time they did it.
The girls love dinosaurs and they’re crazy about flying a kite. So we gave them each a dinosaur kite. Now we just have to sit and wait for the wind to blow. They also got a couple of games, some dinosaurs, and The Peanuts Movie.
I just can’t believe my babies are 11 years old. I’m thankful for the progress they’ve made in the last year and I look forward to the progress they will make in the next year. I look forward to hummingbirds and the wind blowing so we can make memories together. Happy Birthday Hope and Mikayla!
I’ve felt completely frazzled lately. Our girls have been talking incessantly. They talk from the time their feet hit the floor in the morning until they put their heads on their pillows at night. They ask the same questions over and over again and I answer them over and over again. They give me the current Zoe report. Zoe’s our cat. Zoe’s asleep on the car. Zoe’s eating her food. Zoe’s walking down the driveway. Zoe’s coming up the driveway and she’s got a mouse in her mouth. Zoe’s sitting on the front porch. They talk about how Daddy has to go to work later and that they want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They talk about what kind of cupcakes and presents they want for their birthday. They ask where Taylor’s going and then after she leaves they ask “Where’s Taylor?” until she gets back home. They ask what that noise is that I can’t seem to hear. They ask “What’cha doin?” all day long. Especially if I’m in the bathroom. They talk about their beloved animals and their favorite cartoon characters. Garfield likes lasagna and Chance ate a button. They tell me it’s raining and that there’s a squirrel in the yard or a bird in the tree. They tell me they have to go to the bathroom. Every single time.
I’m a gal who enjoys quiet. I’m not sure I even remember what quiet sounds like. I’ve found myself hiding in my bedroom eating Hershey’s Kisses more times than I care to admit. Chocolate is my friend. It helps me find my happy place. I’m almost always in my pajamas by 6 p.m. just waiting for bedtime. It’s amazing how many questions a couple of little girls can ask between the hours of 6 and 8:30 p.m. And unfortunately my brain turns into goo during those hours and I can’t even process what they’re saying. I say “uh-huh” to whatever they say even though I have absolutely no idea what they’re saying.
Once their pajamas are on and their teeth are brushed I say the two words that don’t seem to mean much to our girls. Stop talking. Some nights they stop talking and fall asleep quickly. Some nights they don’t. But once they fall asleep something totally amazing happens. The house is quiet. I like quiet.
After an extremely difficult day I heard a voice in the night. She whispered in my right ear the words “I love you, Mommy!” I don’t normally enjoy being awakened at 3:30 in the morning. But I smiled and said “I love you too, Hopey”. And then my heart melted a little and I began to cry. I cried because our girls voices are a gift that I had been seeing as a burden. I began to think about parents of nonverbal children. They would love to hear their child ask a million questions. They go to bed at night wishing they could hear the words “I love you, Mommy” or “I love you, Daddy”. My heart broke as I prayed for parents who can’t hear their child’s voice. And I thanked God for changing my perspective and showing me that our girls voices are a gift.
I still have days when the constant chatter can be difficult to endure. I got 4 hours of sleep last night and I’m not handling the chatter very well today. I will probably be hiding in the bedroom this afternoon devouring a handful of Hershey’s kisses and desperately trying to find my happy place. God will remind me that tonight the house will be dark and quiet. And I will receive the greatest gift that a mommy can ever receive. I’ll hear those four words “I love you Mommy”. Not once but twice.
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.
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.
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.
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.