Friday, February 4, 2011

I've Moved!

Don't anyone have a heart attack now, less than 2 weeks I have changed the look of my blog and decided to move my blog!!!! I know it is changes for 2 years and then I start changing things and up and move! I am very excited about some of the new features I will have available to me with this new format! Please come check it out at

Eventually I plan to delete this site, but don't worry, everything has been moved to our new home already!

Sometimes a Disability is Just a Difference

I was folding laundry and watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9 the other day, when I had an epiphany. The episode was about a woman from a planet with very little gravity, who wanted to join Star Fleet and now works in an environment with what we would call "normal" gravity. In order to move in this environment, she had to wear these things on her arms and legs that looked like braces, use a cane, and at times a special chair. People could tell that she was different and were always offering to help her, but she was very defensive and did not want to be treated as if she were disabled. Once her very basic needs were met, she felt that she needed to make up the difference herself and adapt. Later on in the episode, she is able to start treatments that will allow her to walk as a "normal" person, but it comes with the catch that she would never be able to live long-term on her home planet. She is discussing this with a friend, who brings up the Hans Christian Anderson fable, A Little Mermaid, who made a similar choice and in the end mourned what she had lost.

This past week I had some tough days as I grappled with Jessica's developmental delays, partly because she's my daughter, partly because I identify with her, and partly because it is my field of study. This makes for a very tangled web that is really hard to tease apart. BUT, after watching this episode I think I finally understand. When someone says that they think Jessica might have Aspergers, I immediately think "they think there is something wrong with her" which immediately brings back a flood of memories from my childhood because I sometimes (despite my parents' best efforts) felt like there was something wrong with me because learning colors, shapes, counting, math facts etc was so grueling, or because learning appropriate social skills and matching clothes equally mystified me....ok still mystifies me. What an awful feeling for anyone to feel like "There is something wrong with me." I do not want Jessica to grow up feeling that way, just like the girl in the show did not want to feel that way. You can't change what other people think about you or how they treat you. But for some reason, thinking about it as if I am from a different planet with a different version of normal, I was finally able to make the idea "there is nothing wrong with me" stick when it hasn't before. There is also something empowering about being able to say, "Despite how hard it was, I did it myself." If there are two things that I want to keep in mind as we are raising Jessica, they are: 1) Trying to provide more opportunities for her to see her strengths and hopefully fewer opportunities for her to see her weaknesses and 2) Help her to learn how to adapt when she finds something that is a weak area for her so that she can do it herself.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ups and Downs

The last several months have had lots of ups and downs. Some weeks I feel really good about what we are doing and how Jessica is improving. Other weeks I feel really down about what we are doing and how much further Jessica still has to go. Recently I've noticed a trend. The weeks that I feel really good are also the weeks when one of our therapists is really pleased with Jessica's progress or someone says something about how much progress Jessica has made or my mother-in-law says that Jessica is really lucky to have me as her mom because I know how to help her because I am a lot the same way. The weeks I feel really down are the weeks that her doctor starts talking about Aspergers (again) or a therapist asks what we plan to do about schooling or a friend hints that she might be autistic or we get strange looks while at the grocery store or someone says "Well, you just need to do ___" (as if I am not doing enough already or somehow it's my fault she is delayed).

I clipped this out of one of John's Sunday School papers, and I keep it laminated on my fridge:

Have you ever thought about the fact that God chose you to be the parent of your child? He knew exactly what your child needed in a parent, and He chose you. He knows your strengths, your weaknesses, and your amazing capacity to love. And, He gave you this baby. But, He didn't give you this baby and walk away. He is there -- every minute of every day -- guiding you through this parenting journey. He has a story of love and redemption to tell your child through you. He wants your precious baby to know that their Heavenly Father is there to help them, just like He's there to help you -- every step of the way.

Some days it is hard to remember that despite all of the negatives I might hear, God has a plan, and He is with us every step of the way. Last week was great. This week was tough. Here's hoping next week will be one of the great ones...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jessica's 3rd Birthday

Part of the reason I have been so busy the last couple weeks is because as soon as we got back from Christmas, I had to start getting ready for Jessica's birthday party. I had it all planned out, but several things didn't go according to plan.....our cat died (more on that later).....the cake didn't turn out right and I had to start all over again....I found out after I got the food that most of the people we invited were sick....It was just one of those weeks!! Amazingly enough the party was just right! This year we did a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme!

I created these cute invitations on the computer and then had them printed out as photos! They turned out really nice looking and cost me a couple dollars!

The decorations were simple enough. I'd had the crepe paper for years, and I bought the balloons for about $1 (ok $2....I lost the first package....which I found.....AFTER the party)!

I made the cake from scratch. It turned out great (the second time)! I made red marshmallow fondant for the face mask (which was amazingly easy), googly eyes for the eyes, and melted semi sweet chocolate chips for the mouth and nose. I had no cake decorating supplies so I did end up purchasing icing coloring and a round tip/bag.

This is another shot of the cake. I also ended up ordering pizza and purchasing paper goods to match the crepe paper. I was going to make homemade pizzas with crazy toppings and use regular plates, but when the cat died, I just couldn't take anymore.

I made felt face masks for party favors! I got the fabric for $1.44 and only used half of it. They wouldn't cut it any smaller.

Borrowing an idea from Shannon, I also made cookies for party favors! I dyed the cookie dough with food coloring and shaped them by hand. Then I put googly eyes on with melted semi sweet chocolate chips and drew a mouth!

For entertainment we set up the old sewer and figures I had as a child along with the turtle van and some of the figures David had as a child!

Jessica opening presents....while her friends are distracted by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video we had playing. We bought those last year for me and Jessica to watch as I lay on the couch trying to keep from getting dehydrated and running to the ER while pregnant with John! That might explain why she likes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so much! :-)

Jessica blowing out her candles! It took 3 tries, but she finally got it!!

The entire party except for David and one of the kids. It ended up being the perfect size! We were all able to have fun and relax!!

Jessica thought the cake was awesome!!!!! In fact, she ate so much of it that it took about a week for her poop to stop turning green....gross, I know!

I debated for at least a month on whether or not to get foam swords for the party.....I wasn't sure how the girls would react. I decided to get some at the last minute (so of course I ended up paying more).....I shouldn't have worried! The kids LOVED them!!!!

A picture of all the kids playing in Jessica's room. This was the best picture I got.....seriously......taking pictures of kids is like herding cats!!!!! you have the story of how my $10 party turned out to be much more expensive, but we all had a great time and enjoyed celebrating Jessica, so I guess that is all that really matters!

A picture of Jessica out in the garage with her daddy for the first time. She hammered, glued, clamped, screwed, measured, marked, sanded, and used a saw! She had a great time!!! This particular picture makes me think of my father-in-law.

The last 3 years have been a fun and crazy ride, and I am sure that what is left to come will be even more exciting!!! Jessica, you are a very sweet and fun child to travel the journey of life with. May you never loose your sweet, compassionate spirit or your exuberance for life. They are gifts that will only bring joy to those blessed to share the journey with you! We love you!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Few Pictures

Well, I am still horribly behind from the last few months with Jessica's therapy, LOTS of traveling, the holidays, etc. I am hoping to do a few catch up posts over the next couple weeks. We tried to take a cute picture of our kids tonight in their footie pajamas, but instead we got

We tried the classic pose of sitting them next to each other, but instead we got this...

....and this.....obviously related to my side of the family.....

Then we tried sitting John in front of Jessica, but apparently he doesn't like to be squeezed to death....who knew?!?!?

As a last ditch effort, we tried putting me with a book as a distraction in the can see how well that worked...

Thankfully, we did manage to get one that was halfway decent out of those shenanigans!!! Just so you know that wasn't even close to the total number of shots we took!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

My Fabulous Husband

David and I did not get each other anything for Christmas this year, but while I was out of town, David made some modifications to a room in our house that I enjoy spending a lot of time in: my kitchen! He bought me a nice chef's knife that he found for a good deal at TJ Max --- mine just put a dent in tomatoes!! (He has also been researching the "correct" way to cut with a knife....I didn't even know there was a "correct" way!!!) He also bought me a knife block for $3 at a thrift store to keep on top of the fridge! (We had been keeping the knives in a casserole dish in a locked cabinet after Jessica came running at me with the chef's knife one day wanting a piece of cheese!!!!) I am not sure if I was more excited about his thoughtfulness or his shopping skills! And.....drum roll please.......he built me this gorgeous spice rack!!!!!!!!!!!

It is made of oak. I have never liked oak, but I love this spice rack. He used linseed oil to finish it. I think I just don't like stains on oak because it makes the grain "pop" out. This has a softer, more natural look.

Previously, my spices had been sitting on top of the upper kitchen cabinets (because Jessica enjoyed opening and dumping my spices all over the counter top)! I am so excited about all of the surprise improvements me made to the kitchen while I was gone!!!!!! I love practical gifts that show that the giver is really paying attention! :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's a Wonderful, Meaningful Life!

For Christmas, Jessica received the new Veggie Tales dvd, It's a Meaningful Life, from one of her great-grandmothers. It is based off one my favorite movies, It's a Wonderful Life. After watching It's a Meaningful Life with Jessica, I do believe that I might actually like it better than It's a Wonderful Life! "Sacrilege!" ...I know, but I think I learned a very valuable lesson this year from that video. Innately I am a scientist. I love to explore life in a very hands-on way. My favorite television shows are Star Trek. Things of an abstract nature can be rather challenging for me. There are things about religion that I find rather challenging as well because some things are not concrete and cannot be proven. However, over the past year I have been slowly coming to the realization that if I cut all of those "touchy-feely" religious beliefs out of my life, then what I am left with is anxiety and stomach ulcers!

The last couple months have been a bit of a strain for me. As Jessica grows closer and closer to school-aged, it becomes more and more apparent that she is delayed in multiple areas of development. That fact in and of itself is not what has been bothering me. I value all children for who they are just the way God made them, and I do not have any expectations for Jessica to live up to, save one: to be sweet. What has been stressing me is worrying that I am not being the parent she needs me to be. Am I making the right choices? Do I have her in the right therapy with the right therapist? Are we doing enough homework to help her progress as well as possible in therapy? etc, etc, etc. David has also been strained because of the financial side of it. How long will she need therapy? Can we afford to send her to the best therapists we can find as long as she needs it? We are actually in the process of making some major changes to our household in the next few months to address some of these concerns.

But the thing that has made the biggest difference in how we feel about all of this is what I learned from It's a Meaningful Life: God has a purpose for my life. Yes, I grew up believing that, but it was one of those things that I could never really get my hands on concretely, so I let go of that belief. I have since learned that I am a happier person when I choose to believe that my life has meaning, that I have a purpose, so I am choosing to believe it! God gave me the life experiences that I have had growing up with severe ADHD, so that I would be ready to be just the right Mommy for Jessica. He gave me parents who really believed God made me special and pushed me to exceed the expectations most people would have for someone like me. God guided my choices in college so that I would have just the right tools to help me. I walked into my first graduate class in School Psychology without having a clue what a School Psychologist did and ended up being fortunate enough to find myself in a program that is very behavioral, which was just what I needed. He also arranged that I would take a very different path from what I expected and meet David, my husband, who is best described as my partner. We make an awesome team and work so well together. God continues to bless us with both positive and negative experiences that allow us to learn more about Him. So....Welcome 2011. I'm ready to grab you by the bring it!