the gift of occupational therapy

Today was my boy’s last day of occupational therapy. We have spent an hour of almost every Thursday for the last year and a half with our beloved occupational therapist, Eileen. Some days Luke skipped out of there, happy as a clam after getting to play so many fun games. Other days the reality of the hard work of OT was more apparent, and I carried him to the car as he thrashed and kicked and tried to bite me. But no matter how it ended, every session was a gift.

20170511_153842

Luke was pretty young when I had my first hunch that something was a little off in his development. But the toddler years are crazy for every kid, in one way or another, so I pushed it to the back of my mind as much as I could. I read and re-read Raising Your Spirited Child, because that book described him so perfectly, and it was so helpful in understanding him and being able to empathize with the way his mind and body work.

Yet, at his 3-year old well check, I brought up my concerns – he had no interest in using any sort of ride-on toys/tricycles/etc, couldn’t dress himself, had no interest in using crayons, would run endlessly, was easily overstimulated, and any sort of transition was clearly the end of the world for him. Our doctor (who we loved) was very much in the camp of “there is a wide spectrum of typical development” – and so he was not concerned. And when I read over this list (of the things I actually remember, I’m sure there was more) – I agree that so much of it is all over the map for typical 3-year olds. Luke has always been extremely verbal and social, so by all appearances in that doctor’s office, he was flourishing. But it was that mama’s hunch that kept me concerned.

We took him to a free developmental screening that fall. He charmed the volunteers and just slipped through each test. We walked away with a referral for 9-month old Gracie’s speech, which I (rightfully) discarded. I was completely discouraged.

If he had been my second child so I had more of a developmental frame of reference, or maybe if I wasn’t sleep-deprived at the time, I would have pursued answers. But I tend to be pretty submissive to those I perceive as experts or authorities, and they all said he was fine. If he had gotten a full occupational evaluation, I’m positive he would have qualified for services. But we went on, and it was probably the lowest time in my parenting experience.

20170511_155218

At his 4-year old well check, I walked in with a complete written list of all my concerns, which had grown. They included things like not being able to ride a tricycle, still scribbling, and not able to completely dress himself. Our doctor didn’t even get through all of them before he quickly agreed that further evaluation was needed. Apparently he had fallen off the typical spectrum enough to warrant a second look. I felt a glimmer of hope, which was enough to sustain me through the next 6 months that it took to get the referral and move through the waiting list for an evaluation with a pediatric occupational therapist.

I almost cried with relief (maybe I did?) when I got the phone call in the parking lot of Fred Meyer the same day of his eval. He scored very low in visual motor integration and fine motor skills (7th and 9th percentiles, I think) along with concerns about sensory processing and proprioception. It meant that we qualified for a spot in therapy, as soon as one opened up. I was relieved that we would be getting some guidance in helping him. And I was relieved that I wasn’t crazy, and wasn’t an entirely inept parent.

Our weekly visits with Eileen have varied in content, but they’ve always been jam-packed with activities that have helped Luke build his skills, and grow more comfortable with how his body works. As a result, his skills at school have improved, he’s become more comfortable in play, and do things like completely dress himself. I am so happy that we were able to get into therapy when we did – just at the end of last year he told me, “I can zip my coat up, and Gracie [2 years old at the time] can’t do that. But she can put her socks on, and I can’t do that.” I knew he was becoming more aware of some of his challenges, so I’m glad that he’s made so much progress before entering kindergarten. And yes, he can even put on his socks now – with fine motor + sensory issues, that a big accomplishment!

20170511_153548

I am so, so proud of this kid. His confidence is definitely blossoming in areas it hasn’t before, and he is much more willing to practice things that are challenging. Two years ago I just felt so unsure about so many things, and now, I’m just hopeful for what is ahead. And I will be forever grateful for the gift that OT was for our family.

Advertisements

farewell, summer

20160824_162705My facebook feed has been flooded with back-to-school photos for weeks, my son starts back at preschool next week, and we’re a good week+ into September. I admit that I was not ready to end our summer, but it seems that the weather turned cool and fall-ish the moment we switched the calendar to September, so now I feel more ready. But what a summer it’s been.

We didn’t doing anything especially cool or unique – no family trip (we had an awesome trip to Maui last January), no big events – just lots of full, rich summer days. I admit that last spring I felt a lot of trepidation heading into a summer with no preschool and lots of days that were blank slates. My sweet boy is pretty much the exact opposite of myself when it comes to social needs. Since he was around 18 months old, he wakes up every morning asking “Who are we seeing today? Where are we going? Is anyone coming over?” While I don’t relate, I recognize his need to be with people, and I have done my best to meet those needs (for everyone’s sake) as he’s grown up. Preschool has been a great way for him to connect with friends and have some independence from me. Last spring, it seemed like his social needs were increasing, and I worried how our summer would go. I prayed and I plotted, and what I came up with was the weekly calendar:

20160826_190034A sheet of dry-erase poster board that hangs on the kids’ door with a full view of the week ahead. Each Sunday morning, the new week is revealed, and Luke has been known to ask about it as early as 2am in the morning. With our highly spirited boy, you just never know how an idea like this will go over. We’ve done visual schedules in the past, but he’s never fully embraced them. But this one was a winner. And it has greatly reduced the number of meltdowns regarding “What are we doing?! I don’t want to stay home! Who can come over?!” Now he can see the mix of outings and friend time and time at home, and is more accepting of the big picture. Which is not to say that I never heard him complain about wanting more social time, or asking “Is this a ‘down day,’ mom?” with a sarcastic tone (gotta admit, I feel a glimmer of pride that I can almost hear his use of air quotes – soon I’ll teach him my signature eye roll) – but overall, it has been a great success for both of us.

And we were busy. So many fun outings and playdates. Parks, berry picking, hikes, zoo days, riding the bus, spray parks, camping locally with my parents in their camper, the marine life center, and tons of picnics – just lots of fun enjoying our lovely PNW weather.

These two kiddos are at such a fun age for all these little adventures, it was really a blast.

And when we were home, I tried to sprinkle in some “scheduled” activities, which made Luke feel better. I’m a big fan of open, self-directed play (especially now that Luke and Gracie are such awesome playmates), but mentally Luke likes more structure. Often, he would get so caught up in playing that he would forget about what was on the calendar, so we would just skip it. If the kids were having a hard time playing together, it was nice to already have a planned activity to whip out and turn everyone’s attitudes around.

Mostly we did “craft time” and “school time.” Crafts were easy – the kids love painting, so we’d do that a lot. Chalk paint was a big hit for everyone. School time was my way of sneaking in extra OT work for Luke. They would each get ~15 minutes of tablet time with the ABC Mouse program, which was super exciting for them because they didn’t even know we owned a Kindle. While one was working on that, I worked with the other one on a hands-on project. I got so many great ideas from my friend Stacie’s Fine Motor ABC book, and the kids usually loved getting to do this part of school time. It was fun to come up with different activities (like the awesome 50 cent lacing cards I found at a garage sale!) and surprise them with it.

And can I just say? My boy has come so far in the last 6 months! It’s probably a post for another day, but I am just so thankful for our time in occupational therapy. Not many people know about Luke’s challenges because they are so easily masked by his super energetic and social personality. But he has to work so hard in a lot of areas – most fine motor tasks like writing and cutting are really challenging for him, as well as some gross motor planning (he wasn’t even able to pedal a tricycle or use a balance bike until a couple months before his 5th birthday, which I’m sure would be super surprising to a lot of people). I am so proud of how far he’s come, and how hard he has worked. “School time” was a big breakthrough for us, because previously he had been unwilling to work on these often frustrating tasks while at home with me.

Overall, it has been a great summer. I love cozy weather, so moving into fall is not too sad for me, though I will miss this particular season – the sweet sounds of my 2.5 and 5 year old playing together, and finding delight in the simplest activities. So long, sweet summer.

sIt WIISave

Infertility, Adoption, Pregnancy: Our Story So Far – Part 3

It is still so crazy to me that Ian and I have experienced infertility, adoption, and pregnancy. All three parts of our journey have deeply affected who we are – as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.

Every person has a unique story. Often our stories overlap in places – those moments when you feel a connection of “yes, I know what that feels like!” Throughout my life, I’ve always been greatly encouraged by hearing other people’s stories – both ones that I can easily relate to, and ones that widen my perspective of the different experiences that people have. I wanted to take some time and share our story – so far. I wrote most of these posts a year ago, but I wanted to wait until we had another little person and not just a pregnancy before finishing the last part. Well, apparently I ended up waiting 10 months. Anyways, here you go – in three parts over three days, so you’re not stuck reading it allll at once!

To read Part One, click here.
To read Part Two, click here.

Part Three: The Complete Surprise of Pregnancy

Still can't believe I carried a baby in my belly.

Still can’t believe I carried a baby in my belly.

Earlier I wrote about the day I found out I was pregnant. Seriously, my baby is now 10 months old (today!) and it STILL seems unreal. In a way, being pregnant was the strangest thing because I truly never expected it to happen. I am grateful that God protected my heart so well during that time. We had no idea how the pregnancy would go, and I know so many people (the majority of my mom-friends, actually) that have had pregnancy losses. And while as far as we know, we never conceived prior to Gracie, there was definitely some distrust in my body after the whole infertility deal. When I first told Ian that I was pregnant, our initial conversation had a lot of “so IF we have this baby…” talk, and I recognized it and called it out. I knew that we needed to be thankful for every day that I got to carry this baby, but we needed to talk with “when” and not “if” language, and trust God to hold our hearts as we walked in such strange new territory. And God was so gracious to us.

Honestly, pregnancy was awesome for me. I loved being pregnant. I know many friends that have seriously rough or scary pregnancies, so I recognize the gift of an easy pregnancy! Sure, the first trimester I was suuuuper exhausted and nauseous every day. But other than that, it was great. And the birth went awesome too. Seriously, I’d give birth to Gracie again tomorrow if I could (yeah, I’m weird like that).

It’s funny to be given a gift that for a time you so desperately wanted, but have grieved over and accepted as not happening. It’s kind of freeing, actually. I know that it helped give me better perspective on what is really important. We took a Bradley Method natural childbirth class (which was awesome!), and it was interesting to see what was  important to the other couples (who, of course, were all first-time parents). Sure, we wanted a natural birth, but if we ended up with a c-section or whatever, we’d still get to be present at the birth, something we didn’t get with Luke! Other parents were concerned about medical staff interfering with their desire for delayed cord clamping, rubbing the vernix into the skin, etc – all things that were so, so secondary to us.

The day before my due date.

The day before my due date.

The emotions of it all were kind of all over the place. At the beginning of my pregnancy, there was mostly shock, awe, and some guilt (why me out of all my friends struggling with infertility?). That progressed into a very sweet time of content anticipation – I loved being pregnant with such a sweet gift, and I treasured the time I got to carry her. I never reached the point of feeling “so done,” though my excitement in getting to meet her steadily grew.

When Grace was born, everything just seemed so right – our little family expanding with just the right little person. The strangest emotions came awhile after she was born: I missed being pregnant, yet I was obviously so in love with her. I think with Luke, it was awesome because it was ALL the excitement at once: BOOM! With Gracie, there was such a long period of anticipation – and I’m a person that really thrives on anticipation, so it’s hard to come down from, in a weird way. But the emotions of meeting my kids, through adoption or birth? The same: heaven-meets-earth awesome.

IMG_7566

Gracie, just a few hours old.

When we were waiting to adopt, we had one boy name and one girl name picked out. Grace Katherine seemed so right for a child that would join our family through the amazing gift of adoption. Yet when we found out we were expecting a girl through pregnancy, it also seemed perfect for such a surprise gift. Every child is a gift from God, and after experiencing infertility, we were keenly aware of that. Our aching desire to have a family was fulfilled not once, but twice, with two precious gifts from the giver of all good things.

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

-Grace, U2

I get asked about the difference between having kids through adoption vs. birth sometimes. It’s a hard question to answer, because there are just so many layers to separate, it’s almost impossible. Both experiences were so amazing, and different yet the same… I imagine might be similar to comparing any siblings’ births. I was a different person when Grace was born – I was already a mom, so that made a big difference. I think one of my favorite things about our story is that we got the bonus excitement of getting to have the first-time experience of becoming parents with Luke, and then getting the first-time experience of birth with Gracie. It was probably more relaxing to go through pregnancy for the first time while already knowing what it’s like to be parents. Although I do admit that I had fleeting daydreams of getting to just sit and do nothing (or sleep!) during my first trimester, or the chance to recover from my first birth (hello, third-degree tears) without parenting a toddler. But overwhelmingly I have just felt grateful for the family we have been given, and especially for the unique ways that Luke and Grace joined our family. My heart is full.

IMG_8415So that’s where our story ends so far. It remains to be seen if our family continues to grow, and if so, which way it will happen.  I love our story; the ups and downs seem almost surreal when I write them out, but it’s a true story. I hope that hearing how God has grown our family has been encouraging to you as well – thanks for listening!

 

 

it’s all going so fast

It’s so cliche – “They grow up so fast!” But the thing is that it’s true! Lately I’ve been feeling extra crazy in that I feel so sentimental about this season in our lives. I love having little kids. Yes, it’s hard and exhausting and some days you find yourself giving and giving until you feel like you have nothing left. But I love it, and I know we won’t be here forever.

We’re not sure if we will try to have more children beyond Luke and Grace, and while I know that however many God gives us will be enough, sometimes that’s a hard unknown for me to face. With both of my babies my body has gone on overload with happy hormones and I want ALL THE BABIES. Sometimes I will be reveling in this extreme joy and I will look over at Ian and declare “Babies forever! Babies always!”

I am lucky that the man does not run away.

Anyways.

Other than a glimpse into my crazy head, I have a whole bunch of photos to share. And maybe some tidbits about our life these days.

20140505_104514Yeah, that is how I spend a lot of my time – reading books about animals. Mostly wildcats these days. Did you know that female lions do the hunting but the male lions eat first? What is up with that!

IMG_7813He spends more time in just his undies than I’d care to admit. And he is 3! So crazy. Also: it looks like 3 may be kinda challenging. This kid keeps us on our toes, and I’m thankful that we can live in God’s grace every day.

IMG_7836For Mothers Day we went to Birch Bay State Park and explored the beach. Luke was not super keen on stopping for a photo.

20140615_111607For Fathers Day, we went out to breakfast and then stopped by the Marine Life Center. Such a good dad to choose to do something that Luke loves so much.

IMG_7850She is pretty much perfection in my books. She’s 6 months old tomorrow (sniff!), and when I came across this one from a couple months ago my heart just melted.

20140521_102729Animals. Everywhere, all the time. Luke has a growing collection of animals that he plays with all.the.time. He seems to think we could still use more. “But we need more female lions for the pride!”

20140521_120157Uh, yeah. I am in babywearing heaven. Gracie is often in the Moby wrap or Ergo carrier, snuggled close to me as we go about our day. And that look on my face is one that often precedes “babies forever!” declarations.

20140603_135802Speaking of babywearing, this is us at work. I work in the office one day a week, and the babe accompanies me – still trying to get her to pull her own weight around there.

IMG_7856I laughed so hard when I came upon this photo. Don’t even remember it happening.

IMG_7857I think this was the shot I was going for originally.

IMG_7871Daddy-daughter time. It’s hard to come by these days – Luke would be glued to Ian’s side if he could, so he gets most of daddy’s attention these days.

IMG_3144I was actually trying to recreate this photo of Luke. I bet they weighed about the same amount, even though Luke was only 2.5 months and Gracie was 4 months!

IMG_7874My mom recently gave me some of my old baby clothes. LOVE. Awkward baby photo? Even better.

IMG_7884We decided to get a membership for myself and Luke to the Woodland Park Zoo this year, and so far we’ve made it down three times. It’s a lot of excitement for Luke to take in, but he does pretty well and we’ve enjoyed our visits a lot.

IMG_8002Seriously. Stop the cuteness already.

IMG_8005I see lots of sibling shenanigans in my future. Gracie thinks everything Luke does is hilarious.

IMG_8044I’m not sure why we thought it was a good idea to give the kid something that was on fire, but somehow we all stayed safe.

IMG_8100Summer snacks on the patio. We’ve loved the warm weather lately.

IMG_8107Summertime naps are pretty great.

Well, I think that’s all. Not a lot of big things happening over here, just lots of small stuff all the time. It’s pretty great.

fevers, orcas, and patience

IMG_6244

From the looks of that face, you’d never know that he’s been feeling sick the past few days. And I am so happy to see that little smile back on his face.

We’ve been so fortunate to be pretty healthy this winter – maybe a slight cold here and there, but nothing that really set us back until whatever we came down with this past weekend.

It’s hard for this energetic little guy to rest up, so we found ways to keep him entertained until he was up for his normal running around.

IMG_6248He received a set of fun building blocks from his grandpa for Christmas, but we hid it in his closet so he didn’t get overwhelmed by trying to play with all his new gifts at once. We decided this weekend was the perfect time to break it out, and he loved it. He still loves knocking down towers, but he’s also more curious and capable of stacking them himself, so this was a great quiet activity for him.

IMG_6240Since we are FINALLY moving past the everything-must-go-in-my-mouth phase, I broke out some dried beans for him to play with (under close supervision, of course). He had lots of fun sorting and dumping out the beans – he’s definitely at an age where he’s working on his fine motor skills, so he loves picking up small objects.

And of course, for those inconsolable moments, there were “orcas!” and “dol-dols!”

IMG_6225He is in love with the orca and dolphin shows at Sea World (can you blame him? they’re pretty awesome).

Normally his viewing is limited to dinner prep time, but since he was feeling so miserable, we were pretty generous with letting him watch it a few times a day.

He was clearly feeling better yesterday, and he was not impressed that his cries for “orca!” were going unmet (apparently the library book on orcas was not an adequate substitute).

Definitely didn’t think the withdrawals would be quite this bad. Or whiny.

I recently made this hoop art, featuring a quote from Madeleine L’engle’s book A Wind in the Door, for my etsy shop:

We have a different embroidered piece with the same quote hanging right outside Luke’s bedroom door. I have always loved that quote, and now it is a daily reminder that as Luke’s mom, I have the privilege of helping him form his identity. I hope that the love and grace that I show him are a reflection of God’s deep, unending love for him, and that in that love, he can know his worth and truly be himself.

And these days, that love needs to show itself through some intense patience. (Not my strongest quality, that’s for sure).

Many prayers for patience were said as I explained again and again that we wouldn’t be watching the orcas until it was time to make dinner. Like every 5 minutes. Hopefully our consistency will win out and he’ll be able to move on with his life.

And really, we’re just happy that little man is feeling better – soon enough he’ll be his cheerful little self again.

Stay healthy everyone!

so long, sweet summer

Despite the beautiful sunny days we’ve been having around here, I’m starting to embrace the fact that fall has arrived finally arrived. We had a long, full summer, and I am grateful for every moment.

This past spring, when the sunlight got longer and the weather started to take a turn towards warmth, all my emotions and memories from last summer started to come rushing back. And it was wonderful. Last summer was definitely one of the best seasons of my life.

Not to go all Koine Greek on you, but last summer I felt like I was living in kairos time. Chronos is the word used to describe chronological time, but kairos is a special experience of time – an appointed time, or an experience that is beyond the normal chronos of daily life.

Last summer was such a blessing – Luke entered our family so quickly and seamlessly, a perfect gift from a gracious God. We spent hours snuggling, staring at him, just being together as a family of three. Luke was on a 3 hour schedule, but we still lived beyond that. I was working 15 hours a week, but I was able to take Luke into the office with me – though it often took me 7 hours to get in 5 hours of work, it didn’t matter. We were together and content; it was such a special season where chronological time mattered a lot less than the time we were experiencing.

{And don’t get me wrong – there were days when I prayed for grace, grace and more grace; but God always delivered on that, with the added bonus that Luke was a very content newborn.}

I remember times last summer when I would think about what this summer would be like – would it even compare? The joy and contentment I felt in becoming Luke’s mom was so incredible, it was hard to imagine life beyond that season.

And really? This summer was great. Different, but so great.

Naps in the yard were replaced by lots of play in the kiddie pool and splash table…

It’s funny, because gardening seemed challenging last year – trying to fit it into his 3 hour cycles. I imagined that this summer he would be able to play happily next to us while we worked… that didn’t happen until a couple weeks ago. Finally his quest for dangerous places and gross things to put in his mouth was replaced by a new satisfaction in simply playing in the dirt.

I will say that he and Ian had the cutest little routine all summer. Ian would get him all set up in the stroller and take him out to water the plants and tend to the garden. My energetic, always-moving little boy would sit contentedly and watch his daddy, often for an hour or so. I would look out the window and see Ian explaining something to him and Luke would be watching with such an earnest little face. Freaking adorable. And sometimes dad would let him hold the garden tools.

Last year outings to the park were more for my sake than Luke’s. And it was really only fun if I happened to be babysitting an older kiddo – though I’d never complain about those newborn snuggles.

Luke’s first trip to Boulevard Park.

But this summer Luke was all over trying the slides, climbing up stairs and finding awesome mole hills to destroy.

Adventures and outings were a ton more fun this year. Last year Luke hung out in the ergo when we’d go somewhere, which he absolutely loved.

This year he got to participate in whatever we were doing, and, like any kid, he just loves to be included. Okay, he especially likes to be included when it comes to food…

Luke’s first gyro at the St Sophia Greek Festival.

One thing that people pick up on pretty fast is that Luke is very excitable. When he sees someone or something that makes him excited, he starts making excited grunts and sounds and points to everything in sight. So taking him to new place is a lot of fun because he reacts so much. A trip to the Vancouver Aquarium was a recent favorite.

Again, it was just a really fun summer. There were definitely moments of kairos, and the chance to experience the growing joy of really knowing someone. Last summer we nurtured and cared for a tiny little baby; this summer we watched our baby become a toddler and develop all kinds of new skills and aspects to his personality. It is such a privilege to be his parents, and every season brings new joys and challenges – I am grateful for the past and excited for the future.

Typical family moment captured by Evantide Photography.

a glimpse into our home: may 13, 2012

This scene fills my heart with such joy.

Yes, I loved the flowers and succulent garden and waffles topped with strawberries and whipped cream – Ian and Luke are giving me a great first mothers day!

But it’s seeing toys scattered on the floor, wiping yams off of chubby fingers, holding a sleepy baby a little longer than he needs and washing diapers that my heart longed for over the past few years.

I am so blessed and so thankful. Most days I think my heart might burst from the joy of it all, and today I feel it even more. Last year on mothers day I trusted and waited in hopeful anticipation for the day I would become a mom – I had no idea it would happen a month later!

Baby boo, thank you for making motherhood such a joy. You are a perfect fit for me and bring so much light and laughter into my life. You have helped me learn to love better, to seek grace in all things, to trust more and fear less, and to enjoy life more fully. I love you always and forever, your mama.