Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jude Sullivan

It all started a few months ago.  Michael and I got home from a date and chatted with the twins' babysitters (Michael's parents). :)  They mentioned Jude's new trick - crossing his fingers - and asked if we'd noticed it before.  Neither of us had and I made a mental note to look for it.

Sure enough, it didn't take long the next morning before he crossed his fingers.  As Michael played with the kids, I grabbed my phone and casually typed in "toddler crosses fingers" in that evil Google search bar.  In one second, several message boards popped up that all talked about autistic toddlers who crossed their fingers.  I couldn't breathe.

The twins had just gone to their 18-month well appointment and taken an autism screening test with zero red flags.  My google search led me to a website where I read other signs of autism.  Delayed speech was right at the top, which definitely described Jude.  I shared my findings with Michael and he told me to put my phone away (he HATES my Google searches).

Last year a friend had her daughter tested for speech delay so I sent her a quick message and asked for more information.  She wrote back about ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) and told me about the amazing experience they'd had.  I decided I'd give it a month and if Jude's speech hadn't improved, I would give them a call.

His speech didn't improve.  I wasn't sleeping.  I became a complete wreck of a mom, watching Jude's every move, analyzing every gesture, and panicking over very normal toddler behaviors.  I shared my fears with my family and friends and they all told me to relax.  But I couldn't relax.

I finally called his pediatrician and shared my fears.  I told her about him crossing his fingers and his delayed speech.  She said I had nothing to worry about but if it would make me feel better, she'd have him tested.

For a few days I breathed easier.  When panic would creep in I would think about her calming words and it would subside.  But then Sloane would say five new words to every one of Jude's and I'd feel my heart racing.  Michael finally sat me down and told me to make an appointment with ECI.  He had absolutely no concerns about Jude; he was concerned about me.  He knew me well enough to know I would not be able to let it go until I had an answer.

I called his pediatrician and asked that she refer Jude to ECI.  She agreed so I called to make the appointment, hoping we could see them the following week.  Instead, they told me their next available screening was Tuesday, July 15 - over three weeks away.  I finished the phone call and prayed God would take away my fears and make the weeks go by quickly.

He answered both prayers.  I was able to enjoy my son again and not question every single thing he did or didn't do.  I noticed his vocabulary was increasing quite a bit - not as much as his sister but definite improvement.  And then one day we were playing with a new toy and he blew me away.  He would purposefully put something on the wrong peg and then look up at me to see my reaction.  A few weeks before I would've thought, "Why doesn't he know how to do this?" but instead I watched him as he looked in my eyes, grinned, and then moved it immediately to its correct place.  He laughed and did it with two more pieces.  He was playing a game with me.  He was so full of joy.  How much joy had I missed over the last few months?  It hurts my heart to even think about that now.

This morning Michael stayed home with Sloane and I took Jude to his initial screening.  I'd told my friends and family that I would be thrilled with either result: the coordinator would tell me I was crazy or Jude would get the help he needed.  Win/win in my book.  Jude tends to take a few minutes to warm up to strangers but he was phenomenal this morning.  There were three ladies (speech therapist, physical therapist, and the enrollment coordinator) who all played with him, asked him questions, and watched him closely.  

He was social, polite, and so excited to "play" (they were all tests but he didn't know it).  I was in awe as I watched him absolutely thrive when he didn't have to share the spotlight with his sister.  It didn't take long before they were done and we went over his scores.  They agreed he was delayed in expressive communication (using words) but was right on track for receptive communication (understanding language).  They also told me he was way ahead in personal/social and gross/fine motor skills.  The physical therapist explained that toddlers are typically capable of concentrating their efforts in only one direction at a time.  For Jude, it's all about motor development and speech is taking a backseat.  I brought up autism and they said there was a zero percent chance. 

When it was time to leave, Jude reached for the coordinator's hand.  She walked him out as I trailed behind, holding results that said he was NOT eligible for services.  And then she gave me his hand and told me she wished every patient was as sweet and kind as my Jude.

I'm sharing this today because I know I'm not the only parent who scours the internet every time an issue arises.  That "innocent" search made the last two months a roller coaster of (unwarranted) emotions.  Had I never typed in those three words none of the above would've happened and I simply would've had a child who learned a neat trick that day.  And for the record, he rarely crosses his fingers anymore.

So now you know a little more about me (bleck) and a little more about Jude Sullivan, gross motor skills extraordinaire! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Day In The Life | 20 Months

A few times each month Twin Talk features a mom sharing a typical day in her life with (fill in the blank)-month-old twins.  It's always a shock to see how different days look from one month to six months to 15 months to now.  When I wrote Jude & Sloane's posts the first year I described their daily schedule in detail.  It's been a while so I decided to capture a typical day around here.  I didn't decide to do this until we were a few hours into our day so the pictures are lacking in the beginning.

A Day In The Life of 20-Month-Old Twins

7:15 am : Sloaney is awake!  I hear her chatting to herself.

7:20 am: Jude is awake!  I fill their sippy cups with milk and head upstairs to greet my employees. (Or am I their employee?  Some days it's hard to tell.)

7:22 am: They see me, smile, and wave.  Sloaney immediately asks for Papa (Michael's dad).  I apologize and tell her it's just me.  I change their diapers and tell them to say goodbye to their pacifiers.  They throw their pacifiers in the cribs ("bye bye") and both ask for milk ("mil? mil?"). 

7:25 am: We venture to their pristine playroom and I watch as they pull each and every toy down from the bookshelf.

7:29 am: Playroom is destroyed.  They drink their milk and we sing a few songs.

7:58 am: I head downstairs as they both yell "nana!"  They love routine as much as I do.  I cut up a banana and sprinkle in some Cracklin Oat Bran.  I also make myself a cup of coffee.  I head back upstairs and say "Breakfast!"  They know this means to sit in their chairs.  I give them their food and turn on Daniel Tiger.

8:00 am: I make sure the Twin Talk blog post is live and then post on Twin Talk's Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.  Reply to previous day's comments and questions via Instagram.  Spend remaining time enjoying my coffee while the kids learn about how they are special.

8:28 am: Reply to play date invite.  Several girls are going to "Tot Swim" at the aquatic center.  I'm still uncomfortable taking my kids to places that aren't enclosed (basically anywhere outside) when I'm alone, especially if water is involved.  Reply that I can't attend and wonder how many more times I will turn down play dates before we stop getting invited.  The thought makes my heart hurt.  Not much longer and we will be ready!

8:30 am:  Time to play!  We complete puzzles, sing songs, read books, talk (a ton of real words lately but also a lot of twin talk), throw balls, kick balls, kick each other (whoops!), climb on sofas & chairs, run in circles, spin, jump, wrestle, hug, kiss, point out body parts (my forehead mole is by far their favorite.  Sigh.), climb in bookshelves, count to five (I count as they point at five different random objects), and MOST importantly, roll over... and roll over... and roll over.  This is their favorite activity right now!

9:30 am: Time for their "second" breakfast and my first. I fix them oatmeal mixed with a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter.  As they're eating I make myself a bowl of Cracklin Oat Bran.  

10:00 am: Once they're done eating I clean their faces and Sloaney asks for a bath ("baa?"), which has become pretty common after breakfast. We head upstairs and they stop on the steps to say "Bye bye" to "dada."  There are several pictures of dada (and mama - hurumph) that they can see from the steps.  They never say bye to mama.  

10:05 am: Bathtime!  I let them play in the water for a good 15 minutes before I use soap.  Since they both have eczema we keep the soap time very limited.  They love playing with the ducks ("duck duck") in the water ("wa wa"). 

10:30 am: Dry them off, cover them in lotion, put them back in their pjs (yes, I realize it's 10:30 but they stay in their pjs until after nap unless we leave the house), and let them play some more until they're visibly tired.  The plan is to meet Michael at Northpark for a late lunch so I decide to put them to bed earlier than usual.

10:50 am: Curl up in the rocking chair and read a few books.  Sing a few lullabies and then put them in their sleepsacks in their cribs.

10:55 am: Check Dropcam.  Already fast asleep.

(During naptime I complete a few assistant tasks for my R+F job, work on a Twin Talk post for next Monday, put some laundry away, take a shower and get ready to meet Michael.)

12:18 pm: Sloaney stirs.  I panic.

12:19 pm: Sloaney goes back to sleep.  Whew!

1:15 pm: Both wake up after a decent nap.  Michael and I have texted and since the earliest I could get all of us to the mall is 2p, we decide it's too late for lunch.  Bummer.  Change diapers, exchange pleasantries, etc.

1:30 pm: Lunch!  I realize our cupboards and fridge are mostly bare.  Oops.  The kids eat hummus and pita chips, vanilla (whole) yogurt, applesauce, sweet pickles, and cheese.  Lunch of champions.  To be honest, that's actually pretty close to the norm except there's typically lunch meat and blueberries/strawberries thrown in the mix.

2:15 pm: Play some more.  I teach Jude to say "Gooooal" while raising both arms in the air.  We complete puzzles, sing songs, talk (a ton of real words lately but also a lot of twin talk), read books, throw balls, kick balls, kick each other (whoops!), climb on sofas & chairs, run in circles, spin, jump, wrestle, hug, kiss, point out body parts (my forehead mole is by far their favorite.  Sigh.), climb in bookshelves, count to five (I count as they point at five different random objects), and MOST importantly, roll over... and roll over... and roll over.

3:15 pm: I decide we need to run to Market Street to grab some items.  Leave the kids in their room while I head downstairs to pack the diaper bag with diapers, sippy cups (water), and snacks.

3:19 pm: Return to a disaster.  All dirty clothes are now out of the hamper and on the floor.  Lovely.  Fortunately they understand "Help mama clean up!" and put everything away.  I get them dressed and we head downstairs.

3:30 pm: Load up the kids in the car.

3:31 pm:  Consider changing tops because I am now a sweaty mess from loading two toddlers in 1000 degree garage.

3:32 pm: Run inside to grab the diaper bag and realize I've been wearing Michael's shoes this entire time.  He wears a size 12.  I'm a 7.5.  Can't decide if I should laugh or cry.  I am a disaster.

3:45 pm:  Get to Market Street and put the twins' shoes on.  Realize I only packed ONE of Jude's shoes.  Hold Sloane's hand and carry my 29.5 lb toddler in my other arm as we make our way into the store.  Shop til I drop.

4:20 pm: Check out and head home with my 10 items.  Decide I'm not quite ready to be back home and the kids seem happy in the car, so....

4:30 pm:  Leave the car running in the driveway and throw cold items in the fridge.  Return to car and hit up the nearest Starbucks.

4:40 pm: Order a tall iced coffee with classic and cream (Thank you Leslie for sharing this amazing order with me - it is my absolute favorite)!  Did I mention it only costs $2.10 compared to my $3.84 white chocolate mocha? 

4:45 pm: Call my mom and catch up on the last few days.  Talking to her is good for my soul.

5:30 pm: Back home and waiting for dada.  Kids are playing (destroying) the kitchen while I tidy up downstairs.

5:45 pm: Sloane has a BAD diaper so we head upstairs and I pull out the nice camera again.  More watching cars ("cah") go by ("go go go!").  Where is dada?

And then I take this picture.  I look at it on my camera and it takes my breath away.  I know she is mine but my goodness I can't get enough of this sweet face.  Sloaney girl, you are precious.

6:00 pm: Dada is HOME!  I missed getting a picture of the initial big hug (he gets approx 17 from each kid when he gets home).  We typically have the grand reunion upstairs but we decided to celebrate the beginning of the weekend by heading to Smashburger.  The garage made a not-so-beautiful backdrop.

6:10 pm: Arrive at Smashburger.  I sit with the kids while Michael orders our food.  We make the mistake of giving them french fries first so nothing else will do.  They eventually eat some of the food we brought from home but had nothing to do with the burgers (fine by me, I didn't want to share anyway).

6:55 pm: Arrive home.  Fill their sippy cups with milk and tell them it's time for Mickey!  They sit in their chairs and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while drinking their milk.  Michael picks up the playroom and I go outside to clean out my car.

7:25 pm:  Change into night time diapers and pajamas.  Jude and Sloane climb on my back and we play for a bit.  Then we read a few books and sing several songs (If You're Happy and You Know it; Itsy Bitsy Spider; This Little Light of Mine; Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes).  They know most of the hand motions for each song and it is my favorite time of the day: All four of us sitting in the nursery, singing our hearts out while using big hand gestures.  Life is so good.

7:40 pm:  Time to brush teeth (they both let us know it's time by putting their finger in their mouth and moving it left to right - they love their toothbrushes).

7:44 pm: Put them in their sleepsacks (Sloane's goes on backwards, which is always fun because she faces you and gives your legs a giant hug as you zip her up) and put them in their cribs.  Bedtime for our babies!

7:50 pm: Download pictures from the day and add them to this blog post.

8:20 pm: Start writing this blog post.

9:30 pm: Done.  And now I'm off to spend the rest of the evening with Michael.  :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jude & Sloane | 20 Months

Jude Sullivan... 

...has a TON of hair. He's in desperate need of a haircut but I'm kind of loving the crazy, tousled look.  My little blondie.

...is extremely sensitive.  When you tell him, "No!" he bursts into tears and runs to you for a hug or puts himself in time-out. 

...still loves to dance.  He really enjoys Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes and Itsy Bitsy Spider.  Once we finish each song he applauds wildly.

...loves to give kisses...and not just on the mouth.  Our knees and forearms tend to be his main targets.  He'd had some issues in the past with biting - it was rarely due to frustration but was his response when he got really excited.  Now that he has perfected the kiss, we get tons of them (instead of bites - hooray)!  So do all of the animals in the books.  :)

...enjoyed swim lessons!  He loved diving off the side of the pool as well as floating on his back.  He was the first to applaud for his friends when they did a good job.

...has his first tan line.  Jude is PALE so I put twice as much sunscreen on him as his sister.  He managed to get a bit of color from the swim lessons, which I hope will serve as a base tan while we're in Florida this month!

...lives life at 120%.  He is a bull in a china shop.  He doesn't understand why you would walk somewhere when you could run.  Or why you would whisper when you could yell.  I think this is why he is such a fantastic sleeper - he's exhausted by the end of the day.  He is either really happy (75% of the time) or quite sad (25% of the time). 

...is absolutely fascinated with cars and trucks.  When he wakes up in the morning he loves to run to our window and name all of the cars and trucks outside.

...is (currently) a lefty.  He uses both hands but has better accuracy when he's using his left hand.

...loves to play with his sister.  It is amazing watching their friendship grow.  They don't fight (something I know will change) and love being near one another.  Oftentimes I find them facing different directions and doing their own thing but their backs or arms are touching.  The bond is incredible. 


Sloane Elisabeth...

...is more independent than ever these days.  She no longer wants to hold my hand as she walks down the stairs.  If I try to hold it she will shake her head no and not move until I let go.

...aims to please but does not really care about discipline.  She rarely goes to time-out but when she does she looks positively bored.  She wants us to know she couldn't care less.  Scary.

...is great at adapting to new situations.  She does not need as much attention as Jude and plays independently quite well.  They both loved to "dance" on Poppy's feet but when it was Jude's turn she stood close by and mimicked the dancing (bouncing up and down).

...loves Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes and Itsy Bitsy Spider.  She is such a performer.  Once the song starts she'll run to whatever spot is front and center of the group.  Her favorite part is "Down came the rain and washed the spider out."  She spends the majority of the song impersonating a flood.  So dramatic.

...continues to amaze me with her analytical skills.  She will stand back and analyze something until she's completely figured it out and then make her move.   As she and her brother get older my hope is he can help her be a little more spontaneous and she can help him think before he leaps.

...has her dad's ability to tan and is working on a nice summer glow.  Pair it with her pink pedicure (her first) and she is ready for the beach!

...loved swim lessons and did really well.  She always applauded when her friends learned a new trick.

...really enjoys puzzles and will complete the same one four or five times before moving on to something else.  Her favorite is the animal puzzle - she mimics almost all of the sounds.  Her impressions of a dog (woof woof) and angry sheep (baaaah!!!!) are my favorite.

...loves to twirl, dance, shake it, and "jump."  When you tell her to jump she squats as low as she can and then stands up quickly.  Her feet never leave the ground. 

...is very social but would rather be with her brother than anyone else.  I am so grateful they have one another!

Love you both so very much! Love - Mama


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