Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Juliana!

Today, my little girl turns 2.  Wow.  It has been a year.  She has come so far since her last birthday!  On her first birthday, Juliana couldn't sit up on her own, she couldn't roll over on her own, she wasn't pulling up, she didn't have any words, and she had just qualified for Early Intervention.

Now, on her second birthday, she climbs, she walks, she runs, she has about 15 words or pieces of words, and has been discharged from the physical therapy portion of Early Intervention.  I'd say that is cause for celebration!

Juliana you are one stubborn little girl.  I think your stubborness is one of the reasons that you have been able to accomplish things that you shouldn't be able to given your caloric intake.  You give me and your daddy (and sometimes your therapists) a run for our money every day!  You have your daddy and your grandpa wrapped around your finger, and I'll add Ms Theresa in there too.

You can be a bully one minute and a charming little princess the next.  You love your brother and love to terrorize him at the same time.  You love to dance, and whenever you hear TobyMac's song, "Tonight" come on, you immediately begin to dance, even in the car.

You love animals, especially Finchy and Auntie Jaime's dog Igor.  Your favorite parent is your daddy, but every once in a while you will choose me.  You love to look at books, especially touch and feel books.

Juliana, we love you so much!  You have come so far in a year, and we are so proud of you and all you have  accomplished!  Happy birthday, baby girl!
Dancing to "Tonight"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Miss Suzy...

Meet Miss Suzy.  Suzy is Juliana's Occupational Therapist.  Our first OT was Ms. Connie, and we loved her to death, but she had to leave us unexpectedly and Miss Suzy took her place in October.  Suzy works with Juliana on her fine motor skills, sensory issues, and moving from task to task.  She definitely works hard (all our therapists do- have I mentioned that Juliana is stubborn?).

Juliana loves Suzy and is excited when she comes to the house.  As soon as Suzy enters, Juliana immediately begins to point at Suzy's giant bag of "toys" because she wants to play.  With Suzy's help, Juliana has started to use a pincer grasp really well with her right hand, she's still developing it with her left.  She can use a spoon fairly well and is starting to be able to use a fork.  She now holds her bottle or sippy cup (yes, she still drinks out of a bottle- don't judge me until you try to feed her yourself) by herself.  She tolerates bouncing on a pilates ball- she used to scream if she was seated on it for even a moment, she didn't like being bounced on it or rocked on it.  She is also just beginning to use her left hand- most of the time it just stays at her side.

Suzy was also the therapist who was with me the day I had to call 911, and I will be forever grateful that she was in the house with me.  She helped me to stay calm and keep my head even though I wanted to cry and scream and freak out because my daughter wasn't breathing.

So, thank you Suzy, for all that you have done for Juliana, especially for being there on that very scary day that is burned into my mind forever.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Miss Meghan...

Meet Miss Meghan.  She recently discharged Juliana from Physical Therapy, but before she did that, she worked wonders with our little girl.  When we met Miss Meghan, Juliana was almost one year old.  Juliana could not sit up on her own (you had to sit her up), she couldn't roll over on her own, she wasn't crawling, pulling up, or doing any of the "normal" things that a typical one year old child does.

The first few sessions with Meghan involved lots of crying by Juliana.  Meghan made Juliana work hard and she didn't like it at first.  Meghan would put weights (we called them "pretty bracelets") around Juliana's legs and make her stand up, go up and down the stairs, or crawl on the floor, and Juliana didn't like it one bit at first.  She would scream and scream the entire time.  Meghan usually saved that part for the end, but it paid off.  Juliana is now walking and running.

Learning to stand up last August while popping bubbles
Juliana and Noah loved Meghan.  Both would wait at the front door for her.  Meghan always let Noah participate in Juliana's session, and Noah appreciated that a lot.  At Christmas time Meghan bought both kids Christmas presents.  Now that's generosity!

When Meghan was doing Juliana's re-eval, I knew she was going to say that Juliana did not qualify for Early Intervention.  It made me happy and sad at the same time.  Happy, because that meant that Juliana had caught up- she only has a 20% delay now.  Sad, because in that year we spent with Meghan, she became like a family member and now we don't get to see her anymore.

Thank you for everything, Meghan.  We love and miss you.
Meghan's last session with Juliana


We decided to take the Chili Dawg back to the vet yesterday because his limp was getting worse.  We thought maybe he had broken something or torn something.  Neither of us were expecting what we were told.

I was reading Noah his last story when Ryan came home with Chili.  He came upstairs and I could tell by the look on his face that it wasn't good.  I finished the story and looked at Ryan.  "The vet is pretty sure it's bone cancer.  It's in his leg.  We have to take him to an oncologist to confirm it with a biopsy.  It hasn't spread to his lungs yet.  There is a very small chance it could be a cyst but it's highly unlikely."  "How long?"  "Probably 6-8 months."

I felt my dinner starting to come up and I had to leave the room.  I heard Noah ask, "What's wrong with Momma?"  I made it to the bathroom and vomited.  When I came out, Chili was laying on the floor of our room and I buried my head in his fur and cried and cried.

I spent the evening crying and holding the Chili Dawg while Ryan researched the cancer.  It looks like amputation may be the best route, but we will have to wait and see what the oncologist says, especially since it will only alleviate his pain. 

I am not ready to part with my Chili Dawg yet and am still numb from the news.  It doesn't seem fair.  If you're not an animal person you obviously won't understand.  Don't tell me he's just a dog because you won't like my response.   

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ms. Laura...

My daughter turns 2 years old this week.  As we get closer to her birthday, I wanted to introduce you to some important people in her/our lives.  The first one is Laura.  Laura is Juliana's speech/feeding therapist.  She replaced Peggy (who we still love and keep in contact with).  We have been working with Laura for almost a year now. 

Laura sees Juliana twice a week and it is with Laura's help that we are starting to hear more "words" from Juliana.  Laura is one of the most patient people that I know, which is a good match since Juliana is so stubborn.  Last week I got a text message from Laura that went something like this: "Am giving J a break. Was able to get her to verbalize "all done" and "more" 5 times after practically standing on my head".  I had to laugh, because that is what you have to do sometimes when you are working with Juliana.

Laura goes above and beyond her job as Juliana's speech therapist.  Back in October when Juliana was admitted at Children's, she called to check on us and texted me often to check in on Juilana.  While we were in the ER when Juliana had her "seizure", when I finally got service, I had several texts from Laura checking on Juliana and us- she even offered to get Noah for us.  The next day she called to check on all of us to make sure we were doing okay as well.

These are just some of the reasons why we love Laura.  In addition to the above reasons, Laura & Peggy were able to get Juliana past her feeding aversion.  She now eats age appropriate foods.  Now our only problem is getting her to eat enough bites before she refuses to eat anymore (oh, if only I had that problem).

So thank you, Laura, for all your hard work.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

To Know Or Not To Know...

Do I really want to know?  This is the question that I have been wrestling with for the past week and a half.  It has made me cranky, irritable, emotional, & it has been interfering with my sleep.

What is it that I'm not sure if I want to know?  Tomorrow morning, we're going to load the kids in the car and drive down to Children's Memorial.  From there we are going to walk to the geneticist's office. 

Geneticist.  Genes.  I was fascinated with this when I was in college, and I enjoy teaching about it, but now it's going to apply to real life, our life.   

Do I want to know what, if any, disorders we have passed onto our daughter and son?  Thinking about it makes me want to throw up.  On the other hand, what if this gives us answers as to why our daughter doesn't like to eat and isn't growing? 

I am torn.   Do I want to know or do I not want to know?  Good question.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Chili Dawg...

Back in 2003, we had to put our first dog, Goliath to sleep.  I'm pretty sure that Goliath is now sitting on Satan's lap helping him rule Hell.  A co-worker of Ryan's knew of a family who had a Golden Retriever that they didn't want anymore and were giving him away for free.  Ryan emailed me a picture of him and I said "yes" immediately, so Ryan set up a meeting.  I fell in love with Chipper (who names a dog that?) as soon as I saw him.  I had been going through a bad bout of depression following my brain injury, and this dog brought me out of it. 

We changed his name to Chili Dawg, and got him fixed up at the vet (he had all sorts of infections going on).  Every day I'd take him for long walks and just pet him.  Chili thinks he's a lap dog, and he will climb right up into your lap, lay his head on your chest with the rest of his body spanning the length of yours.  He knows he's a beautiful dog, and if he were a human, he'd have an entourage of people to follow him around telling him that and grooming him.  One of his favorite things to do is to sit with his face in the wind and let it blow his fur.  He also likes to lay on his back when he sleeps, it's the funniest thing.  He has helped me through a lot.  He knows when I'm upset and just need something to cry into at night.  He lets Juliana use him as a step to climb up, and I'm sure it hurts his arthritis but he has never growled or snapped at her.  Both kids went through the hair, ears, and tail pulling stages and he put up with it.  He's a good and faithful dog.

Well, it's 2011, and my best friend is getting old.  His muzzle is grey.  He has arthritis and walks with a limp.  He has a hard time climbing up into your lap nowadays but he still makes an effort.  He still greets me and the kids at the door everyday with a wagging tail when we get home.  He still sits with his face in the wind, being beautiful.  He doesn't wrestle with his Boxer brother as much anymore, and he has slowed down when he's running in the back yard.  He's still my crying blanket, even more so these past couple years as the stresses have added up.  I know that eventually he will no longer be with us, but I hope that day is long in coming because I don't know what I would do without him.  People say that they're just animals, but I don't think they understand that some animals can change your life.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Boy and His Dinosaur...

Noah has a special stuffed animal.  A stegosaurus to be exact.  His name is Steggy- Noah named him (his real name is Morris Stegosaurus from Dinosaur Train, but try telling Noah that and see where it gets you).  Steggy goes everywhere with Noah, day care, church, swim lessons, doctor's appointments, preschool, etc.

Thursday night everything that could go wrong did.  Ryan's car barely got him home from work before it broke down.  Then, Juliana projectiled at the dinner table for the first time in about a month (everyone still remembered the clean up drill though, so that was good).  As I was getting ready to wash Juliana's hair, I noticed something and said, "Noah, why did you bring Steggy into the bathtub?"  Noah immediately realized his mistake- Steggy is a stuffed animal and not a bathtub toy and started to cry.  I told him it was going to be alright.  I took Steggy to the sink and started to ring him out, but he was really wet.  I looked at his tag, and it said do not put in dryer- who makes a kiddie toy that you can't put in the dryer?!?  I put Steggy in front of a fan and turned the fan on high in hopes that Steggy would be dry by Noah's bed time. 

I finished their baths and got them into their pj's.  Noah went and stood by the fan and told Steggy how sorry he was that he got him wet and that it would be okay.  Since Ryan was out at the car parts store, I was going to put Juliana to bed and I could see that Noah was worried about Steggy, so I tried to distract him with a tv show, but that didn't work; he wanted to stay with Steggy.

At Noah's bedtime, I read him his stories and then it came time to get into bed.  He asked me for Steggy.  Steggy was still pretty wet, so Noah laid a blanket down next to his bed for Steggy to sleep on.  He climbed into his bed and I started to cover him up.  He was trying so hard to be brave, but I could hear him whimpering.  I went into the closet and grabbed 2 of Noah's old baby blankets and wrapped Steggy in them.  Then I handed Steggy to Noah who grabbed him and tucked him under his blankets.  "Thanks Mom!  You're the best Mom ever!"  And they fell asleep, just a boy and his dinosaur.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Things Taken For Granted...

I know you're not supposed to compare your children, and I realized that pretty quickly on after having Juliana.  Juliana and Noah are very different.  Noah was an easy baby.  He loved to eat, was fairly easy going, content, and once he learned to talk it was "word vomit".  Juliana has been one trial after another, and I wouldn't trade her for anything.  She has taught us perserverance and she has most definitely strengthened my daily prayer life.

There are days at work when I grow tired of hearing, "Mrs. Mahlberg...", "Hey, Mahlberg...", "Mrs. M...", etc.  Some days I even say, "she's not here right now, but if you leave a message after the beep, she'll be happy to get back to you. Beep."  My students look at me like I'm crazy, but most of them leave me a message after the beep.  There have even been times when I have gotten tired of Noah saying, "Mom" or "Hey Mom".  Let me clarify that one and say that it's when it's the whiney "mom" days.

Last week while I was reading through Juliana's EI paperwork, I started thinking of the different words that she says (she has about 12 words in her arsenal).  The two words that she uses the most right now are "up" and "doggie".  Then I got to thinking, when was the last time she called me Momma?  I can't remember.  It has to be well over a month ago.  When was the last time she called Ryan, Daddy?  I can't remember that either. 

There's nothing I would love more than to hear the word Momma come out of my daughter's mouth.  For the rest of the week and weekend, I kept asking her to say Momma.  If you know Juliana, though, you know that that's not how she operates.  She did give Ryan a Daddy on Sunday for the first time in weeks though, and I think I heard a Momma today in the van, or at least that's what I'm telling myself I heard. 

Take a lesson from me, don't take it for granted when your kiddos call you Momma or Daddy.  You never know when you will get to hear it again.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Break 2011...

Spring break flew by this year, and we were sure busy!  If you looked at my calendar (some of my friends at work caught a glimpse) you would have seen that every day had at least 1-2 appointments scheduled.  While it was busy week, it was still nice to enjoy a week off with my kids.  I'm going to give you a little glimpse into what we did last week...

Monday: We started the morning off with a trip to the post office to mail our favorite girl Holly her birthday present, and on the way home stopped off at the library to pick up some Curious George books for Noah.  After we got home, Juliana had her visit with Laura, her amazing speech therapist.  Later that day, Juliana had her visit with Meghan, her equally amazing physical therapist.  It was then that we were given the news that Meghan would be discharging Juliana from Early Intervention, because her delay was not great enough.  Ryan and I had seen that coming, and this was great news to hear, but bittersweet at the same time.  When you work with the same therapists for almost a year, they become like family members (but I will save that post for another time).

Mrs. Laura

Miss Meghan

Tuesday: Juliana and I started out with our drive downtown to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is on the campus of Northwestern University.  It's not a tough drive for me to do alone, although the GPS did want me to turn left on a street with "no left turns" allowed.  Nevertheless, we got there.  However, when I had looked at the time on my calendar, I had looked at the time for our Wednesday appointment which was for 9 AM.  Our appointment was at 10 AM, we were an hour and a half early.  Fortunately the floor our doctor is on has a children's play area, and Juliana was happy playing there and flirting with the man behind the desk.  Our appointment with Dr. Gaebler went well (I really like her) and she is going to do some digging to hopefully help us get some answers to Juliana's "seizure/non-seizure" last month.  We then ended the day with our appointment with our chiropractor.
Playing at the RIC

Wednesday: I hadn't slept well, and I had a birthday coffee coupon (free medium coffee) from Dunkin Donuts, so once the kids woke up, we went through the drive-thru and got myself a coffee, Noah a sprinkle donut, and Juliana 2 munchkins.  1 of my former students was working the window, and refused to take payment for the donuts, which was kind of cool.  Then, Juliana had her Developmental Therapy evaluation.  I was slightly cocky about this one.  Since she didn't qualify for DT last year when she was evaluated, I figured she wouldn't qualify this year.  Yeah, that's what happens when you get cocky.  Fortunately, the areas she has her delays in are being treated with speech therapy, so we don't have to add in another therapy.  From there, we went to do Noah's 4 year check up with Dr. Russell.  It went really well.  Noah weighed in at a whopping 33 lbs 7 oz, so he won't be moving to a booster seat in the car for a while, and he's 40 inches tall.  Juliana was a bit confused when we were there because she is so used to being the center of attention at the doctor's that she didn't understand why she wasn't being examined.  Then we played outside all afternoon.



Dr. Russell
Thursday: We spent the morning and part of the afternoon up at Jaime's.  The kids liked that they got to spend time with their cousins and meet Jaime & Bill's new dog, Igor.  Then, we had to leave, because it was time for Juliana's Early Intervention meeting.  Juliana's meeting went well.  Juliana qualified for everything except for Physical Therapy, but Meghan suggested that she be re-evaluated in three months since she is at risk of falling behind again.  It took about an hour to go through everyone's evaluation and set the new goals, but this time I knew what to expect- last time it was hard to hear everything that she had a delay in- it depressed me for days.

Miss Suzy holding conference with Laura and Meghan

Friday: This was our low-key day.  We only had one thing on the calendar- lunch with Ryan and Uncle Jeff.  We drove up to Ryan's work, picked him up, and met up with Uncle Jeff at this yummy Greek restaurant.  There was so much food left that we were able to bring home the leftovers to eat for Saturday's lunch.

Juliana's first gyro
Lunch with Daddy and Uncle Jeff

So that is just a glimpse into our spring break activities.  We were busy, but we had fun too.