Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 2009 Siggies Slideshow

Here are my siggies for the month of June. Thanks to the best requesters in the whole world! To get your own siggy, please visit CrumbSnatchers!

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Proudly introducing Charlie!!!

The drive went very smoothly to pick up our new puppy. The children were quite anxious and asked every 10 minutes, "Are we there yet?" I felt like we were living a stereotypical scene from a book, lol! Heather Goines with Cheyenne Valley Labradoodles was just as wonderful as I had imagined and didn't seem the least little bit overwhelmed with our entire family shrieking as we exited the minivan. And there he was... Charlie. He is sooooooo cute. I can't put into words how soft and sweet this puppy is. He is 10 weeks old and very, very calm so far. He slept in our arms the whole way home, with everyone taking turns holding him. Anna got to hold him the most as we are hoping they will bond the most. We've been home a couple of hours now and he has yet to walk around and investigate... Rocky seems to like him so far and we are all ga-ga over him. He's a total cuddle bug and just wants to be close. I had to take about 50 pictures to get a few where you could see his eyes... he's like a little Muppet.

Here is a picture of Anna holding him, she is totally enchanted.


Here is one with both kids petting him.


And two adorable shots of his sweet, beautiful eyes...


I think that last picture is going to be my new avatar for a while! Thanks for sharing our excitement!!! We're going to take a walk soon and introduce Charlie to the neighborhood kids.

We're picking up the puppy today!!!

We'll be leaving in about an hour to go pick up our newest family member! We are meeting the breeder about 3.5 hours away so we won't be back until mid-afternoon. I promise to post pics asap. We've picked out a name too, but I'll wait to reveal that until later! ;)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Just Because I Love You by AnnaBV Designs

Anna has a new kit out today at ScrapMatters called Just Because I Love You. I didn't even know about it because I failed to open her email from earlier this week until this morning. I am so behind! Anyway, I put together a quickie LO for her...

Isn't it a pretty kit? Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We're getting a puppy!!!

I am so excited to share this great news! We found a breeder that is willing to donate a Labradoodle puppy to our family! He's about 8 weeks old and is all black, with a curly fleece wool coat. He won't shed and has a personality that can handle the kids. He'll be getting neutered tomorrow and we might get him as soon as Sunday. Yippee!!! I am so grateful to Heather with Cheyenne Valley Labradoodles for her incredible generosity. She has a son with Asperger Syndrome and is committed to helping families with special needs. We are going to make a monetary donation to her to thank her. Of course I'll post pictures as soon as we get him!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Haircuts, best friends, and basketball

It's been a good week. Anna's visit with the neurologist on Monday went well. For a little girl who was never on the chart for height and weight until she was 3 years old, she is now in the 90th percentile for both. We discussed her behavior and mood. She's been on Risperdal for mood swings, aggression, and impulse control for 3 years now without much change in dosage. Since she has very strong reactions to medications, we haven't wanted to make any changes but Risperdal causes weight gain, sedation, and sometimes early breast development. Her weight is a concern, especially considering her low tone, and we can see that her lordosis (swayback) is getting worse, but we are keeping her active and she is healthy. Over the last couple of months, Anna has struggled with aggression and I thought she either needed to increase the Risperdal or go off of it completely. We tried a week off of the medication and saw a dramatic increase in anger, moodiness, aggression, and lack of impulse control. The deciding factor to go back on Risperdal was when she was playing with the neighborhood kids and started picking flowers in one of the kid's front yard. When asked to not do that, she reacted by hitting the child, then hitting two others, and shoving yet another while sticking out her tongue. She was walked home by one of the older kids and I sighed when I realized that she just took a big step backward in her social relationships with the other kids. Her neuro said we have room to nearly double her Risperdal dosage so we've been ramping up the dose this week and we are starting to see our sweet, sunny little girl returning.

Dominic is doing very well on the Focalin. It is quite amazing to see him in control of himself. He is focused, attentive, and quiet. When I ask him to do something, I am not getting the five minutes of negotiation, just a "yes, ma'am"... what a refreshing change. I am feeling more optimistic and it is much easier parenting happy children than moody and angry children.

The kids got haircuts this week. They look so much older all of a sudden! Anna got into Jenny's makeup that morning, so you can see a faint hint of blue eyeshadow on her eyebrows, lol.



We had our monthly visit with our MHMR (mental health and mental retardation) caseworker this week. Anna had her 3-year reevaluation with the school district this spring and she continues to test in the mild-moderate MR range. The psych did say that Anna is hard to test. She needs instructions to be repeated and the directions to be explained one at a time and they are not allowed to do that in the formal testing setting. I told Kara, our caseworker, about Anna's current challenges and her disappearance earlier this week. I was excited to learn that she thinks she can get Anna a child locataing GPS as an adaptive aid and can get us special alarmed door locks also. That is such a relief, those things are expensive! They are also continuing to cover respite (my mom is a registered contractor with the state so that she can provide respite... in fact, my mom took the kids last night and is keeping them until this afternoon! Thanks, mom!!!) and they are covering the cost of overnight pull-ups for Anna also. She's outgrown the store brand, so I have to order them from Adaptive Child. I am really impressed with the Tranquility overnights, though she still leaks about 3 nights a week.

Anna and Joseph were playing together yesterday and I got this great picture of them together. They both declared that the other is their best friend. So sweet! (If you remember, Joseph is 14 and also MR.)


One of Anna's talents is sports. She is good at just about everything! Swimming, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer... you name it. She can't quite manage playing on a team yet, but we have fun just playing outside. Curtis has been working with her on her overhand jump shot and she is really getting it. I got the incredible picture of her mid-jump. I had to try extracting her too, to really emphasize the movement in the picture.



Well, I should really get to work... I think I have 11 requests for siggies pending and I'm starting a collaboration with a professional photographer to offer my editing and graphic design skills as part of his service offerings. We're still trying to find a puppy too. Yellow girl did find a home, but I couldn't afford her anyway. The breeder in Dallas looks promising but I haven't heard back from her yet after completing all of the paperwork for the donation.

Thanks for reading and for all of your support!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A few more gray hairs

Anna was missing for about 12 of the longest minutes of my life this afternoon. We had just returned from her annual checkup with her neurologist when I took a load of laundry from the garage into the house. She said, "Mom, I want to ride my bike," to which I replied, "Okay, honey, I'll be out in a minute." I have been so excited for her because she has not wanted to ride her bike for 2 years and has just decided to try it again (with training wheels of course). And we'd had a long neuro visit followed by an ugly blood draw and I wanted her to relax. I started folding laundry and Curtis returned home from a business lunch and I asked him casually if he'd seen Anna outside riding her bike. He said that he had not seen her or her bike and went out to look for her.

He was back in just a minute and didn't see her. We didn't feel any alarm yet, because we live on a cul-de-sac on a quiet street off of another cul-de-sac and all the neighbors know us and know to watch out for Anna. We've been allowing her short outings with the neighborhood kids, they know to look out for her and help her out... it allows her a little freedom and independence too. We figured she was up the street, just past the curve and since it's already 100 degrees here today, Curtis hopped in his car and drove up to fetch her.

I put on my shoes and started looking for her in earnest. Curtis returned and said that none of the kids were out and he still couldn't find her. I saw her bike in my mom's front yard (my mom lives 2 houses to our left) and thought maybe Anna went inside, even though my mom is at work. Nope, her house was locked. Then I checked our car because I've found her playing in our vehicles from time to time. Nope, not there either (which was a good thing since the heat is so unbearable today). Curtis drove around the neighborhood while I walked, calling to Anna in my loudest voice. It was at this point that my worry alarm started really ringing.

She didn't respond to my calls, I could not find her in any of her usual spots. I made it all the way up the street then started knocking on doors. We got 2 sets of parents and multiple kids involved in the search when I saw her coming out from Joseph's house, a neighbor that lives 3 houses to our right. Joseph is the middle of 3 kids, he is 14 and cognitively challenged due to chemo he had for cancer at age 2. He and Anna are good friends, they "get" each other, and they often play together. I'm so glad they have each other but they have gotten into a bit of trouble since they don't understand certain common rules. Joseph and his family were not home when Anna was missing. Anna went into their backyard to see their dog and caged birds on the back porch. She had told us that she went into their house as well, but she actually hadn't... the house was locked (I talked with the dad a little later about it).

Needless to say, my sweet little Booski got quite a lecture and she is grounded the rest of the day. We are also shopping for wearable GPS devices. For those of you not familiar with her younger year horror stories, we've dubbed Anna to have UDS... Ultra Danger Syndrome. If something has a warning label, it's written for a child like Anna. Maybe sometime I'll write up all of the stories and heart attacks she's induced, but for now, I'm grateful she's okay.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Am I crazy?

We're thinking about getting a puppy. It started with looking at older dogs at the pound where the counselor said that adopting older dogs carries a risk for younger children... they often have restraint issues and feel threatened when hugged around the neck. Anna and Dominic have grown up with Rocky, our now 9-year old lab, who tolerates EVERYTHING they do to him. The woman at the pound said, "I know you probably don't want to hear this, but I really recommend getting a puppy so that the dog can grow up with your children and be socialized to their needs." I swore I would never have another puppy after Rocky... he chewed up doors, woodwork, even our king-size dust ruffle! But I have to admit he's turned into the best dog I've ever known. And since Brandy died about a year and a half ago, he's been lonely and we are ready to make a commitment to a new dog. I want a smaller dog that Anna can walk by herself and I'm hoping will form a bond with her and eventually sleep with her. Wouldn't it be great if it could sense her seizures and become a seizure alert dog? Then I could sleep with my husband again.

So I started googling dog breeds and austism and ADHD. Besides a lab, the breed that was mentioned most was a Labradoodle... a lab/poodle mix. They have a mini-medium breed that tops out at 30-35 pounds and they don't shed. Woohoo! Looks like we found the perfect breed. Only one problem... they come with a $2500 price tag!!! UGH!

I found two local breeders with gorgeous pups ready to go home soon. They are just too expensive though (there is one particular little girl with whom I've already fallen in love, doggone it). After more searching, I found a breeder about 3 hours away that donates Labradoodles to families with special needs. I wrote her this morning and I'm anxiously waiting to hear back from her. We're going to go shopping and get a leash, collar, crate, toys, and other things to get ready. I need to gate off the stairs and stash the kids toys. I have to admit, I am really excited about adding to our family. I'm so maternal, I love to have a little thing to love.

Here is the little girl I fell in love with yesterday. Sigh, too bad she is too much money for us to adopt... I think I'd call her Daisy.

I'll keep you posted on our Labradoodle hunt! Wish us luck!

3 signs my life is not my own...

1. I have a favorite SpongeBob episode.
(It's Band Geeks... I just crack up every time I watch it as does Anna. We especially love the part when Sandy and Patrick have a fight in the parking lot and Patrick comes back with the trombone stuck on his neck going toot-toot with every step.)

2. My daily wardrobe consists of sport team t-shirts and polos purchased from the grocery store and drugstore. I just noticed yesterday that I also have 1-inch gray roots.
(Pathetic, yes?)

3. I can't remember the last time I actually slept (and yes, I mean sleep, lol) with my husband.
(Because Anna's seizures are so unpredictable, usually hit in the middle of the night, and cause her to roll so that her face is in her pillow, I sleep with her. Sometimes my mom will keep her and Dominic for a sleepover and I get to sleep with Curtis.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I won LOTD at ESS!!!

Oh my goodness, I can't believe it! My "Precious Privilege" layout won Layout of the Day at Enchanted Studio Scraps yesterday! WOW! I've never won anything for any of my layouts before. Woohoo!

Friday, June 5, 2009

AnnaBV Designs has a new kit!

Anna is releasing a new kit today called Morning Capriccio, available at ScrapMatters and Enchanted Studio Scraps:

Here is my layout:

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dominic has been diagnosed with ADHD

Yesterday was the last day of school for Jenny and Anna... so Jenny is now a senior and Anna will be going into 2nd grade this fall. Dominic finished up preschool a couple of weeks ago and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. He had a very hard time in preschool; his behavior was too difficult for the first two preschools and he went through two teachers at his third. Right before spring break, his teacher and the director had a one hour, closed door meeting with me to discuss his behavior. They weren't sure they could meet his needs there.

The teacher would modify her curriculum to try to accomodate Dominic, but he still struggled to start and complete any academic work. He couldn't sit still during circle time, bumping into his neighbors and continually interrupting the teacher. He would color/scribble/paint on his neighbor's papers during table time. He would knock down block towers that the boys would build. He drove his peers crazy. At recess, no one wanted to play with him; that hurt his feelings and he would lash out in anger and frustration. When he got too physically aggressive, the director wasn't sure he could return.

So we started some intensive behavioral modifications then. We've had two months of trying our new approach and it has helped somewhat. We act out scenarios of how to appropriately play, taking turns, not being first all the time, raising our hands, etc. We also instituted a sticker reward chart for good choices and chores. The chart has 4 rows of 5 stickers... after one row is filled, each child gets 30 minutes of one-on-one time with mommy or daddy... when the entire chart is filled, they get a toy or prize that is chosen ahead of time (about a $20 item).

During this meeting with Dominic's teacher and preschool director, we talked about ADHD as a possible diagnosis. Dominic is also very, very bright and may be gifted. I decided to schedule an appointment with Anna's neurologist for Dominic to get evaluated. We received the new patient packet with an ADHD parent and teacher evaluation. It was clear after completing the paperwork that my boy definitely has nearly every symptom of ADHD.

The appointment was yesterday and our neuro is very kind. We talked about family history (Curtis was most likely ADHD as a child and has adult ADD tendencies) and what we've done so far in terms of behavioral modification. We talked about medication, the pros and cons, dosing, duration, etc. After nearly an hour with him, we have a game plan.

Dominic started today on Focalin XR, 5 mg, once a day with room to go up to 10 mg/day. We will keep him on it every day since his impulsivity and hyperactivity adversely affects his ability to form appropriate social relationships with his peers and also causes a great deal of anxiety for Anna. I've started a medication journal for him where I will note the time of day, dose, and side effects as well as positive behavior changes so that we can decide what will ultimately be the best medicine and dose for him.

I guess I'm explaining all of this in detail because I did not make the decision to medicate lightly. Our neuro feels that we did all we could do with behavioral modifications and since Dominic is continuing to struggle with making friends and having Anna reject him, this was the logical next step. The medication is easy to stop at any point and he may outgrown the extreme impulsivity and hyperactivity within a few years. Also, Anna has had some severe reactions to anti-seizure medications, so we are especially wary to try Dominic on medicine. I don't want to seem defensive about this decision; I am fully confident in my parenting ability to handle this challenge and I feel I have Dominic's best interests in mind.

So my next step is to schedule an appointment with a child psychologist who specializes in ADHD. I want to get an IQ test for him as well. The elementary school administration is already aware of Dominic's challenges and will place him with a kindergarten teacher who can handle his needs. We may need a 504 plan. At Anna's last team meeting (I think there were 11 people in attendance), we all talked about Dominic so the entire special education and resource department is ready for him. It helps that I am the campus representative for SEPAC (special education parent advisory council). :)

Now it is summer. We have no plans, no camps, no vacations, and no help hired. I have been dreading the summer... it seems endless. On the recommedation of our pediatrician and behavior specialist, I've come up with a detailed summer schedule which I'm going to put on poster board and post on the wall. I spent all morning modifying the schedule and reorganing our play area. Here it is (and I'm sharing this here in case it could help someone else):

7:00-8:00 ~ wake up, have breakfast, watch TV
8:00-8:30 ~ chores, free play
8:30-9:30 ~ get dressed and play together, mommy showers
9:30-10:00 ~ arts and crafts
10:00-10:30 ~ school activities, reading, writing, math
10:30-10:45 ~ snack, TV
10:45-12:00 ~ outside play, pool, park, or pond
12:00-1:00 ~ lunch, TV
1:00-1:30 ~ independent quiet time
1:30-3:00 ~ errands, store, bank, shopping
3:00-4:00 ~ outside play
4:00-4:30 ~ snack, TV
4:30-5:30 ~ free play, computer, outside, imaginary play
5:30-7:00 ~ time with Daddy, pool, errands, outside
7:00-7:30 ~ dinner, TV
7:30-7:45 ~ clean up, chores, family game
7:45-8:00 ~ bath
8:00 ~ bedtime

Dominic already likes the schedule and I'm already seeing a positive change in his behavior on his first day of Focalin. I'm hopeful... tired, but hopeful.

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