Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Road to Nashville

A couple of months ago I was approached by an LA-based PR firm about participating in the celebrity gifting suite backstage at the George Jones Tribute Concert in Nashville, TN. It would require lots and lots of work and some money, but Ben and I decided to go for it. We decided that even if the marketing didn't pay off in returns in sales we would at least have this amazing experience!

It was a long, hard road preparing for the show (read the crazy details here) which took lots of patience, help, and work from family and friends, but we did have a great experience!

 We packed the car on Tuesday and woke Whit up at 5:00 am to leave on Wednesday morning. That was a great idea-he slept for the first 3.5 hours of a 7.4 hour trip, and felt natural being in the car the rest of the day because that's where he woke up! We did take some breaks, though, including the largest tree house in America. Seriously, guys....

And the Knoxville Sunsphere and World's Fair Park: 

We decided to rent a house via for us, my photographer friend and her 2-month-old, my two sisters and 6-month-old nephew instead of renting individual hotel rooms. Best. Decision. Ever. There was plenty of room for all of us and the kids were much more comfortable there while my sisters took turns babysitting. 


Megan and Ben helping to set up my condensed bedroom display on Thursday. 

We got a great response from the guests about my products, our display, and our enthusiasm on Thursday so we were given a place on honor for the big deal Friday gifting event: first beside the door! The PR company owner was so pleased with us that he even let our babies visit for a couple of hours :) 

Here are some pics of our favorite visitors: 
 Montgomery Gentry

Charlie Daniels

John Michael Montgomery

The hilarious "Soul Man" Sam Moore

The event wasn't exactly as we expected but it was really fun, and I was exhausted on Saturday. Ben and I both had sore throats from talking for so many hours, and my tongue had blisters on each side from talking while smiling so hard! We did make ourselves crawl out of bed on Saturday to enjoy some of Nashville, though. 

We visited Nashville's Parthenon

Went boot and cowboy hat shopping... 

And ate at a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives restaurant! 

Needless to say we were exhausted and ready to get back home on Sunday. We didn't leave until 9:00 am after packing up the car, and Whit was much less happy to be on a roadtrip this time. I was super irritable, he was crying off and on for about 5 hours straight, and I'm ashamed to say tensions ran a little high in the car that day. I guess we've learned that we all have our breaking points! I think mine is working insane hours for 8 weeks on one ultimate event in the midst of the Christmas shopping season, learning that the entire plan has changed and the workload has doubled, going out of town and having your unhappy child watched for 2 straight days by other people, putting your heart on the line for celebrity critique, having huge expectations which will undoubtedly get dashed, being the leader (and trying to be a happy, positive one) for 4 other people who are trying to create your vision, driving 8 hours away with furniture from the trunk to your knees, and all of the emotions that go along with it. 

I'm exhausted just reviewing it. 

And we didn't even get to see Taylor Swift's house.  

Whit and the Very Purple Crayon Halloween!

I didn't give much thought to our Halloween costumes this year.


I knew I wanted to do some sort of group costume, but what? The options are endless! A friend of mine showed me the Rainbow Fist costume she was making for her daughter, which gave me the idea to find some literary theme for our costumes. I love reading and Whit loves getting stories before naptimes and bed, so it was perfect! After a lot of internet searches I found the perfect inspiration: Harold and the Purple Crayon!

I follow this tutorial for ideas on Whit's costume, a giant crayon, and putting the colored book pages on t-shirts for Ben and me, but I put my own twist on it: VINYL.

I made a vinyl stencil of a crayon and painted it onto purple felt the giant crayon he could carry, used purple vinyl to make permanent tshirts for us, and purple wall vinyl to make a car sign mimicking the book cover.

It really pays off to have a vinyl business :)

The first time we wore our costumes was for our church's Trunk-Or-Treat party. I was really proud of our creative group costume, but it wasn't so clear to others. A friend of mine dressed her entire family up as smurfs (including wigs and blue body paint) then complained to me that no adults were dressed up. We weren't dripping in body paint, but hey- I put a lot of thought into our costumes! 

We even took him around to a few houses on our street the night of Halloween to introduce ourselves to our neighbors. Everyone was excited to meet Whit, but, once again, no one really understood that we were Harold and the Purple Crayon. Oh well. Maybe Where the Wild Things Are next year...? 

While I was outside handing out candy to others Ben took some photos of Whit's antics inside... 

If you didn't know, one of Whit's favorite foods is plain, cold, tofu. One of his least favorite foods is sweets. In this picture he is blatantly choosing tofu over candy! 

And just to further prove his point he tried to throw the candy away :) Luckily Ben stepped in there, because, hey, some of us like candy. Like, really, really like it.

All in all Halloween was really fun, I was excited and proud to make our own costumes, and I think Whit enjoyed staying up past his bedtimes for two different nights. 

I guess we'll do it again. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Whit at 15 months!

*This post was written the day Whit turned 15 months, about 6 weeks ago. Oops.*

Last week Whit turned 15 months old! I've been thinking back to some of my favorite monthly updates, which were 4 and 5 months. I used to pore over those pictures- I couldn't believe how adorable and fun my baby was- and I can still picture that photo shoot clearly in my mind. To be fifteen months old sounds so much older than four and five! And thinking back on the hilarious Christmas photo shoot (5 months) when we were battling his weight loss and he was too small to even sit up in the Bumbo he has become a serious toddler. He really is growing up.

Whit @ 15 months old

*Feeds himself with a fork and spoon (He only puts the utensil in his mouth, he can't get food onto it yet. He does try, though- he even spent Sacrament meeting trying to spear cheerios onto his fork!)
*Signs "please" (as of two days ago) and "more". (This is a HUGE deal- he tested at a 5-month language rate when he was 13 months, so we work with him all the time on communicating with us). He doesn't know the appropriate use of either- just that he get something when he makes the motion- so he will do "please more please" in signs just about any time he wants something. I see "please more please" when he's ready to get out of his crib, for instance. 
*Can say "ayon" (lion) and sometimes "ayen" (amen). Other than that he's pretty quiet, or grunts. 
*Even though he doesn't vocalize much he does understand most of what we say to him. He will drop everything and go to the kitchen for his bottle when I say any word related to sleeping, will go straight to the bathtub if I say anything related to bathtime, to his changing pad when I say diaper, his high chair when we say anything about eating, etc. He even follows commands. "Don't close the bathroom door!" "Are you ready to go?" and so forth. I have seen most of these developments in the last few weeks, which makes me think all of the time and effort working with us, his speech therapist, and the at-home interventionist may be paying off! 
*Loves to play hide and seek (He'll crouch behind us and giggle when we pretend to look for him then hit our backs when he's ready to be found), peek-a-boo, any stuffed animals (He sleeps cuddling a lion and will give any animal a squeeze when we hand it over. Adorable.), books (turning pages... how fun!), music (He has even started quasi-dancing when he hears music), and opening and closing anything. (We call him the door police- everything around him has to be closed! But of course it has to be opened, first :), and, of course, anything electronic ( Especially pushing the home button on our iPhones and iPad. He will push the iPad button until Siri gets irritated that he doesn't actually have a question.)
*Knows and will point to a nose, his belly, and his foot. 
*Walks everywhere, all the time, and seems really comfortable and confident until BAM- a fall! He is always covered in red bumps, bruises, and scrapes. His poor forehead :( 
*Rough play, especially blowing raspberries, being spinned around, and tickling (when he's in the mood, of course)
*loves, Loves, LOVES his daddy. He doesn't just ignore anyone else in the vacinity (including mom) he will actively push others away! It's extremely heartwarming, but Ben gets worn down from having to do everything with/ for Whit and I get sad that I miss out on hugs and kisses :( 
*Has a distinct personality and clear opinions. He will mostly follow commands, but the child does have a mind of his own and will throw things on the floor, close doors, push people away, and cry and scream when he is being encouraged to do something he doesn't want to do. We just need to harness that energy for good...
*Loves being outside. Anytime he is in a funky mood at home we can go for a walk and he is automatically pacified as we pass through the door. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Early Intervention, Speech Therapy, and Sensory Processing Disorder

It's been three months since I've updated the blog. Partly because I stopped doing monthly updates and photo shoots after Whit turned 1, partly because we've been so busy that blogging is low on my to-do list when I actually have free time.  But I feel like it's time to explain one reason why we've been so busy lately...

Just before Whit's birthday I was sent a large packet of development surveys from the UNC-Chapel Hill Pediatrics Research Dept. It was the university chosen by the Education Department to fulfill a study on the behaviors and development of children at one and two years of age. The surveys were voluntary, but I decided to fill them out and send them in- you know, for the sake of research.

I expected he had a speech delay since by 12 months of age Whit had yet to say a single word, didn't seem to babble much at all, wouldn't look where we pointed, didn't seem to understand basic sign language, wouldn't respond to sign language or voice commands, didn't wave hello or goodbye, or even look at the right person when we said "Mama" or "Daddy". About a month after his birthday, though, I got a call from the study's head child psychologist informing us that Whit qualified for further evaluation based on not just speech development, but two other developmental areas! One, I was prepared for, three, I lost it.

In the same week (Whit was around 13 months old) I had an hour-long interview with a specialist about his habits and development, I spent around 4 hours filling out more in-depth surveys, Whit met with a speech therapist from the children's rehabilitation center (based on the recommendation of his pediatrician), and had a three-hour in-person, taped assessment for UNC. Needless to say, I spent the week feeling really terrible as a mother. How would Whit know the word "spoon" if he still didn't understand "eat"? Should I be teaching him "spoon"? Does Whit exhibit social behavior towards other children? No. Do you do anything to change this behavior? Well, I don't like it, but what the heck am I supposed to do about it?? Ugh... what a nightmare. But I was equally grateful to be in a state that provides this assessment and help so we can become more aware of Whit's needs and how to help him.

The results of his in-person assessment took a few weeks to be reviewed and get back to us, and gave a very thorough analysis of his current development. He had perfectly average 13-month problem solving skills, but 6-month speech development and 5-month social skills. In addition, he had many factors from the Autism spectrum, and they recommended a separate evaluation from our local Children's Developmental Services Agency because they noticed a significant lack of motor skills- especially in how he carries his body when walking and moving and how he uses his hands (he keeps one hand closed and pulled toward his side at almost all times).


Fast forward two months:

We see a speech therapist once a month for now, but will go more often once he hits 18 months.

We were randomly assigned to a group of research participants who would receive in-home intervention for eight months, then get re-assessed at two years along with the group of participants who will not have in-home intervention to decide if they were able to pinpoint and help pivotal behaviors and what difference it might make. I was thrilled to be assigned to this group- bring on the experts! We now meet twice weekly for an hour session with an early interventionist. She is a really friendly woman, and Whit really enjoys having her around. We talk while he plays with his toys, and each session we talk about what is new with him and she explains a new pivotal behavior technique we can work on together. We have learned and practiced things like mimicking Whit's behaviors, mimicking his speech, taking turns while playing, making eye contact, and other things to help Whit develop his social and communication skills. I am so grateful for this extra advice! I guess I just didn't know how to play with my child. I didn't realize that these basic interactions will build Whit's confidence and teach him about the give and take necessary for both speech and social interactions.

One thing we have really focused on, so far, is Whit's sensory input. After these couple of months of observation it seems pretty apparent that Whit is not on the Autism spectrum (at least not classic Autism), but that his behaviors and attitude are a result of a Sensory Processing Disorder. Basically, he doesn't process the stimulus around him, so he isn't understanding and interacting with his environment very well- which frustrates him. He has a combination of Hypo- (has a very high threshold for understanding, so he craves more stimulus to experience) and Hyper- (has a very low understanding threshold so too much stimulus is upsetting) Sensory conditions. He seems hypo-sensitive orally, for instance. He loves spice and sour foods, foods with textures, things he can bite, using a straw, and a recorder or other toys meant to be blown or chewed on. He keeps food squirreled away in his cheeks because he likes the feel of something in his mouth, and spits out anything smooth because he doesn't sense that it exists as easily. All of those behaviors point to him seeking out ways to experience more with his mouth.

Unfortunately, he seems hyper-sensitive with his touch. He loves his stuffed animals, will rub his head against the couch or a blanket, wants to touch everything, but hates when I hug or kiss him. I think he is the cutest thing in the world and am addicted to touching him, but he recoils from human touch! I think he's come to associate me with rough, random grabs and smooches, so he cries when I try to pick him up now, and roughly pushes or slaps me away when I try to come close to him. I've been saying since I was pregnant that I was most excited for my child to run up to me, give me a tight hug, and say "I love you", but now I feel like that may never happen. I try not to make a big deal of it, but it really breaks my heart that he won't let me touch him and greatly prefers being with Ben to being with me. I think it has to do with losing Eleanor- I really want to squeeze my love into a child, but can't. I know we are blessed in so many ways, so I hate complaining, but honestly- it's a huge challenge for me.

Besides Whit's 2 or 3 appointments a week, we keep him on a strict schedule- which I think really helps. He still takes 2 2-hour naps a day, so I'm pretty inflexible to see friends. Oh well... I don't think he'll always need so much attention!

Does that give you an impression of our daily lives?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Whit's First Birthday Party!

Yes, it was two weeks ago yesterday that we celebrated Whit's birthday, so I'd understand an assumption that my lack of posting is a form of denial. It's not. I am *thrilled* that Whit is getting older!

Here are some birthday pictures I took of Whit the day before his birthday:

And some photos from his party! 
My sister suggested we have a red "W" theme, since the white blanket and giant red "W" were the props in his monthly photos this past year. We only decided on a party at the last minute so we wanted to keep it a simple cook out with friends, but white, red, and photos of Whit- that I could do!

The kids who came were excited about our bubble machine and blown-up pool, but Whit mostly stayed at the stone retaining wall the whole time! Hey, when it's your party you get to do what you want, right? ;) 

Whit was less than thrilled with the smash cake I slaved over. I guess I can't blame him- he hasn't had any sweets or sugars besides the fruit in green smoothies his whole life, and he wasn't a fan of digging his hands into buttercream. I guess new things take a while to get to used to. 

Ben tried helping him eat it, but the first thing Whit did was make a face, cry, and pull it out of his mouth! Don't worry, Whit, I'm not offended. It's not the cake-it's you. 

He eventually realized we weren't trying to harm him, but still wasn't interested!

I'm still working on making the best chocolate chip cookies; confident that one day he'll appreciate it!