Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mandarin Oranges

Elijah has been doing really great in speech therapy lately and we're seeing changes in the way he is using his mouth. His tongue is moving around a lot more, he's starting to stick his tongue out a bit, he's closing his mouth some, he's attempting to chew, and he seems to have a better general awareness of his mouth.

Eating fascinates me. It seems like such a simple thing to do and might I add…I'm really good at it (but that's a whole other topic!). Eating really isn't as simple as it seems, however. Have you ever stopped to think all the things that you do in your mouth just to take a bite of food? It's phenomenal. And along those same lines, have you ever thought of all the things that your mouth has to do in order for you to speak? It's not a simple task; it's exceptional what we do with our mouths. Read this aloud (if you like – and if it won't make you seem like a crazy personJ) and think of all the positions your tongue, your lips, etc. are in just so that you can talk. It's really amazing.

Today in therapy, Elijah ate mandarin oranges for the first time in his life. His therapist was working on getting him to bite off food and eat it. I was pleasantly surprised on how well he handled the chunks he bit off. His little mouth was working! I could see his adorable little dimples as he worked the oranges around in his mouth and down his cute little esophagus. I was mighty proud over some silly little pieces of fruit.

As Elijah and I left therapy today, his therapist mentioned that Elijah is making a lot of progress. She said she's noticing him making a lot more noise (Andy and I have been noticing that too). She also mentioned that as his eating skills improved, she thought his speech would start to emerge. I almost got tears in my eyes just hearing her say that. This means that she thinks he'll have speech – that it's going to come in due time. Oh, how I love to hear him running around the house saying, "Mom! Mom! Moooom!" I know I'm getting ahead of myself, looking too far into the future when I should be focused on the present. So, for now, I'm going to revel in the glory of oranges.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Talking to Strangers

Elijah went to Target with me yesterday...
Me: Elijah! Get your mouth off of the cart!
Cashier: Oh, is he teething?
Me: Um, yeah, I think he might be, but I haven't seen any new teeth yet (Thinking to myself - She doesn't need to know that he drools all the time and that he always puts his mouth on the cart, does she? Because I think he really might be teething)
Me: Yeah, he's a sweetheart (Um, totally off subject, but I guess I needed to share)
Cashier: How old is he?
Me: Twenty-one months
Cashier: Oh, he seems small for his age
Me: Yeah, he is, but he's tall and skinny
Cashier: (trying to get Elijah's attention) Hi!
Cashier: Oh, he threw up on himself a little right there
Me: Oh, yes he did (And I wipe up Elijah's shirt for what seems like the millionth time today)
A little later...

Cashier: Bye! (As I move Elijah's arm to have him wave)
And a little later:

Another employee: Is he sleeping?!
Me: No
Employee: Oh, I thought he was sleeping. That would've been so cute if he was sleeping in the cart like that.
Going out in public can be difficult sometimes when you're a parent to a child with "special" needs. For one thing, you're going to see other kids your child's age who do things that your child cannot (yet) do and at times it cuts right through to your heart. It shoves any denial you may be harboring into your face and makes you confront it. "Look Lisa!" it says, "He's delayed! Look at what that five month old is doing! Look! Look! He can't do that!" Now, most of the time this is okay and you can smile at all the babies and their amazing development. But, on your bad days, an outing can make you want to crawl into a cave and cry.

The other thing you encounter is unsolicited comments, like the ones I wrote above. The ladies I talked to today were nothing but pleasant and I enjoyed talking to them, but their comments showed me that people are starting to notice that Elijah is different from his peers - and I realize it's only going to become more obvious as time passes.

I think if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if Elijah was sleeping, I'd have about five dollars. (Ha!) Going to a store is really overstimulating to Elijah. The florescent lights, the influx of activity, and all the people make it difficult for him to focus or see anything. Imagine looking at a busy wallpaper and trying to focus on something complex in front of it - that's kind of what it's like for Elijah. He hangs his head, he avoids eye contact...and people assume that the little man is sleeping or tired.

People also assume that Elijah is younger than he is. He looks smaller because his head is small and he doesn't interact like most twenty-one-month-old children. They assume that he's younger and don't realize that he has special needs. It's when they start asking questions that they start to wonder.

No one gives you a instruction manual on this. Sometimes telling strangers that your child has cerebral palsy is really hard, because pain is in those words. This is something I don't think the general population understands - it sometimes hurts to admit that your child has a disabiltiy -even if you've come to terms with it and even if it's obvious to those around you. You want people to notice what is awesome about your child, not the things in which our society deems as "special." Often, strangers don't get to see Elijah's smile or hear his infectious laugh and they have no idea the battle he has fought in this life thus far.

I'm learning. At times, I hear myself talk to people with ease. I explain that our little guy has cerebral palsy and I can hardly believe that I'm really saying that. I want to be able to answer any questions about our little guy with honesty, positivity, and grace. I know it's going to take practice. But sometimes I want to be just another mom out with her son on an errand. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Eli and the Sippy Cup

I asked Elijah's speech therapist a couple weeks ago if she had any advice about sippy cups. You see, Elijah can't yet feed himself in any sense of the word - not by picking something up, by using a spoon, a bottle, or a sippy cup.
5-13-09 5-13-09
Elijah can drink from an open cup, which is actually a really great skill (more advanced than drinking from a sippy cup), but he needs help to do so and is pretty messy. Not that we mind giving Elijah his drinks, but it probably goes without saying that we're a bit anxious to help Elijah learn how to give himself something to drink. That's why I was so excited to see Elijah put this sippy cup (called a Nuby) in his mouth. No, he hasn't given himself something to drink just yet, but I am sure that he will...and that is more than good enough for me. Watch the man in action yourself, but beware of the mommy voice, the questionable camera skills, and extreme cuteness.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Twenty-One Months…with Less Hair

"My mom took me to get my hair cut!" (So this is really just the expression he had when he was trying to attack my camera, but I like my caption better)
haircut haircut
In honor of Elijah's twenty-first month birthday, he got his first professional haircut. Oh, he looks so grown up now. And handsome.
5-14-09 5-14-09
I'm not partial at all.
Nor is Andy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things are Looking Up

Sometimes my every day life overwhelms me and I have to admit that I've been in a bit of a funk lately. It's quite the feeling of responsibility to develop another person's brain – and I think that can be said for any and all parents. But, when your child has a hurt brain, there is an even greater feeling of responsibility, stress, and anxiety over your child's development. We feel like our child's future outcome lies in our hands. I truly feel that what we do now will determine – to a certain extent - what Elijah's future will look like. With that thought, I am at times completely overwhelmed with this responsibility. Sure, there are things in which we have no control, but I never want to look back and wish that we had done more for Elijah. I'm thankful for God because I know that it's ultimately He who will heal our son. Even if I forget from time to time, having that realization eases my stress. It's nice to know it's not all on our shoulders and that we can look up to God for help, for comfort, for healing.

I have been feeling lately that things are looking up – in many ways. Elijah seems to be making progress and I find it so exciting. One thing he is doing more often is looking up when he's walking. I see him noticing the vast world above him more now than ever before. It's pretty cool to see him walking in our backyard, looking up at the trees. His vision seems to continue to improve, which brings more improvements in other areas. Last night, Andy started to walk upstairs to change out of his work clothes. Elijah, without missing a beat, started to crawl up the stairs right after his dad. Yes, Elijah has climbed the stairs before, but never the entire flight and never without prompting. It was amazing to see him do it and we're so proud.

What about the shaking and the waving? He has repeated both things! This past weekend at church, Elijah waved to people with some prompting (i.e. we move his arm first and then he continues to do it). And on Mother's Day, he waved goodbye to his grandpa and grandma, without any help from us. So exciting! Yesterday morning at breakfast, I was trying to feed Elijah, but all he wanted was his rice milk. I asked him if he wanted to eat and he started to fuss and then shook his head for no. I'm so thrilled that he is doing these things on a consistent basis. I can only believe that they will continue to happen more often and will lead to more communication.

See? Things are looking up – in more ways than one.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mommies!  Thanks for all that you do! :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Shaking and Waving

A few weeks ago, Elijah shook his head to tell me "no." He did it twice in the same day; I was ecstatic…and in typical Elijah fashion, he hasn't really done it since.

Then, this past weekend, Elijah waved for the first time ever. We attended a benefit for Elijah's friend, Brecken, and Elijah waved to some people when he was introduced. He did it three times and I was so excited by this new development that I actually cried...and in typical Elijah fashion, he hasn't really done it since.

What's so great about both of these things, though, is that they were so purposeful. He knew that he was telling me no and he knew that he was waving. I can tell by the sly look he gets in his eyes and the little smirk he has after we get so excited by his actions. I don't expect him to be doing either thing on command just yet, but it gives me great hope for his future communication skills. You see, imitation is a precursor to speech.

All the silly little things babies do naturally are so important for their development. They mimic, because that's how they learn and I'm happy to see that Elijah is starting to mimic. If you've seen Elijah recently, you've probably noticed that he tends to gallop around the room. That's because Andy taught Elijah to gallop; Andy galloped and Elijah followed – the very first time he saw Andy do it! We're encouraged by what the galloping says for Elijah's communication skills. While it's difficult for Elijah to mimic with his hands or his mouth, he is able to mimic with his gross motor skills – in the form of following his daddy around the house galloping. I continue to hope and pray for more communication with our little boy. I know he'll get there, but in the meantime, I do enjoy watching my two little "horsies" running around the house.

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