Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Blossoming Boy

Jack is making so much progress it is astounding. Well, so I am, I guess. Maybe I will start with my accomplishments first… I have well toned arms from carrying around toddlers. I can take a shower, get myself ready and get out of the house with 4 fully dressed kids in tow daily with 5 lunches, associated backpacks, clothes and neccesities in less than two hours. I can drive 3 hours each way to Palo Alto while entertaining a cranky two year old without crashing or going insane (it has been close, though). And lastly, I can put a Jack’s BAHA on him with a bike helmet (big challenge there).

As for Jack, it is hard to realize the progress until I am asked to quantify it. I took Jack to the California Ear Institute yesterday for a long day of appointments. First, we saw the speech pathologist. She was just incredible with Jack. She asked me to list the words he can say spontaneously (knowing the meaning and using them without prompting). I only came up with 4 off the top of my mind: mama, up, more and bye-bye. As we progressed through the appointment I realized how many more he knows. He can say banana, apple, peekaloo (yes, with an “L” in there – cute), no, on, shoe, eye, ear, nose, hi, grandpa, and I don’t know how many more. He signs 8 more words frequently. He has been with us for two short months and has been hearing English for just 3 weeks! WOW! It just struck me how far he has come in such a short period of time. The audiologist tested his hearing with his BAHA on and he again tested solidly in the conversational range, hearing tones at 20 dB across frequencies. He is hearing speech at just 15 dB – very clear! All the people at CEI were again amazed with Jack and he charmed them all. He was cooperative and full of smiles and gave out kisses (yeah, sloppy wet ones to near strangers) as we left. I have some great information on how to help him further and will probably seek some additional therapy for his drooling (which is likely caused by low muscle tone in his jaw) and increase our speech therapy to twice a week. Lastly, Jack was a star performer and slept through the CT scan that will tell us if he is a candidate for canalplasty surgery (allowing him normal, natural hearing). We will hear the results soon. A big relief that we were able to do this test without sedating him – probably the result of some prayers on my part and the good fortune of a fabulous, patient technician.

We (Jack and I) have had our first speech and language appointment with the school district people at our house last week. Lots of homework for Mom and Dad that has already proven to help Jack’s speech. They have made us aware of simple things, like how confusing pronouns are to Jack because we are referring to the same item using different words. Just try removing all pronouns from your speech for a while – it is hard! So, talking to Jack is now taking more effort, but we are already seeing the appearance of more consonents in his words.

Aside from all that, Jack and Jaden are getting along better everyday. Jack sure likes to pester Jaden and she just gets madder than a hornet! One day, she was pulling a blanket around the coffee table and Jack stepped on it. And so the cycle began; Jack steps on the blanket, Jaden screeches and tugs the blanket, Jack falls, screeches, gets up and stands back on the blanket. Repeat, repeat, repeat… Finally, I realized I was trying to talk sense to toddlers and confiscated the blanket! They have their happier, sweeter moments too and I will post some pictures here for evidence. They enjoy playing in the dog cage, squeezing themselves into boxes and baskets, and running around with the shopping cart full of important items while jabbering away at each other. Darby and Carter have gotten in on the fun and have been pushing Jaden and Jack around in the shopping cart, much to the delight of all. We have had visits from various family members, which has been really nice – we miss being closer to everyone, especially with a new little one in the house.

In the last month, Chris celebrated his 40th birthday with a trip with the guys to Vegas (and a cake with us at home),

Carter ran a car in the pinewood Derby, placing and impressive 4th.

Jack met the rest of his grandparents,

Carter played dart guns with grandma,

Darby earned an exemplary performance award at a Math contenst (sorry -no photo as I forgot my camera) and learned to sew on her new sewing machine with grandma,

So, overall we are very busy, but settling into a groove and adjusting well. I will post more when we hear back on the CT scan!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Parent-teacher conference

Well, today, I met with Jack's teacher to see how he is doing. In short, she is amazed at how well he is doing. Her chief concern is whether she should allow him to eat so much. She even asked me if we had talked to our pediatrician about it! She said he eats adult size portions and that he seems to want to eat all the time. She says he eats his whole lunch and then goes over to Jaden and gets more from her. I sort of forgot to tell her that he eats like the Jolly Green Giant. I guess we are just used to it. He truly eats almost as much as 9 year old Carter! I guess that would be a bit of a shock for someone new on the scene. Especially since he is so little.

She says she has to keep her with him on the playground because he is so little she is afraid she will lose him. She also said what a great help Jaden is to him. I guess she followed him around his whole first day and made sure to tell everyone if he was unhappy about anything. She asked to nap next to him and reminds them to put his BAHA on as soon as he gets up. Jaden also gives me a nice little report at the end of the day telling me what he smashed in his lunch and if he fell down. Very cute.

His teacher also says she was impressed that he pulls her to the changing table when he needs a change and signs diaper change. Oh, and of course he signs "eat" really well. We went over the signs and she has been using them and is impressed with how well he knows and uses them. She says he repeats things she says and does really well in the classroom. No surprise to me - he is a pleasure for her to have him in her class!

Jack's new best friend is the step stool. He carries it around like a treasured blankie and uses it to reach all the things that tall people have placed up high. I know soon he will be sitting on the island in the kitchen with Sharpies making new designs on the tile....

Photos added to last 3 posts

I finally got the photos to post, so they are added to the last 3 posts.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Belated Christmas Gift

Since the last post, things have been a tad bit busy around here getting ready for Christmas with 4 kids. We had Darby's birthday, a visit from Grandma and a Christmas Pageant. It was Jaden’s first year to begin to understand the whole Santa thing and also to understand that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday – a wonderful time.

Jack’s first Christmas - he did not seem to understand at all what we were doing that morning nor what all the fuss was about. He got a bike helmet and associated gear and was not really impressed – he does like the horn, though.

Jaden tore into her gifts right along with Darby and Carter. It was fun to watch.

We did try something new this year. Darby, Carter and I sat with a pile of blank thank you notes and wrote thank-you’s as we opened gifts. It slowed us down a bit and enabled us to focus a little more on being thankful. We had a hard time keeping up with Jaden, but Chris filled in the gaps there afterward. I think this will be standard procedure around here from now on!

There was also a bit of excitement around our birthday cake for Jesus.

I know many people are waiting to hear about Jack’s hearing. Jack’s appointment with the audiologist was on the 29th at the California Ear Institute in Palo Alto. We took the whole family for this important event. We went to San Francisco on Thursday night and stayed at the Embassy Suites. The kids swam in the completely frigid pool and enjoyed the snacks and the “fanciness” of the hotel. This trip was our first with 4 kids and our travel woes are now a reality. We don’t fit in a regular hotel room anymore and we don’t fit in a regular car anymore. I think there will be more stories about us in the Embassy Suites in the future…

So, in the morning we drove the rest of the way down to Palo Alto. The audiologist was really great. First, we tested Jack’s hearing with headphones on. Unaided, he is hearing 55-60db across frequencies. This is consistent with him being able to hear us – especially if we speak loudly and close to him. She explained the BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid) to us and then put it on Jack. He was very quiet when it was first on his head. He seemed to be concentrating very hard and a bit confused by all the new noise. He did not try to take it off at all. She then tested his hearing with the BAHA on. He tested hearing within the conversational range – about 20 db across frequencies – awesome! We then left with this simple little device that will change Jack’s life.

In the afternoon, we went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Darby, Carter and Jaden all found this place to be fascinating. We left with a membership! While we were there, Jack was tapping his head. I kept trying to figure out what was wrong. He wasn’t crying, but he seemed to not be happy. Finally, I looked at his BAHA and the volume had been turned down to zero. I turned it back up and he was happy again! Pretty cool. When we went back to the car, Carter leaned over Jack and said, “Hi.” Jack looked right back at him and said, “Hi,” clear as day. The “H” sound is very soft and we have NEVER heard Jack make this sound! Carter was thrilled.

Since that day, we have learned that the BAHA is a little finicky and will squeal with feedback whenever it is touched. Jack does not find this amusing and his head touches a lot of stuff unintentionally – he is, afterall a two year old. Things like the car seat, the back of the high chair, a loving 3 year old sister – all can be problematic. We are adjusting and Jack’s reaction to the feedback is milder now. We know better how to get it on and off without making Jack cry.

We have noticed that Jack already looks forward to having it on and will tap his head for you to put it on in the morning and after his nap – he likes to hear! His tantrums are definitely down in frequency and he understands us better. He has said a few phrases and the words he tries to say are clearer by the day. He wants to sit in our laps and have a book read to him more often and loves to listen to the noisy toys. He used to smash them up against his head to hear them. He tried that the first few times out of habit and hit the BAHA – SQUEAL! Ouch! He doesn’t do that anymore… This morning he pointed to a toy and said, “Gimme.” He says “Uh, oh” when something drops instead of “uh, uh.” It is just a million little things that add up to AMAZING. We are enjoying our belated Christmas gift beyond belief.

For some reason, my photos will not load - so you will still have to wait for photos!