Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Snuggling Into My *Organized* Nest

I get a serious high every time I walk into my old office and see how clean and organized it all is... over the last few days I've been just wandering in and turning on the lights for no reason.  Hubs is tolerating this little burst of crazy with surprising good humor, considering how loudly I squeal every time and how I make him oooh and ahhh with me if he's nearby.

All of the cleaning and organizing we've been up to has inspired me to try to be organized in other parts of our lives lately.  I've finally finished Little Man's medical binder after oh... about four years of thinking about having one.  It is a 3 inch binder completely filled with information on every doctor's visit, therapy session, medical bill, and referral we've had over the last nearly five years.  Ideally I think I want to streamline it a little more and get rid of some of the older reports that are less important to be dragging from place to place, but for now it is done and going to be a huge help in scheduling and keeping track of what needs to happen and when.

I've also been being much better about our menu-planning and grocery shopping.  Every Tuesday night for the last month I've been sitting down (with Hubs if he's around) and cross-checking coupons and sales at our local grocery store.  Then with those in mind, I make a weekly meal plan and shop accordingly on Wednesday afternoon when all the sales start.  With our switch to more clean-eating and less processed food, we'd been slacking a lot with our couponing and we'd seen a rise in our monthly grocery spending.  Now that I'm taking the time to plan and do some basic couponing the night before each trip, we've managed to get our weekly bill down to the same amount of spending we'd been doing when we couponed, plus we're eating much healthier and I'd say about 80% clean.

Between all that and managing to get several of Little Man's major appointments scheduled and/or completed, I've been feeling like a champ lately.  I'm trying to savor this flood of energy while I have it, because I know myself and I know how easily I fall into a lazy rut if I let myself.  Plus, I vaguely remember being a complete couch-potato during my third trimester last pregnancy, and I'm not sure how much of that was laziness or necessity.  Back to work!!

Still in the pre-pregnancy jeans.  Gotta love "super-low rise" pants!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pre-Baby To-Do List Update!

The last two weekends have been fairly uneventful ones.  Usually as the weather gets warmer my first instinct is to SCHEDULE ALL THE FUN!!! and book us solid til the end of summer.  But between being pregnant and the fact that it has been over 9 weeks since Little Man has gone on a visit to Ex's house, we haven't been going activity crazy like we usually do.

We've actually spent the last two weekends cleaning house and organizing our lives.  It has been a tedious and exhausting few projects, but the results are making my inner-Martha Stewart ridiculously happy!  Our linen closets have been cleaned out and organized, bathrooms cleaned and decluttered, basement emptied, pantry moved and restocked, bookshelves built, and my office cleared to make headway on turning it into a guestroom.  Whew!  Typing all that reminds me that we have gotten so much more done than I even hoped we could have in just a few weekends.

There are still several projects we want to get done, but it is looking like we'll be able to finish the last of the cleaning and organizing in one or two more weekends at home.  Then it is on to decorating and organizing the nursery, which I can't wait to get to!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Typical Appointment With Little Man

Last week was hellish.  I over-scheduled the HECK out of the Little Man, and almost gave myself a nervous breakdown.  We had two in-home PT visits, a visit from our caseworker, a dentist visit an hour away, and then an orthopedic appointment that was two hours away.

Anyways, the dentist appointment was 15 minutes long, and his teeth are all fine.  I'm shocked that he hadn't worn his teeth down to little nubs, but the dentist assured me his teeth are stronger than I think they are.  But no cleanings until we are cleared by a medical doctor, since he has a shunt sometimes they are required to give him an antibiotic before a cleaning and I had never heard of that before.  So really I just helped the doctors hold his arms and legs down to count his teeth while he screamed bloody murder.

Between the screaming and the 2 hours of driving, I came home with a massive headache.  Hubs had not originally committed to coming to the ortho visit with me the next day, but one look at my face (and maybe a little pleading) had him changing his mind.

You see, I knew the ortho appointment would be especially painful because I was guilted into accepting a 9 AM appointment time after the receptionist informed me I was about 12 months late for our follow-up.  Whoops. Ugh.  So this meant that I was going to have to get Little Man up and out of the house by no later than 6:30 AM, because OH WAIT if you have a 9 AM appointment you are supposed to be checked in by 8:30.  Ugh ugh ugh.

Of course, the morning of the appointment there was a rainstorm and traffic that meant we didn't get to the appointment til 9:15, despite having left so early.  We got there and Little Man was weighed and measured, which meant that he had to start screaming and crying immediately.  They asked if maybe they could check his blood pressure and I just laughed.   (My standard answer is - "You can try whatever you like, but just know that he will continue to do this until you walk away and leave him alone.)  (They did not get his blood pressure.)

We waited in an exam room until the very, very old doctor came in.  He said nothing, just sat at his computer for about ten minutes reading the charts.  So of course... we said nothing.  Hubs kept looking at me like I was going to do something magical to get the appointment started, but he's a novice at these things.  I kept my mouth shut and the kid amused until the doctor finally turned to us to begin the appointment.

He had Little Man lay on his back and then stomach, manipulating his legs and feet like he was made of rubber.  Cue the screams.  The exam room has a giant bed for this sort of thing, so I flopped on my belly with the DVD player and held it above Little Man's head hoping it would distract him from the man-handling his legs were getting.  Hubs got the best job (ha. ha. ha.) of holding the flailing upper limbs.  Then we had to take off his pants and let him run around the room while the doctor and a therapist observed his walk.

More silence and chart consulting.  Of course, this was a little different kind of silence as we were busy trying to calm Little Man, who was apparently convinced that screaming til he was hoarse would mean we might leave soon.

Hubs then got to take Little Man down to x-ray for more pinning down and screaming (thanks for getting me out of that one Baby Vegas!), and I got to wait in the room with the doctor while he thought really hard and mumbled ideas to the therapist.  I took this time to show them that both his hip abduction brace and his nighttime leg-brace were destroyed and he hadn't been wearing them.  Because of the teeth.  He ripped the metal screws out of the brace with his teeth, and then chewed up the foam and rubber.  You think I'm kidding?

Nom nom nom!  Look closely for teeth marks and missing screws... :)

There.  Proof.  I exaggerate not.

So after the x-ray showed that his hips had shifted thanks to whatever limited wear he'd gotten out of that brace, they decided that he would no longer have a nighttime brace for his leg.  He'd wear a day brace and that would hopefully keep him from chewing it apart when I'm not looking.  We shall see how that goes, but I think it is honestly the only option for him right now besides "no brace."

Unfortunately this meant we'd need to cast his leg for the new brace.

If you're picturing a 38 pound four year old with incredible leg strength screaming and twisting in absolute terror while his dad pins him down in his lap and his mother holds back his arms... you're close to imagining the casting.  Just add a really strange (but very nice) man who is frantically trying to wrap quick-drying plaster onto one of the kicking legs and hold the foot flat while it set.  Oh and a freaking razor when it was time to cut the cast off the still-kicking leg.

Mother of pearl, it was not a good time for any of us.

By the time we left at almost noon, Little Man had screamed himself hoarse and eaten four packs of fruit snacks as "reward" for not climbing up the walls.  But it was over, and we were alive.  Hubs reminded me to make sure to schedule the follow-up appointment at a reasonable hour since I was no longer wracked with guilt.  Turns out, really old doctors can set their own schedules.  This guy only works from 9 AM - 11 AM twice a week.  *Sigh*  Til next time then.

This post is dedicated to Hubs... because seriously... there is no way I would have made it through that appointment without bursting into tears if I was there by myself.  Sometimes (rarely) I forget how awesome it is not to be a single parent anymore, and then crazy shit like this reminds me.

I made him some muffins the next day.  Muffins are always a great way to say "Thanks for willingly going through torture for us.  We love you too."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bed Wars - (And Forgive Me, I Have No Idea What Number This Is)

Little Man is a couple months away from his fifth birthday, and it is time to really, really, take away the crutch that is his crib.  We tried once before to take away the crib, but it just resulted in a few nights of terrified wakeups by Little Man when he discovered he was in his room but not in his crib.  Screams of terror at 3 AM for a week = parents relenting and putting the crib back in the room.

To recap the last few months of Bed-Wars... We attempted to make it harder for LM to get out of the crib by removing the springs that held up the mattress, and placing the mattress directly on the floor with the crib around it.  That didn't help at all.  A few months ago he perfected his tuck and roll technique and now can escape the crib in less than 30 seconds.  A shove on the baby gate and he was downstairs in the morning waiting to greet me with a smile on his face and destruction all over the living room.

So finally we resorted to what I really hadn't wanted to try - locking the door.  And when he figured out that he could use his teeth to unlock the door, we flipped the doorknob around and now it locks from the outside.  Which is actually safer anyways, so I'm not too upset about that, its just the whole "Little Man can unlock doors with his teeth" thing that makes me nervous.  His therapist was actually pleased to find out that Little Man is such a "problem solver", as it is a very nice developmental milestone.  But back to the bed...

As of Monday night, Little Man officially transitioned with relative ease into his "big boy bed".
Thomas Themed sheets for maximum awesomeness.

The bed looks cute and everything, and the white pads cover up the worst of the teeth marks on the sides as an added bonus.  But practical?  Not even close.  The only thing this bed is good for is a good starting spot for laying Little Man's head at night.  It is not going to prevent wandering in the morning, it isn't going to prevent him from getting up during the night and playing with the blinds and his latest obsession - the closet door.  [We're actually getting a lock for that door too, because all the safety knobs in the world haven't been able to prevent him from opening his closet.]

His case worker is now giving us doom-and-gloom speeches about how slowly government assistance works, and trying to convince me that I need to look into other alternatives to the Monroe bed that we have been working towards for almost a year.  I got a call from her after her latest visit this Tuesday for a follow-up regarding the bed, and had I not been playing Candy Crush to relax after a long day of therapies and home visits, she would have seen me fly into a blind rage.

What set me off was when she recommended that I look into the Nickel Bed, which I have known about since July of 2012 when we started this whole process.  Apparently while looking around the internet after our home visit a few hours prior she found out about the Nickel and was trying to sell me on how great the bed would work for Little Man.  So when I said I was willing to try the Nickel [which during my research back then I had realized would probably be too weak for Little Man's teething and ripping issue], I asked how long it would take the state to approve funds for this less expensive option vs. the $2k+ Monroe bed.

"Oh but THIS bed is ONLY $159, plus shipping.  So you can just get that one."

I'm sorry but what?  Maybe I'm overreacting here, but since when is $159 just spare change that a family of a special needs child with a baby on the way has lying around??  I know that you are doing a home visit, and things look nice and clean and my husband has a job while I stay home.  But how do you have the nerve to act like I can just drop that kind of money on a bed that I'm not even convinced will be a viable solution?  You don't think if I had thought we could afford to experiment with a "cheap" bed tent that we would have done that ten months ago???

While I know that she is trying to be helpful, I can't help but be angry.  I want to shake her and show her how hard we work every day to keep Little Man safe and happy, how much we actually have to spend to accommodate his needs that we can't get through any kind of insurance or assistance.  This was the one thing we knew we needed help with, the one thing we'd asked for help for - and to be just blithely told that we should buy the bed ourselves and move forward is so frustrating.  I wouldn't have jumped through the ridiculous hoops to get into this program if it wasn't for this damn bed, and now it feels like it has all been for nothing.  

Instead of flipping out and screaming in frustration at my cell phone, I calmly said we would not be purchasing a Nickel bed and we would continue to wait for the Monroe that may never come.  She seemed slightly taken aback by my not immediately jumping for joy at her plan, but then backtracked into discussing other things.

To be fair, it wasn't really just her assuming that we have money to throw around that had me angry.  Ex and I had a very intense talk last weekend about the same thing, and so it was already a sore spot for me when this came up.  In the time it has taken me to edit and post this, re-reading my frustration with her really is like reading a list about my frustrations lately with the Ex.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still annoyed with her.  But after some distance from the phone call and a good nights sleep, I am simply annoyed and not "raging" (as my Facebook status had indicated immediately after the call.)

So that is the latest bed update.  I'm getting up the energy to write about our latest couple of appointments, which were basically hell on Earth.  For now though, I'm off to watch the ten-thousandth episode of "Super Why", the latest household obsession.  Also a kind of hell on Earth.  :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ending Any Suspense...

What a profile!

Last Monday afternoon, we made the trek up to Baltimore for our anatomy ultrasound!  We were both nervous and excited - and split evenly on whether we wanted to see girl-parts or boy-parts.  Hubs was dead set on BOY and I was imagining frilly dresses and finally PINK THINGS!  Of course, we were both hoping for healthy and symmetrical brain ventricles, 10 fingers and 10 toes, and all the other cheesy things you say about healthy babies.  What?  You don't wish for symmetrical brain parts when you're looking at your 20 week ultrasound?  Trust me, you should add that to your list.

Little Man came with us, and we managed to ply him with enough Cheerios, Thomas movies, and fruit snacks that during the entire process, which took about an hour, he barely made a peep.  Even the ultrasound tech was impressed.  She had a student shadowing her who did some extra pictures of Baby Vegas, so we have about 7 pages worth of blurry alien anatomy photos.

But of course, Hub's favorite photo is probably the one taken from underneath Baby Vegas' little tush, where there are BOY PARTS looking back at us clear as day.  IT'S A BOY!!!  He told me that was the point that his nerves/excitement finally settled down and he was able to relax for the rest of the ultrasound.  I noticed he tried hard not to gloat too much, but he really couldn't hide the ear-to-ear smile very well.  To be honest, I wasn't too surprised it was a boy.  We'd only picked a boy's name, and I'd been certain from the get-go that as much as I was hoping for a little girl,  it would be a boy for my brother.  I am thrilled that I will get to name Baby Vegas after him, and that he'll always know the story of his amazing uncle.  If you knew my brother, you'll laugh because we're using my brother's name as the middle name - perfect for whenever Baby Vegas is getting into trouble, just like his namesake!

My absolute favorite moment of the day was after we knew Baby Vegas was a boy, when I looked over at Hubs and he was fingerspelling our new son's name.  My entire family signs and so we've been teaching Hubs during our Friday night family dinners... so far he knows his alphabet and a few crucial nouns!

My least favorite moment was being told that my ultrasound was extra-long because it turns out I have marginal placenta previa.  I knew the gist of what it meant fairly quickly, from years of watching "A Baby Story", but it still was alarming.  Luckily most cases of marginal placenta previa resolve themselves before delivery as the uterus continues to grow, so they told me to go home and not worry until a repeat ultrasound at 32 weeks.  I'm still a little on edge about it all, but trying to reassure myself that everything will be just fine.

So there ya go - it's a boy, and we're so very excited to bring Little Man's little brother home in 18 weeks!!  I've been going through all of the newborn clothes we have stored away and it's making me all snuffly and ready for the new-baby snuggles.  Speaking of snuggles, there is a big brother who is ready for naptime and trying to wiggle his way onto my lap...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What Is Being "Selfish" versus being "Smart"?

I've already confessed that my family is addicted to trashy television.  I am unfortunately the worst offender in our house, and adore watching shows like 'Teen Mom' and 'Real World' after Hubs has gone to bed.

The last couple of episodes of 'Teen Mom' have shown one of the moms, Kailyn, struggling with the decision to marry her boyfriend and possibly move out of state if he is relocated for the Air Force.  Right now (in reality TV world, which is months behind real-time) Kailyn's son spends about 30% of his time with his dad Jo and Jo's family.  If (and she eventually does) Kailyn gets married, it could really cut down on Jo's time with his kid.  Which totally sucks for Jo, yeah, I see that.  But what is making me all twitchy about the whole situation are the bloggers and recap sites whining that Kailyn is being "so selfish" for thinking of remarrying and leaving the state.  And there are plenty of these articles out there.  One of my favorite negative comments is that if you have a kid with someone you need to be prepared to stay near them forever - no matter what happens.  Really?  I can only imagine that comment comes from someone who has never experienced the difficulties of co-parenting through a divorce or break-up.

After three years of raising her son in a town where she has no family or support system besides Jo's family, Kailyn is leaving to marry a man who has promised to take care of her emotionally and financially.  She will finally be getting health insurance.  She will not have to worry about where the money for next month's rent will come from.  She will have that security for the first time since her son was born and Jo kicked her out of the house after their breakup.  How is that just a "selfish" decision? To me, this seems like the answer to prayer.  It seems like the best possible decision she could make for herself, and thereby her child.

I think her story just resonates with me so much because it's like watching my own life if it were scripted and dramatized.  When Ex and I split up, I ended up moving to a town 30 minutes north of where he'd eventually settle.  He was able to co-parent with me easily, we'd alternate pickups and drop offs and he even had a key to my place.  When I worked late nights he'd come over and put Little Man to bed, and wait til I got home to leave for his place again.  It was a nice arrangement, if you don't mind absolutely no privacy and the fact that the person that drives you completely bonkers is still spending 30-40% of your week driving you bonkers.

But up in this suburb of Baltimore, I had no family, no support system, and my job was relocated 45 minutes away.  I basically lived at the mercy of Ex and his mom (neither were working at the time) and put thousands of miles on my old car driving to them or sitters and an expensive daycare that sapped any extra funds I could scrounge up.  I didn't get to enjoy being a mom because I was so busy trying to make sure we survived month-to-month and that all our bills were paid.  In short, my life was a lot like Kailyn's, except I was a few years older and not famous.

When I met Hubs and he later asked me to move in with him, I knew it would change the relationship between Ex and Little Man.  Instead of seeing him 3 days a week, he'd see him every other weekend.  It was something I felt bad about, and that Ex initially resented.  But I couldn't deny the benefits it would bring for both Little Man and myself.  I got to take him out of daycare and start up home therapies with Infant and Toddlers.  I was able to take him to countless specialists and get the ball rolling on new ideas for his care.  I was finally able to discover that he was probably having a shunt malfunction for a very long time without us knowing.  I was able to stay home with him and work through the horrible stranger anxiety he had developed.  I was able to breathe and talk about my problems with someone who loved and supported me, and eventually get married, get health insurance, and start a family again.  I was able to get out of the constant negative cycle that single mother-hood had thrust me into, and I was finally able to be happy.  Best of all, I was finally able to be the mother I'd always wanted Little Man to have.

Is that selfish?  I can't imagine a single person calling it that, but maybe it's because I'm not a teen mom.  To me it seems like I got the lucky break that very few struggling single parents get - that opportunity for a second chance.  While in a perfect world of divorce, Ex and I would have been able to parent on a 50-50 schedule - it just didn't work out that way.  But if you asked him, I bet that "selfish" would be the the last thing he would call my choice.  Even though he was disappointed to lose time with Little Man, he knew that what I was doing would make both of our lives better.  And you know what?  When the time came that Ex wasn't able to pull his weight and help out with Little Man the way he had been before - I sure as hell knew that making the hard decision to change the way we parented back then had been the best option.  Instead of being completely screwed because of Ex's choices, the choices I had made for myself allowed Little Man and I to continue being healthy and happy.

Although I don't know Jo or his circumstances, one day he will also decide to move forward and make huge decisions in his life, after all he is barely 20 years old.  Those decisions will change his co-parenting needs, and Kailyn should not be forced to wait around to see what his choices are before she can make any of her own.  Someone had to take that first step to move forward and better themselves, and I respect that she saw a way to make a better life for her young family and took it.  So you can call her selfish if you want, but all I can call her is smart.  Because I see myself when I look at Kailyn, and all I can imagine is that sigh of relief she breathes every night knowing that she and her child are finally secure, settled, and best of all - happy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sleep is for the weak

I am already on overload this week, and my fuse is oh-so-short.  Despite my early predictions for a lazy week, it's been a stressful couple of days.

Monday night when Hubs came home we sat down to tackle the paperwork that Little Man's therapy coordinator had sent home with me.  Of course, I'd glanced at it in the office and tucked it away knowing that it would be a lengthy process once we got home - but I had no idea.  There were nine different developmental questionnaires, some of them several pages long.  One survey had almost 300 questions.  And 85% of the surveys were full of questions not developmentally applicable to Little Man. Many of the questions focused on his verbal reactions to things, which because he is non-verbal were fairly impossible to answer.  

Either way, they had to be filled out to the "best of our ability"... and so for 2.5 hours Hubs and I slaved away at the surveys.  Then we both crawled into bed and tried to turn off our brains for a few precious hours of sleep.  

Little Man woke up the next morning at five am, and then decided he would be awake for the day. Which meant I got nothing done til afternoon because I was a zombie.  But car insurance (I saved a BUNCH of money switching to 'married' and getting joint insurance with Hubs) paperwork had to be worked out, then Little Man was a hot mess because he refused to nap... til around 4:45 when he passed out on the couch for an hour.  Greaaaaaaat.  You know what that meant?  It meant that he wasn't going to sleep at night, no matter how tired we all were from our day.  

So even though Little Man was in bed at 9:30, he was awake til after 1 am.  Which meant I stayed up and worried that he was getting into trouble in his room, and was checking on him every half hour to make sure his diaper was still on and the stuffed animals were all still stuffed.  At 1 am I finally gave up and went to bed myself.  Well, I did after waking up Hubs and worrying that Little Man spending hours staring at crib walls at night is stunting his development.  Hubs sleepily stated that I am no longer allowed to read the internet and to go to bed.  

Little Man was up at 8 this morning, despite probably not sleeping much last night.  At this point, I can't really track his sleep accurately because I sleep more than he does.  I am at the end of my rope.  I want a better answer to his sleep problems than "lets just close him up in his room and he'll either sleep or not."

This all just means that today I am wishing for a giant cup of coffee, or a nap.   I can't have either, and so I'm cranky.  But life goes on, apparently I still need to grocery shop and make food, maybe even see a friend or two on their days off this week.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Truth

Welcome to April, the month where nothing happens and the weather is ridiculous.

This last week has been a whirlwind of activity - a couple of therapy appointments for Little Man, the Passover dinner we went to (the food was amazing, the company awesome), and then Easter which we split between Hubs' family during the day and mine at night.  For awhile it felt like we never stopped moving!  This week promises to be a lot more laid back, which I am absolutely ready for right about now.

Therapy has been going well for Little Man.  He seems to be liking the new PT, and she is willing to work around his little quirks.  You know, where he can't walk too far from the t.v. and he needs constant fruit-snack rewards.  We're down to maybe one or two mini-tantrums a lesson, which is a huge improvement from last year when the lesson was a giant tantrum the full time.  

At his behavioral appointment, his doctor seems pretty concerned right now for poor LM's teeth.  The chewing/biting/gnawing is out of control, and there is nothing we seem to be able to do to stop it.  He gave him another Chewy Tube which he loves, but it still doesn't distract him from the fact that everything looks so delicious nom nom nom!  Even with the Chewy Tubes and designated chewable toys, Easter weekend alone had him chomping on the following non-edible items;

* The side of the dining room table at the Easter brunch

* The decorative pillows on Grandma's couch

* The bottom of the one remaining sippy cup that does not leak

* The edges of his DVD player, and also the electrical cord that powers it

So we've got another appointment in two weeks to see the doctor again and talk about how the attempts at distracting LM from "non approved" chewing objects works out.  That, in addition to the miles of paperwork I have to do to prep for his IEP and therapy evaluations with his coordinator (I have over thirty pages of diagnostics and forms), setting up visits with ortho/hemo/dentist/pediatrician, and then my own appointments to follow up on Baby Vegas - whew.  I guess I really need to redefine "laid back"... at least for this week it means that most of this I can do with a phone glued to my ear, laptop on my lap, and stuck on the couch...