Ezra,  Family,  Fatherhood,  Little Brother,  Momma Goes Back to School,  Motherhood,  Special Needs Parenting

A very long life and family update (with lots of pictures!)

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I’m so glad that January is almost over, aren’t you? Honestly, though, it’s been a good month for our family, considering it was January.

We started off the year with a beautiful 8-or-so inches of snow. A real treat for North Carolina. If you like snow.

A very long life and family update (with lots of pictures!)

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A very long life and family update (with lots of pictures!)

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This means that what was supposed to be our first full week of school after Christmas break ended up being a 2-day school week. This time, I was prepared. I didn’t throw any snow day temper tantrums. I just dug in and dealt with it.

Thankfully, with the improvements Ezra has been making behaviorally and the fact that his toddler brother is now a lot more entertaining, our days weren’t that difficult. We have a lovely basement playroom that’s cut off by baby gates. Now the boys can go down there and have free-reign because they are both old enough that I don’t have to watch over them every minute. This, my friends, is a serious game-changer. Yes, I check on them frequently. Yes, there are still the rumblings of sibling squabbles and the times the baby bonks his head of screams because Ezra takes his toy away. But, for the most part, I can send them downstairs to play and get some time to myself. Which, for this introvert mama, is SO needed.

The hardest part about the three snow days was that they coincided with my first three days of my heaviest semester yet. And, since online classes don’t get snow days…

I’m taking 12 credits this semester, but I’m trying something new. Two of the 3-credit classes (Psychology and Introduction to Ethics) are half-semester modules that I’ll be taking back-to back. The pro of this is that I’m only taking three classes right now, not four. The con of this is that these two courses squeeze 16 weeks of work into 8 weeks.

So, normally, when I log in the first week of school, there’s a week to get your footing, start reading, blah blah blah and assignments are due the following Monday. But, with my Psychology class, my first assignment was due at midnight on the second day of classes. Needless to say, that first week was quite a bit overwhelming, considering both boys were underfoot.

Aside from Psychology and Intro to Ethics, I’m taking Elementary Spanish and Case Management. I’m honestly surprised at how much Spanish I remember from high-school. I took two years and it was my best subject. It’s coming back quickly, and I’ve already started dreaming in Spanish again! My Case Management class is very enjoyable, although also a lot of work.

I figure if I can get through this heavy semester, I’ll be able to take it a little easier in the future. Little Brother is needing more attention these days (hello toddlerhood!) and I know that when he hits two, all bets are off!

I’m very thankful for my YMCA membership, because, without it, I don’t know how I would ever get schoolwork done. I utilize my two-hour limit of childcare several times a week to be able to work on schoolwork while not feeling like I’m neglecting Little Brother.

Which brings me to week three of January. My second week of school. Ezra was out for MLKJR day, but then had a 4-day school week. It would have been fabulous had LB not come down with a bad case of diarrhea.

Honestly, I’m still not sure what’s going on with him. He had no other symptoms, but I kept him home in case it was some sort of tummy virus. (Thus, another week of trying to do school work with kids underfoot.) I finally took him to the doctor, and she wasn’t convinced it was a virus either. We’ve been dealing with chronic constipation that we’ve been treating with suppositories and long sessions on the potty. She sent us for an x-ray to see if there was a blockage. The x-ray didn’t really show anything, and the diarrhea finally cleared up and now we are back to mild constipation. We have a repeat x-ray next week.

Other than the constipation (and accompanying diet-experimentation issues), and trying to transition him off the bottle and pacifier, Little Brother is just a giggly ball of toddlerhood. He’s starting to show more will and has developed quite a shocking scream when he doesn’t get his way, but he is still mild and sweet most of the time. He plays very well independently. He can count to five. His vocabulary is probably nearing 50 words (I haven’t counted), and he’s communication his wants and needs with words and pointing. His comprehension is incredible as well. If I say, “Let’s go dry your hair!” He will walk to the bathroom without any direction! He is highly observant and constantly mimicking our behaviors (such as trying to brush his teeth or hair, feed himself, buckle the buckles on his high chair, play cars and trains like Ezra, etc.).

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He loves his Mee-Mo (Elmo) which is a hand-me-down from Ezra. He also loves to watch Doo-Doo (Thomas), take baths, look at books, and play with Ezra.

His fine motor skills are incredible, which I feel like is very much new territory for me as a mom. He tried to put apple pieces in his straw the other day.

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And, when I threw an empty baby soap bottle into the tub for him to play with, he spent the better part of ten minutes screwing the cap on and off. I was so proud of him. Until yesterday, when we were at CVS and he did the same thing with a full bottle of baby soap – spilling it all over himself, the cart, and the floor.

I see so much of myself in him. He is introverted, yet not shy. Determined. Highly attentive to detail. Driven to accomplish tasks.

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Because of how drastically different my babies are, I spend a lot of time feeling like a first time mom all over again. I spend a lot of time in awe of this little guy and what he can do. It really serves to highlight just how far back Ezra’s “deficits” (for lack of a better term) go. I’m no longer struggling with grief about it though. Little Brother has been such a healing force for our family, and I’m learning how to love these boys as individuals. I compare them a lot in my mind (just because it’s fascinating to me how different they are), but seeing how well their strengths and weaknesses have rounded out our family. I have to love them and mother them so differently, and I’m finally okay with that.

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Ezra is doing pretty good these days. January is always a difficult month for him behaviorally, so we are seeing an increase in meltdowns. But, we are handling it so well. We increase his medication again at the beginning of the year, so now he’s getting meds at lunchtime at school, and then at home at four. This is working out SO much better, because he’s not rebounding at family dinner time and he’s falling asleep with less of a fight.

In school, he’s now in a class of seven K-2nd graders. We had his IEP meeting in December and it went SO well. This social-behavioral support setting has been so great for him, but I was terrified that they would want to mainstream him for first grade. They let us know that he will be able to remain in this class indefinitely as a “home base,” while they slowly integrate him into the general education population one subject at at time. Currently, he has a Kindergarten class that he’s assigned to. He is with them for lunch, specials, and recess. We were able to meet his Kindergarten teacher at his IEP meeting and she said that he’s making friends in the class!

His academics are OFF THE CHARTS, and they are honestly just trying to keep up with him. This coming week week they are going to start inclusion with him for science and social studies. They are aiming for about 50% inclusion time by the beginning of first grade, but that is all completely dependent on how he does. They are not going to rush this process.

Can I tell you what a relief that is for us as parents? During Ezra’s preschool years, he was in four separate learning settings. While each transition was necessary, each time it was highly disregulating for him. We are so glad that he is going to have consistency for the considerable future.

At home, we are using the same behavior system that they use at school. It’s simple and consistent. We have four rules for him at home that all behaviors fall under. (I have a blog post on that in the drafts – I’ll get to it eventually!) We still have meltdowns and defiance, but we are in such a good management routine, even our worst days now pale in comparison to what life used to be like for our family.

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He sees a licensed professional counselor 2-3 times a month and has OT in-home once a month. Our OT is working with him on grooming (toenail cutting is still torture) and family dinnertime. We’ve seen a vast improvement on his acceptance of non-desired foods. Since he started with this OT, we’ve been able to add carrots into his diet on a regular basis. He’s also tried soup, rice, tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes! He’s also improved in his ability to sit at the table and use his manners. The change in when he’s getting his meds has also helped with that.

I feel like him and I have made strides in our relationship. I still often find it really difficult to connect with him. He overwhelms me so much – all the questions, the non-stop noise, his constant need for attention – it’s so draining.  So, I’m trying to end each day by cuddling with him in bed for maybe 10 minutes.

I used to do this, but I found that no matter how long we cuddled it was never enough and he would still end up melting down. Now, he’s so much more accepting of the routine. I will let him know I have to go, we will hug and kiss, and then he’s fine. It’s been such a sweet time for us, and so healing to my mommy heart. No matter how I have failed him during the day, I always feel like a rock-star mom while holding him close, rubbing his hair, and kissing his little boy cheeks.

attachment parenting

Across settings, he’s also doing well. We have mostly positive reports from church, and our family was able to eat out again last weekend! Eating out with a special needs kids is really a big deal, and we were so proud of how well he did!

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Honestly, it’s been such a nice reprieve to have things be so low-key with him. To not have to rush to multiple therapies a week. To be able to have him come home after school and just play outside like a “typical” kid – climbing trees and riding bikes.

Although his Daddy wasn’t too fond of the time I let him do this…

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Daddy is doing okay. January has brought him some extra anxiety related to his job. The bus schedules changed at the beginning of the year, so he’s had to alter his work schedule a bit. This means that he’s leaving the house to catch the early bus generally before the boys are awake, but he’s home just after 4PM! Honestly, I love it. Mornings have always been incredibly stressful for our family because none of our meds have kicked in. I think things go so much more peacefully when he’s not around trying to get out the door while I’m trying to move Ezra through his morning routine. Since he’s home earlier in the evening, he still gets time (and better quality time) with both of the boys.

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Some of his job stress was related to his pursuit of a promotion – which he GOT! I am so proud of him. He doesn’t really want me discussing this any further, but it is going to be a good change for our family. His pay has already jumped up one pay level. However, it will be a hard transition for our family because of the nature of this new position. He will have to go through some serious training throughout the spring, including being away from home for five weeks. He’s going to have to take in a lot of new information, which he is incredibly apprehensive about.

Thus, his anxiety levels have been higher – his fuse shorter. This time, though, it was expected. I knew what was happening, why it was happening, and how to best deal with it.

LB continues to be healing and stabilizing for him. He is SUCH a Daddy’s boy!

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Besides school and family, I’m staying very busy these days (as always)! I’m trying (rather unsuccessfully) to shed some weight. But, I’m learning a lot. I am loving Julie Stubblefield’s Facebook page which is geared at helping moms learn to love their bodies and NOURISH them. As my dietary issues and IBS is a rather complicated thing (I could write another whole post about that as well), I’m currently staying off of ALL diets and just eating what I want, when I want. I’m trying to focus on ADDING healthy foods to my diet rather than subtracting unhealthy (or trigger) foods.

On top of working out at the YMCA a few times a week, I’m doing workouts at home. It works out well because LB can just wander around the basement while I workout…or belly slam me while I’m doing crunches. Whatevs.

While I may not be losing weight, and I may not hit my goal for the year of losing 30 pounds, I’m okay with where I am right now. I’m making positive changes and moving in a good direction. And right now, that’s enough.

Finally, I’ve been obsessing a bit too much about my blog’s social media pages. Yes, PAGES.

In December, I joined a Facebook group for how to massively grow a Facebook page. I have learned SO MUCH that has been really awesome at improving my reach and engagement. I also purchased THIS e-book which has been even MORE helpful, because the strategies there fit my niche a little bit better.

The strategies in the group are all about really hitting your niche. As I have several niches, I made the decision to split my Facebook page into three pages. One for special needs. One for faith. And then keeping my main page for motherhood and family (primarily), marriage (secondarily), and everything else. This has allowed me to reach more people, because not everyone who follows me is a special needs parent or interested in a messy faith journey. I’m able to continue to encourage the special needs audience without overwhelming my greater following.

The strategies in the e-book though were what are really impacting my reach. And it’s been so simple. So simple that I don’t know why I haven’t been doing this all the time. Wanna hear my secret?

I’m talking to YOU. I’m asking YOU questions. I’m connecting with YOU. I’m caring about YOU. I’m encouraging YOU.

My reach is going up because I’m turning the focus off of myself and my story and actually reaching out to people – which is what I should have been doing all along. You see, now I know which of my readers is a working-mom who works at an apartment complex and which of my readers has kids dealing with RSV this week. I know who is sleep deprived and who has teenagers.

When you talk to people…hello…they talk back. When they talk back, Facebook notices. So Facebook decides to play nice and keep putting my stuff out there to the people who want to read it. Everyone is winning. The end.

If you are following and had no idea about my new pages, I do invite you to like them.

FACEBOOK beautiful messy faith

While this is definitely more work (especially when I’m in the stage of growing my offshoot pages), I think in time it will even out. I’ll be able to encourage more people and make Facebook work for me and my readers.

Phew. Are you tired? I’m tired. I’ve been working on this post since 7AM and my family really needs me to spend the rest of the day with them, so I’m out! Thanks for reading and following along our family journey! I love you all! 

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