Her Stubbornness

Stubbornness runs in our family. My grandparents were and still are entrepreneurs, making glass wind chimes now for over 40 years. Jordan’s grandparents are still active and going and his grandfather still works 8-5 at his job at 72 years old. The stubbornness shows itself in our parents as well. And goodness does it show up in us! We can never decide on who is more stubborn between Jordan and me because we are too stubborn to admit who is more stubborn. We are a mess! So then you have two very stubborn people make a baby, and guess what? That baby is as stubborn as both parents put together.

Stubbornness is often seen as a bad thing, and often it is. It prevents you from seeing the other side of the argument.  It keeps you from listening to wise council. It stops you from enjoying things you could otherwise enjoy. But as stubborn as Abigail is, I am very thankful for that quality in her. Sure it is annoying when you try to tell her no and she just keeps doing what she was doing while laughing in your face. Sure I would like her to actually do what I say instead of what Abigail wants to do all the time. And sure we butt heads a lot and I get very annoyed with her. But that stubbornness in her is what makes her a little miracle child.

Let me explain. So our journey all began at Abigail’s two month check up. Everything was great and we had a perfectly healthy little baby in our arms, except the doctor told us he was very concerned with her vision. We knew she had wonky eyes, but we figured all newborns had poor vision, well apparently not this bad. Here are some pictures from Abigail’s first year. You can see how she constantly looked up.

We saw two eye doctors and one neurologist at this point and none of them could explain Abigail’s vision. But by 18 months her eyes had corrected themselves with no help from anyone. Her eyes simply came down by themselves. We worked on some tracking exercises and things like that with her OT, but that’s it. Her eyes still get cross eyed and a little shaky today so that is why Abigail wears her glasses, but compared to how they looked when she was 3 months old her eyes look perfect.

Her stubbornness is vital for Abigail because without her motivation to want to move and play and be little Miss Independent she would not be improving. Yes, her therapists are amazing and I am beyond grateful for each of them. Yes, working with her at home helps. But it is Abigail who wants to pull herself around. It is Abigail who wanted to start feeding herself. We tried for almost two years to make that kid feed herself and she never would hold a scrap of food, and then one day I just laid some goldfish on her tray to feed her and she picked them up and put them in her mouth like she was a feeding expert. Until Abigail wants to do something she does not do it. I know she can get herself around and I try to make her pull herself if I just go in to the next room. But she refuses to move until she wants to.

I truly believe if Abigail has a will she has a way. If she is willing to work and move and play then she does. She has shown that these last few months. Her awareness and wanting to move around has come out of no where and now she scoots and pulls and plays like never before. I still do not know where the motivation to move came from, but I wish I knew! But when the day comes for her to be ready to stand on those wobbly little legs of her I know she will be stubborn enough to figure out what she needs to. I always tell people that for being one of the most dependent toddlers in the world, Abigail is the most independent little thing you will ever meet. I know that spells trouble for Jordan and me as she gets older, but for now I love that she is a little stubborn, independent little blonde headed ball of motivation.

 

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How Abigail Learns

We began occupational and physical therapy when Abigail was just 5 months old. At that point we had no idea what we were in for. We had no idea how our journey would proceed. We simply knew we had a little baby girl who the doctors were telling us was way behind in muscle tone. Abigail was our normal and still is. We had no idea a five month old shouldn’t be doing these things. Thankfully we had some great therapists who helped us learn what we should be doing with Abigail to help strengthen her little muscles.

Abigail has always been progressing forward but at the slowest rate you could ever imagine. The last time we went to see our neurologist she asked how Abigail had been doing. I was so excited to tell her about all of Abigail’s progress in the months we hadn’t seen her. But putting it in words seemed so dismal. “Well she can kinda roll over now and she is making more noises.” It just didn’t sound that impressive, but if she could just live with Abigail for a few days you can see her huge strides of improvement. But to strangers Abigail is still a two year old who can’t sit, stand, walk or talk.

So how does Abigail learn? How does she get stronger? Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. We have been doing the same things with her from the beginning it feels like. Sometimes things click right away. It only took her a couple of times to learn how to fist bump and wave bye-bye. Teaching her a new sign for sign language usually only takes a few times as well. Now she does not correlate that the eat sign means she is hungry, but if you ask her if she wants to eat she does the right sign so we are getting there. But feeding herself has taken 18 months. We have tried everything, and then one day out of the blue last week she just picked up her goldfish and ate it perfectly by herself. I am not sure why she catches on to some things instantly and other things she still does not get even though we have been working with her for months.

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Either way, we have to be intentional with Abigail. And slow. You cannot ask Abigail to do something and then walk away because she did not do it. Chances are she will do it as you turn your back. Her processing time is slow. So it takes her a minute to wave bye when you tell her to. You just have to give her a chance to listen and process what you said. I like this about Abigail because it has taught me slow down. I am a rush, rush, rush kind of person. Having Abigail has taught me to pause now and then.

Abigail is a smart cookie. I think my husband put it best. Abigail is more and less than meets the eye. Let me explain. When a stranger first looks at Abigail he or she probably thinks she is a normal child. Then I tell them that she has special needs and cannot sit, walk, talk, etc. So then Abigail becomes a special needs child who cannot do anything in their minds. But she is so much more than her disabilities. Sure she cannot sit up on her own, but if you ask her to dance, point, find her belly, or laugh she can follow your instructions perfectly. She understands what people around her are saying, and I swear she can sense people’s emotions. She definitely knows when Mama is leaving and her physical therapists has told me multiple times what an amazing little sense of humor she has. Abigail is pretty fun to get to know and everyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with her just loves her!

Abigail’s processing time may be slower than others, she may not be able to physically compete with another toddler her age, and she cannot communicate with words, but everyday she is learning and growing in her own way. At five months old Abigail barely even cared about the environment around her. She could care less about toys or food or anything really. But to see where she is today, even from where she was a year ago is amazing. She loves her toys and gets so excited when her therapists brings out her big bag of them now. She is ‘talking’ up a storm and is wiggling everywhere. Her head circumference is in the 94 percent tile (her weight is only in the 10th) and we always joke about her huge head. But maybe it is just holding all those smart brains up there. I love watching her learn and I cannot wait to teach her more!

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Communication Gap

Remember that feeling you get when your baby says his or her first word? That little ‘da-da’ or ‘mama’ (or ‘ball’ if your child is anything like my husband was when he was a baby), uttered in that adorable little voice! It is so exciting!! You just want them to keep saying it. Then they pick up more and more words until they turn three or four and begin asking you about two million questions a day. Then you look at them and think, “why was I excited that you learned to talk?” Communication is so exciting for children and parents alike. You can begin to see them learn and grow as they experience the environment around them. You begin to understand what they are thinking and what they need as opposed to randomly guessing in the dark. Language is a huge developmental milestone in a child’s life!

Abigail will be two and a half in November, and she has yet to say any words. Sure she says mamama when she is tired. She can say dada and ba and I swear there is a ‘this’ in there every once in a while. She does occasionally tell people bye when she wants. But that’s it. Da, ba, ma, and maybe a ‘th’ sound. Four syllables is what I get to work with all day. These four syllables are all I have to tell me what Abigail might be wanting or needing at any particular moment.

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She may not talk, but that smile is worth a thousand words!

From day one, Abigail was the most content baby you would ever meet. She rarely cried. But now that she is developing and becoming more aware of her environment she is becoming more vocal about what she likes and what she does not like. If she does not want something she is not afraid to tell you. Her whining is at an all time high now days, and I wonder if she gets frustrated with herself because the people around her just are not understanding her. She has no real way to communicate with us. We are teaching her sign language but it is a slow process because Abigail does learn a little different from others. Right now we love the ‘all done’ sign! But we also know ‘more’ and are learning ‘please’ and ‘eat’. I hope that she begins to catch on to signing and it will benefit her.

Thankfully I am with her most days, and I am pretty good at knowing what she needs or what she wants. I know her schedule so I can tell when she will be hungry or tired. Those are when she is the most fussy. But we have gone to the doctor for a quick check up on many occasions because I thought she may have an ear infection or be sick, and she cannot tell me. Usually it is a false alarm and she is healthy, but I would hate for her to be suffering and no one even know.

Oh I cannot wait for her to talk so we can have conversations. I want to hear her voice and know what she is thinking. I want her to be able to be happy or upset and be able to express herself. You do not realize how important communication is until the ability to have it is taken away from you. I do hope that Abigail learns to communicate. We have a speech therapist that comes to our house once a week. Ms. Keisha knows that Abigail’s communication (like everything else about her) is behind. She still is not quite to a one year old’s speech patterns yet. And teaching speech to a child who has never talked is difficult. It is a lot of playing and simply communicating with them. They learn by hearing and mimicking, so you just play and talk and talk and make silly noises hoping they pick up on something. My day consists of a lot of one way talking. I am very good at talking to myself it seems. But I have a little buddy who is hopefully listening to all my chatter and learning something.

Before Abigail I would have never believed how important communication is in life. The power of the spoken word is amazing. So often we take it for granted the fact that we have so many ways to communicate with technology, word of mouth, the written word. I am so thankful that I have my husband beside me through this journey, helping me communicate my feelings and being my support system. I am thankful that today there is hope that Abigail will learn to communicate with us too. Whether through her own voice, or signing, or the help of a device. I just pray her little voice will be heard as she grows and that with it she will honor her Lord, her family, and others.

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Abigail’s Fear

I am not sure what a typical two-year old is afraid of. Maybe the dark or having to eat veggies. But Abigail is not scared of much. She doesn’t understand that falling could hurt her. She doesn’t understand the concepts of sharp or hot or dangerous. Thankfully she cannot really get into anything so that makes our life easier. We always joke about one day having to actually baby proof our house, and hopefully that day will come.

But Abigail’s biggest fear is children. Kids are unpredictable and fast. Abigail does not have time to process their movements so she gets scared. Abigail’s processing time is S-L-O-W. She bumps her head and it takes her a literal minute to process the pain before she starts crying. While adults know to approach slowly and are usually relatively calm, kids are not. Every time a child approaches Abigail she instantly tenses up and starts shaking. If they are brave enough to touch her, she begins to cry. Loud noises or fast movement, like jumping on the couch beside her, can set off the waterworks too. Children are just too much for her.

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All of us…it’s hard to take a picture with three littles. Do you see Abigail’s face?

We spent this last week with my parents and they watch my two nephews during the day. Benjamin will be two in November and Jackson is about to be 6 months. I figured she would go into hysterics with the two boys. The first day my mom brought in the boys while we were eating breakfast. Abigail cried about five times while trying to eat. She is used to quiet because it is often just me and her, and two-year old boys are not quiet. Every time Benjamin brought her a toy or ran by her chair she would start shaking and crying. But lo and behold, after she realized Benjamin wasn’t a complete threat to her life she actually sat on the floor and allowed him to pass toys to her. It was a beautiful sight.

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Benjamin and Abigail passing toys back and forth. Yes, her hand is touching his. It’s a miracle!!

Then later Benjamin thought it would be good to give Abigail some love and that extra kiss was just too much. Abigail went into total meltdown. She even cried when little Jackson’s foot touched her as they laid beside each other.

Children. They are scary sometimes. They are loud. They are crazy! But Abigail just needs her a friend so she can realize children really aren’t too bad. I hate she cannot play with other children. She cannot run or sit. She does not understand playtime. For her playing is just emptying out a toy basket and handing you things she finds. Abigail still does not actually play with her toys. But one day she will have to go to school with these things called children. She will spend hours in a room with them. I pray by the time she starts preschool she will be more accustomed to other children. I know we have a long ways to go to get her to realize children aren’t scary. But the more she is around them the better. So here is to conquering fears, meeting children and having more play dates!!!

**And a quick shout out to Benjamin for playing so well with Abigail, and for loving her despite all her tears! We had a great time with you last week!!

The Simple Life

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We just went on a short trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee with my parents. It was just the three of us and them, but we had a great getaway. Nana and Poppa took Abigail swimming. We visited the park and rode the carousel, walked the foot bridge and got ice cream. Then we took a trip to the aquarium and the zoo. It was a quick, but full trip and we all had fun. But this trip, as going out to any place, always reminds me that my baby girl is not normal.

Abigail could care less about the fish and the animals. She was more interested in eating her food and hugging whoever was carrying her at the moment. She is a very social baby, and loves giving out those precious hugs. As much as Abigail has improved at noticing her environment and being aware of things around her, she still never even noticed that we were surrounded by new creatures and that we were in a new place. She had her family with her and that is all she needed. It is frustrating at times that we go places and she has no idea where we are, or what is going on around her, but then you see that little smile spread across her face and you realize that she is enjoying just being with us.

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At the zoo with Nana and Poppa!

So often I wish that we could do fun things with Abigail that she would enjoy. I wished while we were at the zoo to see her eyes light up as the birds and monkeys wandered up to the enclosure to see her. I wish she could stand up and run around so we would have to catch up to her. I wish she could communicate her excitement when that giant fish swam right by her hand. I want to be able to take her places like the local splash pad, and the children’s museums and things like that. I want to be able to cook with her and run around catching bubbles and drawing on the sidewalk. Oh I want these precious memories. My mama heart is often sad because I feel like Abigail is missing out on so much.

But then I see her smile as she gives me the biggest and best hug of my life. I see her excitement as I pull out her scooter so she can ride around the house. I watch her eyes light up when Daddy comes home from work. I hear her squeals of laughter when we take our daily stroller rides. And I watch her splash away as we float around the pool. No, the things we do might not be exciting in the world’s eyes. No, the activities Abigail enjoys may not be normal toddler activities. And no, we will win no award for an adventurous life. But our simple little life is good! We are happy and have a little girl who is so joyful, and for that I am thankful.

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That smile is a ray of sunshine!

Maybe one day we will be able to do these things with Abigail, but I am thankful for today. I am thankful for a little simple getaway with my parents. I am thankful for my simple days I spend with my little girl. I am thankful for her joy in the small things. I am thankful that I have these moments to treasure in my heart forever. And I am ever thankful for a little girl who is making her own path in this world.

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Abigail’s Special Ability

We were sitting on our front porch and we watched three little girls ride by on their bikes. She watched them riding by, giggling as they went. As they disappeared around the curve she reached her little arm out and I explained they had already gone. She just kept reaching, processing everything that had just gone by her. My own eyes filled with tears as her eyes kept watching after those three girls. My baby girl cannot keep up with those girls. She might never ride a bike or run around the front yard. As she watched those girls go I wondered what she was thinking.

A questionnaire I was filling out at the doctor’s office asked if Abigail’s condition affected her relationship with others. I had never thought of it affecting her before. She is such a friendly, social little girl. But as I sat there pondering that question I thought of how much she is affected. She cannot explore her environment as a normal toddler would. She cannot socialize with other children her age because they are too fast for her, and they scare her. Yes, she is cute and a show stopper in so many ways. Yes, she can get all the attention in the room quickly. Yes, she is a social butterfly and does not mind getting attention from complete strangers. And yes, she loves all people. But how does her disability affect her socially?

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Would Abigail be who she is today if she was not developmentally behind? It is hard to think of Abigail as being ‘normal.’ I cannot imagine her running around, getting into everything and talking to me in her own toddler language. Would her personality be as glowing and sweet? Would she be a calm child or one who is into everything. Would she be adventurous or cautious? I would like to think that she would be the kid climbing the walls and coloring the walls. She would be strong-willed and stubborn. She would be independent. Maybe I am glad to have a toddler who cannot move. Just the other night she literally poured out an entire bag of cheerios on the floor in a matter of seconds. I had given her the sealed bag to play with while I talked to Jordan. Neither of us were paying her any attention, and then we heard the Cheerios spilling out. They were everywhere before we knew it. That little stinker managed to open the bag and spill them all without even leaving my lap. She is a mess and a half and she knows it too!

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As we watch Abigail grow day by day I realize how long she is getting. Her baby-ness is disappearing and she is turning into a little girl before our eyes. Yet, every time I talk about her for the first time I do not mention her progress or her abilities. I always tell people about her disability. I explain she cannot sit up or walk or talk. Her disability is apart of who she is. I do not do this because it defines her, but because people realize something is not quite right and it is easier to put them at ease then make them quietly question it in their minds. Yes, her disability is apart of who she is, but it is not all of who she is. Abigail is a smart, spunky, independent little bombshell. She is hilarious and the life of the party. But because she cannot do anything independently she quickly gets overshadowed by everything else going on around her.

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I want Abigail to always remember this. She has the ability to do so much, and I want her to never think because of her disability she is not enough or not worthy. Yes, she will struggle. Yes, she will do things differently than everyone else. Yes, she will have things to overcome. But this will only make her stronger. It will give her a story that can only be hers to tell. Oh may her ability to do what she sets her mind triumph her disability every day!

Babies Grow Up

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Abigail, only hours old

Our sweet, not so cuddly, newborn baby we brought home two years ago is growing. Her baby fat is melting away, her hair grows inches everyday I swear, and if Abigail would stand she would be almost 3 foot tall now! I see the changes everyday – a baby turning into a beautiful little girl.

She is learning so much and is becoming interested in her environment around her. She loves people and will interact with any adult she sees whether we are in a restaurant or checking out at the store. Her joyful little personality comes out day by day. She brightens up a room, and makes people smile in her own simple way.

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One year old Abigail. What a cutie patootie!!!

If Abigail was your typical two year old she would have be jumping around and climbing into everyting. She would be an adventurous, that kid who is into everything and we would be exhausted at the end of each day as we try to keep up with her. Abigail is fiercely independent and stubborn. She is adventurous and a little dare devil. She has no fear of getting hurt, falling or being in danger. She is our blonde headed wild child.

When I lay her down in her crib at night I see her length has taken over her crib. Yet, she finds a way to snuggle all the way to the bottom of her crib with her legs always at crazy angles jutting out away from her most nights. I know it is going to be time for a big girl bed soon, and that excites me and saddens me all at the same time. This baby is turning into a girl, and we have so much to learn about raising a child!

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Trying out the big girl swing in the park the other day. She is still so tiny in it.

My little girl will always be my baby. So often it is hard to see her growing up because she is still so dependent on us, but I am seeing her grow before my eyes. One day she will not be as reliant on me. One day she will feed herself or get herself dressed and I will be a proud mama who will treasure these moments, but for now I will watch this baby girl of mine grow into a lovely child who will one day shine her bright light for the world. Right now though she is my innocent, sweet little baby girl snuggled up in her footie pajamas just sleeping away in her crib. Oh may this little girl grow into a godly woman with a big servant’s heart.

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I love sleeping babies!