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!

A Day in Abigail’s Life

I cannot believe we have a two year old! This time two years ago we were attempting to go to bed to prepare for our early induction time at the hospital. In honor of my little girl turning two tomorrow I wanted to write about Abigail, but I write enough so I thought I would change things up though and write from her perspective. So here is a day in the life of Abigail from her view of the world!

“I wake up in the morning when the light turns on in my room, and I like to just lay there and make noises. Hearing myself talking is so fun! I say ‘da-da’ a lot right now, over and over. ‘da, da, da, da, da, da’ is all you will hear me say for now, but I can make other noises if I really want to. Eventually my mommie comes into the room, and I know she is going to pick me up so I am so happy to see her. I usually laugh because she is so funny and tells me silly things like, “Good morning.” What’s a morning?

Mommie takes me downstairs and sits me in my chair. She lets me play in this thing that pulls out from the wall while she walks all over the room putting stuff in front of me. I just like pulling stuff out and dumping it all on the floor. The sounds the toys make as they hit the floor are funny, and I know Mommie will pick them up for me. I love her so much I even share my toys with Mommie too as she pops, what she calls, Cheerios into my mouth. They taste good! Then Mommie finally sits down beside me, but she closes the thing with all my toys and makes me eat food. At least I like the food she gives me and I am hungry because I haven’t ate for a looong time!

Then it’s back upstairs to my room again. Mommie always says we have to get ready whatever that means. Again she walks all over the room pulling things off shelves while I lay on the ground and play with my toys. I like making messes and handing Mommie things. I can even roll over and grab things I can’t reach. Mommie calls it getting my wiggles out and I have lots of wiggly time now. Then that lady makes me take my jammies off, and she yanks all this stuff over my head and my legs. I feel like I’m being thrown everywhere so I don’t help her very much. But then the worst part happens – she takes this pink thing and rips my hair out. I like my hair just the way it is, and I don’t like Mommie touching it so I try to protect it as much as I can. I think I beat Mommie because now she doesn’t make me wear all those silly bows and hair ties anymore. I like touching my hair, and those things are icky!

Sometimes I get to play with Mommie if she doesn’t take me to the car first. My favorite things to play with are my basket of toys. I love handing things to Mommie and then we take turns kissing all my toys. It always makes Mommie laugh. I also love it when Mommie tickles me. My back and my ribs are very tickly and she knows it too! I laugh and laugh at that lady when she tickles me. Then she makes me do exercises, but I don’t mind them too much. And some are even fun like when I have to put these colored things in the holes. Or when Mommie gets on tummy time with me. I don’t like it when she makes me get on all fours and makes me hold myself up. It takes a lot of work and I get tired so I try to fight Mommie and she’s strong but sometimes if I fight enough I can win! After we play and exercise I get to watch Mickey Mouse and eat a snack. I just like the music, and clapping along but Mommie is always talking to the tv like Mickey can hear her. She is so silly. I just ignore them and play with my toys while Mommie feeds me.

If Daddy is still at home I get to go wake him up and tell him I love him. I love it!! Mommie lays me in the bed by Daddy and I start telling him all about my day. Sometimes he groans and I’m not sure why, but he always turns around so I can touch his face and blow him kisses. And no matter how far he tries to move away from me I just follow him over because I have to be close to Daddy. They always seem impressed that I can move to him, but I like being close to him.

Then we always have somewhere to go. Mommie takes me outside and puts me in the car. She always locks me into this huge seat. I don’t like being constrained, but the seat is nice and I know Mommie is somewhere with me because she talks to me as we move. While we are going around I talk and talk to Mommie. When it is just Mommie in the car I love to scream and I can get really loud too, but Mommie screams back at me! She must know my language because she is really good at it, but a lot of times I can be louder and she gives up. We stop and Mommie gets me out to go get stuff from stores or we go to therapy.

There is so much to watch at therapy. While Mommie holds me I watch all the big people and little people. I love the big people like Mommie and Daddy, but the little people scare me. They are so fast and I am scared they will hurt me. But I get a lot of compliments and I love that! I love being the center of attention. Then my therapist comes to get me, and I don’t like leaving Mommie, but I know my therapists love me and we always have fun too even if they make me do hard things. They always bring me back to Mommie and say I am amazing, so that makes me like them even more!

Mommie tries to put me back in my bed for some reason, but most days I just lie there and talk to myself and try to get out of this cage she has stuck me in. Mommie always tells me to close my eyes and sleep, but I am not tired. Then she calls me a stinkpot when I giggle as she comes into my room. I don’t know why she leaves me when all I want to do is play. She comes and picks me up eventually, and I tell her I love her. I like hugging my mama and touching her hair. She plays with me all afternoon and we go for walks outside where I scream some more to see how loud I can be.

We eat dinner together, and Mommie and Daddy don’t always talk to me because they are too busy talking to each other so I let them know I am still around. I told you I like to be the center of attention, and I know how to get people’s attention. I am just too cute for my own good I guess, at least that’s what they say. Mommie gets me ready for bed, and there’s that pink thing trying to rip out my hair again. But at least at night I get to snuggle with Daddy! Mommie reads me a story and puts me in my bed. I try to stay up so I can play more, but for some reason my eyes won’t stay open and then I don’t remember much until the light turns back on in the morning.

A few of my favorite things: I love people’s faces and hair. People are so fun and interesting. I love when my family takes me out places so I can just look at people, and if I really like them I reach for a person so I can touch them. Laughing is fun and I am perfecting my laugh right now by trying out different ones. Daddy says I have a great evil laugh whatever that is, but I just like seeing what I can do. I love pulling things out of baskets and bags. Mommie says for a baby who can’t move I sure do make a mess, but I think she is okay with that. I love fruit and bread, and I eat it all day long! They always try to make me touch my food, but why pick it up when they can do all the work for me? I can clap and I love clapping when people sing songs or I hear a beat I really like. Mommie also calls me a daredevil because I like to be tossed and flipped and swung all around. She also calls me a mess a lot because I have a lot of personality in this tiny little body.

I am happy a lot and people always smile at me. I have lots of family that I see a lot and they love me too! People say I am spoiled, but I know I am just well-loved by many, many people. My family and therapist tell me I am smart and I can do anything I set my mind too. They have helped me learn to do a lot of things, and I like learning. I am very excited to keep learning and discovering new things!!! I may be tiny and a little different than the other little people I see, but I love my life and I am happy to be me!”

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Well there it is in the best of my ability to write from her perspective. Trust me, if this kid could talk she would be full of fun and personality. She makes life fun, and I am so thankful God blessed us with such a sweet, joyful blessing two years ago. We don’t deserve Abigail, but we are beyond thankful and proud of her. Having a child always changes your life, but Abigail has changed mine and Jordan’s for the better. We love our birthday girl and are excited to watch her grow as the days and years go by!