Sunday, February 12, 2012

Brennan at 11 months

11 months! It has gone by way too fast. Babyhood is basically over for our little one. She grew up so fast. I can't believe that almost a year has gone by. I haven't savored it as much as I should have. Time just got away from me. But I love every minute we have with Brennan. She is such a sweet girl and I love her so much. Our kids are so beautiful. I honestly have no idea how I got so lucky. When I'm feeling down and sad about stuff, I just have to take one look at that little boy and little girl and it's impossible not to smile.

Brennan took her first steps on January 20. She was almost 10 1/2 months old. I was totally shocked. I figured it was a fluke, but ever since then, she has been doing it more and more. In the last week, she has been walking more and more. She still crawls pretty fast and falls down after a while, but she is definitely gaining confidence and walking more. She loves walking and hates falling! She is mischievous and gets in to everything. She still loves pulling all the pieces off of puzzles and she has been playing more with some of her toys. She especially likes the ones that make music and will dance to mostly anything. It's pretty cute! She still is holding tight with those 4 teeth. No new ones this month. She finally recovered from RSV and has been feeling good.

Brennan sleeps pretty well. Most nights she sleeps about 12 hours, but she is not the best napper. She usually screams when she gets in her crib but calms down in a few minutes. She sleeps great in the car, so I have started bringing a book along with me and I will sit in my car for hours if it means she will take  a good nap. She pretty much goes with the flow though and is pretty easy going.

We signed up for a Kindermusik class. Brennan loves it and seems to really like music like her brother. She squeals when she gets to shake the eggs or play a drum. She is the only girl and some of the boys are pretty aggressive. She mostly sticks right next to me which is fine. It's only a few more weeks and then we might try something else. I was hoping to just get her around a few other kids and this is a great start. We went to a friends' first birthday party at Gymboree and she took a long while to warm up. She was NOT a fan of the parachute which was something Conner loved as a baby! We also had a 1st birthday party at Lifetime. Brennan had fun hanging out with the big kids!

Brennan has started eating more table foods. She still likes baby food and I don't mind giving it to her because I feel like it's nutritious. She likes the squeezable little smoothies and will suck one down in 10 seconds. She loves pancakes and veggie burgers and has tried eggs. The latest foods we tried are rice and spinach pie. Both were big hits. It's nice to think that pretty soon, I can make one thing for both kids to eat for dinner!

She is doing great and getting to be a big girl. It's so sad that she's growing up so fast, but so rewarding to see what an amazing girl she is too.

Conner at 4 1/2

So Conner is 4.5. That happened a few weeks ago. It is so crazy to think that he will be 5 in less than 6 months. It is really amazing how much he has been through, overcome, and accomplished. I'm sure the big 5th birthday will be a big time of reflection for us. 

The last 6 months have been pretty big for Conner. I have teared up a few times thinking about how great this year has been for him. We have had to make so many decisions and with every decision, I think it will get easier, but it really gets harder and harder. I'm hopeful that this year we have been making the right decisions for Conner to help him to accomplish as much as possible. It seems so strange that life should be so serious in preschool, but it really is. I feel like the more we do now, maybe some day, we won't have to do quite so much.

The details are that Conner is now up to about 34-35 lbs, depending on the scale and his clothes. That means he is up between 1-2 lbs since his 4th birthday. Not sure where this puts him on any charts, but he's pretty good in that department. His height is good too. No worries there. He eats and eats. Some days, I have no idea how it's possible that my little man can eat as much as he does. They provide him a fantastic lunch when he goes to school on MWF's so on those days, sometimes he doesn't eat a ton of dinner, but overall, he does great. He no longer really likes macaroni and cheese or hot dogs but will eat them occasionally. Noodles aren't his favorite any more either, although he will eat them. He likes a lot of fruits, vegetables and cheese. Sometimes, I feel so strange feeding him what he wants for dinner but we do our best to get a balanced diet in him. The only foods he really does not like are chick peas and olives. No big deal!

He still loves anything to do with cars, trucks (fire trucks, dump trucks, etc.), trains, tractors, anything really that moves, he likes! He loves running around, playing outside, and horses. Conner loves being a big brother and he is pretty awesome at it. He loves playing with friends and he especially loves time with his older cousins and any other older kid that will give him attention! He loves music and has become especially interested in classical music. He likes singing in the car (and I love it too...hearing him sing his version of Honky Tonk, Badonkadonk is great! He is also a huge fan of Freeze Frame and We Got the Beat!).

Conner continues to be followed by a slew of doctors. The only ones that we see every 3 months now are the GI and Pulmonologist. That's mostly because they both prescribe medications. Conner made it through RSV and did okay with it. He ended up on 3 weeks of antibiotics because he just couldn't kick the sinus mess, but he did okay with some extra breathing treatments and inhaler. He will probably need reflux meds forever. He still has days when he spits up. Everything else is pretty much every 6 months to year and hopefully we can some day get rid of some more of them.

Conner is doing great at school. In fact, we just had his second parent teacher conference of the year. I am continually grateful to his teachers and his advocate (shadow) for providing Conner with such an amazing school experience. His teachers are so wonderful and I feel like they really care about him. His shadow is beyond perfect for Conner. As his teacher told us, they were made for each other. We were so unsure about school in August and now looking back, I know this was the perfect decision for us. Conner still has some goals to reach. Many of his difficulties at school have to do with his fine motor skills. This is his biggest area of weakness and a big part of schooling so we really worry about it. Fine motor skills affect writing, eating, crafts, dressing and undressing, etc. So lots of stuff that he needs to be able to do for school. He also has a very short attention span. At this point, it's hard to say whether that is just a maturity/developmental thing that will catch up, or because if things are too hard, Conner won't do them, or the worst case scenario would be that he has trouble actually learning. It is very possible that Conner has some learning disabilities and we will continue to be on top of this stuff to make sure he gets all the help he needs for school.

We still don't know exactly what we are doing for school next year. We do know that Conner will not be attending public school kindergarten yet. We are pretty certain he will be at the same school as this year and either repeat the 4 year pre-k class or do their kindergarten class (followed by a year at the public school kindergarten). It's so early to know where Conner will be by September. Noone can predict how much further Conner will get. He is picking stuff up, I'm just not sure if it's enough and we don't want him to feel overwhelmed in kindergarten. We will probably register him for kindergarten to secure him a spot and then if we feel he isn't ready, we will move him back to the 4 year old class. Right now, we are in a lottery for camp also (same place as school and same camp as last year). We have him signed up for 1 session in the 4's and 1 session in the big camp with the kindergarteners. Hopefully he will get selected for both and he will get to go to camp all summer. We are hoping that he will get to keep his most amazing advocate with him all summer too and we are pushing for her next year too. I can't imagine school without her. I feel like they have built a great relationship and I would love to continue it.

Conner has been on a good long break from therapy. He has been on a break from Physical Therapy since September of last year. We went for a recheck in January and we are going to go back again in a few months. There will probably be a few things to work on in the next 3-6 months, but right now, things are as good as they can be. Conner needs some time to grow and get a little stronger and hopefully we won't need PT for a long while. He's been on a break from Speech and Occupational Therapy since November when we ran out of sessions (insurance) for the year. We felt like speech was okay because he has been in a speech preschool and he gets speech at the public school. We actually went for a re-evaluation and he did well that it was iffy whether our insurance would even cover it any more. They ended up approving 24 sessions, but we are still on a waiting list. Our schedule is pretty hectic so it could take a while to get in. It is pretty incredible that our little guy who didn't start talking until 3 1/2 is now talking up a storm. He is called a chatterbox at school and getting in trouble with some of the other kids (the teacher thinks this is a good thing...I would prefer if he was an angel all day!).

Occupational Therapy is an area that Conner really needs. He was on a waiting list for a while and we finally started up 2 weeks ago. So far, the therapist is just doing some evaluations and checking out where he is, but already she has given me some great tips and we are going to try to get some ideas that they can work on with him at school. We don't really know this therapist yet, but hoping that she works out for Conner.

Conner is still a super busy little guy but it actually works for him. I find on the days that he isn't busy, his behavior is a little iffy. So MWF he goes to school all day. T/Th is speech preschool for 1/2 day. Tuesday he does OT and Thursday he does speech at the public school. That's just the serious stuff. We have been trying to make time for more fun stuff too.

This year, we started getting Conner involved at the Friendship Circle. But when your child is involved there, then it's just natural that we got involved too. Friendship Circle is such an amazing place and it has been such a great complement to all the other things we are doing with Conner. We just started a Sunday program that is 2 hours. Conner gets dropped off and picked up. He loved it last week and hopefully it will be a great activity for him. On Mondays, he has a Friend @Home. His friend happens to be a 14 year old boy who is a freshman in high school. Conner absolutely adores him and is so excited about his friend coming over that he sprints out of school on Mondays. On Tuesdays, we do another activity there. This one is just an hour, but Conner has two amazing volunteers that play with him and he loves it. The people there are so great and they treat Conner so well. He absolutely loves it. It is a place that brings out the absolute best in him and he is so confident when he walks through those doors.

Nothing is ever easy but with school and Friendship Circle, I feel like this has been a great year and Conner is making huge progress. My hope is that the progress continues and that Conner finishes out this school year just as great as he started it.

Happy 4.5 to our little super hero!
this is the best picture I could get with his 4.5 cupcake!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another Road Trip!

So we came home from Florida...we actually got home on November 27. Well, David had mandatory time off from work in December so we had to do something exciting! So we got back in the car and headed south again. This time our final destination was Texas. I planned a lot of our Florida trip and David planned most of this trip. He had us strategically stopping at such great places so we were able to visit lots of family and friends. We left again on a Friday night and the first stop was Dayton, Ohio to visit my big brother. Conner absolutely adores him and thinks he's the coolest guy (don't know why!) so he was thrilled to get to have dinner with him and see his house. His favorite part was my brother's drums. Scott has several drum sets (don't ask) and Conner was so excited to get to play on them. These are the real deal. Conner was actually pretty good on them and honestly would have stayed up all night if we let him. He continued to talk about "Uncle Scott's drum set" the whole trip. The only other thing we did in Dayton was grab a really good cup of coffee in the morning...and we were on our way!

Our next stop was Jackson, Tennessee to visit some of the Larson family. We haven't been to Jackson since before we were married. So much has changed since then. We were so happy to see the whole family and meet those two sweet girls. Miles is already 5 and Maddie just turned 1 and this was our first time meeting them.  They are both so sweet and we absolutely loved meeting them and hanging out with Anna, Frank, Katy, Uncle Rusty and Aunt Caroline. Conner was excited to spend time with cousins and Brennan was just happy to see another little person and to be out of the car! We spent two days in Jackson and had some great weather. The big kids actually got to play on the playground. Miles was a great big cousin and helped Conner out on the playground...and Anna was a sport going down the slide in some heeled shoes! 

Conner and Maddie

Miles teaching Conner a cheer!

Trying and failing to get a good picture of the 4 of them looking at the camera

the coolest mama!

the little ones

Our next stop was Dallas. We spent a night at our good friend Ashlie's house and 2 nights at a hotel in Dallas. We got to see a bunch of good friends and visit our old stomping grounds. We got to meet a few of our friends kids for the first time and they aren't even babies any more. We have been away too long! We loved seeing everyone and visiting so many places that we love in Texas.

Conner loved his new friend Ava..she wasn't as convinced!

The last stop before heading home was Austin to visit the rest of David's family and my cousins. We got to stay at Andra, Michael, Cheryl and Cayla's house (sister, brother-in-law and nieces) for a few nights. Conner had a blast having his "friends" around all the time. They played with Barbies, American Girl Dolls and Legos. Conner added a little Lightning McQueen to the mix but honestly he didn't care. He was so excited to play with his older cousins and they gave him so much attention, he would have played with anything. He completely ignored David and me most of the time we were there! We were in Austin for a few nights of Chanukah so Andra and Michael hosted a party for the whole family. Conner and Brennan got to spend some time with their grandparents and other Aunt and Uncles and cousin too. We got to go to a few places that we like in Austin too. I loved all the special time we got to spend with Andra and the girls (while Michael worked!). We went to the mall and ran around town together. Wish we lived a little closer. I also got to see my cousins Bruce and Jenny. Conner loved them too (I don't think he met anyone he didn't like on this trip!) and Bruce became a buddy pretty quickly.

We headed home on Christmas Day and took a few days to get home. We stopped at my brother's again and Conner got to play the drums one last time before the final trip home. Not sure when our next road trip will be but these two last ones of 2011 were pretty successful. The kids were great, we saw lots of family and friends, and we had a safe drive and fun excursions. I only wish we could have seen some more friends along the way.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Road Trips 2011 - Feb. 2, 2012

Well, since it's February already (crazy!), I think I am going to finally post about our road trips at the end of 2011. In case noone is reading this, I still want to write about it so I can remember that with all the struggles with all the small stuff, we had some fun times in 2011.

In the middle of November, we set off on a 2 week road trip to Florida. We left after school on a Friday, drove a few hours, drove all day on Saturday and arrived in Orlando on Sunday afternoon. We checked in to the Animal Kingdom Lodge (a special treat!) for our week long visit to Disney World and met up with our very good friend, Ashlie (Aunt Ashlie to Conner!) who met us there (from Texas). I'm not sure she knew what she was in for, but she was SUPER and amazingly helpful with the kids and it was so wonderful to get to spend a week with her. The kids loved her and Conner cried when she headed home! But in the mean time, we had a whole week with her...and with my dad, brother and nephew who also came with us. I haven't travelled with my dad and brother in a very long time (I think I was about 19 - so MANY years ago) so it was interesting. We were in 3 different rooms and we tried to catch up every day and have a few meals together, but mostly we did our own stuff.

Loved watching the kids hold hands!
The kids did great (pretty much!) in the car. Conner is a pro on road trips. Brennan took some time to get used to the new car and her new carseat. We switched her to a convertible seat and after a day or so, she did great. They also did great at Disney. We got a side by side double stroller (I recommend the Joovy Scooter x2 if you don't want to spend a ton on a double) and we weren't sure how much we would need it, but we REALLY needed it. By the third day, we needed it a lot. Conner was really excited and loved most of the things we did.

Ashlie and Conner

My dad loved showing Conner around was a trip we took many times when I was young
 We bought these awesome headphones which drown out loud noise and they worked wonders and I'm pretty sure they made our trip as good as it was. I actually bought a pair for Brennan too, but we really didn't need hers too much. Conner wore the headphones on rides and they really made him feel much more secure. He wasn't scared of anything. After a few times, on some of the rides, he was comfortable taking them off. He could still hear stuff with them on, just not so loud. His favorite ride I think was the Thunder Mountain Railroad. I loved Toy Story Mania and we rode that one at least 5 times! He LOVED the monorail and the train at Disney. Conner loved watching all the fireworks shows (with headphones!) and he got to get made up as a pirate with his cousin and he had so much fun doing that too (he adores and really looks up to his big cousin!!). He loved meeting the characters from Cars and having breakfast with Chef Mickey at the Contemporary and with the characters in the Animal Kingdom. We also had breakfast with some of the Disney Junior characters which was probably Conner's favorite meal - Special Agent Oso, Handy Manny, Jake (from the Neverland Pirates), and Little Einstein's. He is super in to those characters. But really, he loved meeting all the characters (especially Peter Pan!).

We were at Disney for the Christmas decorations too. Although we don't celebrate Christmas, we did take advantage of the extra stuff they have going on at that time of year. The Osborne Spectacle of Lights was amazing (the kids slept through the whole thing!) and the Christmas parade had all the good characters with an appearance from Santa which Conner thought was so cool!

Brennan did great the whole week in the stroller and being carried. She looked around at everything and took a lot of naps! I know it wasn't ideal for her but she loved the fresh air and being around all of us. Next time will probably be a little more exciting for her. I took her to meet the princesses. She wasn't scared, but not too excited about it just yet. Conner slept through that whole experience.

got a little freaked out and started running when Lightning McQueen revved his engine!

I did have some concerns on the trip about Conner. Brennan got sick but Conner seemed fine. He just got pretty run down while we were there. It's hard not to overdo it when you are at Disney World because there is so much to see and do. But it was SO hot and Conner doesn't have great endurance. We did have a guest assistance pass and I thought that would be enough, but we did end up needing to use the stroller as a wheelchair in certain locations (mostly Epcot) because Conner just could not make it any further. He was exhausted.

We definitely learned lots of lessons for our next trip to Disney. But really, the kids were awesome and had a great time. We headed from there to south Florida to spend a week with my grandma. We got to have Thanksgiving dinner with her at a swanky hotel. It was a long week because we were all tired and ready to get home, but it was great to spend time with my grandma and for her to meet Brennan for the first time. Conner absolutely LOVED spending time with her. She let him set the table with her, help her cut up vegetables for dinner and looked at books with him. She would say "abba dabba doo, I love you" (which is what she said to me when I was a kid) and Conner has been saying that to Brennan ever since!

The day after Thanksgiving, bright and early, we started the long ride home. It wasn't bad at all - except we didn't get to do any Black Friday shopping!!

All in all, a great time with the family! I have a ton more pictures...going to probably make an album on some site and make a link (some day!).