Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vision Specialist

We had a visit from Chloe's new vision specialist (VIS) yesterday. We're receiving her services through the same Help Me Grow program that provides us an early intervention specialist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist. They all come to our house, which is fantastic, and they're all great ladies. I was skeptical about how much assistance the vision specialist would provide. Chloe's not blind and, in fact, the vision in her right eye is pretty good.

My skepticism was banished within the first 5 minutes of her arrival. The VIS is visually impaired herself and, therefore, has first-hand knowledge of the needs of visually impaired children. She sat on the floor to play with Chloe and immediately noticed that, when sitting up, Chloe held her arms out/down (sort of forming an upside-down V) with her palms facing the ground. Chloe has been sitting up for quite a while now and seems pretty stable to me. But, when the VIS presented a toy Chloe's arms were down in this protective position. She explained to me that Chloe doesn't have the depth perception to look at a toy and feel confident about not falling. This explains so much!!! Chloe can sit just fine but prefers to crawl around and play with toys while laying on her tummy or back. She recommended that we give Chloe extra sitting support when we do vision play or just want her to hold and look at toys while sitting up. This will give her the opportunity to focus on the toy in front of her without worrying about falling to the side. We'll bring the Bumbo and the Boppy back out for this. I found this insight just fascinating!

She also noticed that Chloe tilts her head to the side when regarding a toy. That's because Chloe's eyes don't usually work together. (Remember that there's a huge discrepancy in the vision of Chloe's eyes.) She'll track with either eye but will usually prefer the right eye. We did notice her regard a toy with both eyes a few times so that's encouraging. We're going to start presenting toys from her left so she has more practice looking with her left eye and we'll pay close attention to the tilt to notice when she's using one eye or both.

She also did an acuity test to determine that Chloe can see an object that's 3 inches in size from about 20 inches away. This is something for us to keep in mind during play.

Some other suggestions were:
-Consider a tactile program to give Chloe more information and body input.
-Practice putting objects in and out of a container so Chloe can practice looking into something.
-When presenting a toy at midline (centered in front of her face) give her time to use her eyes together.
-Practice carpet to carpet transitions (crawling from one surface to another). She may have trouble determining the depth of a new surface.

A great visit. I'm so glad I agreed to her services! My hope is that, by following her advice, we can improve Chloe's ability to use her eyes together and avoid inappropriate habits (like the head tilt) that could affect her physically* and socially** in the future.

*The body is meant to be in alignment. A constant head tilt throws of that alignment and can cause pain and require surgery in the future.
**People think it's weird when someone constantly tilts their head to one side.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Brewmeister Dave!

Dave is brewing beer! He started his first batch a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday he transferred his Irish Red Ale from one carboy to another for its secondary fermentation. I bought him his brewers kit from a company called Northern Brewers. It came with a video. After watching the video we decided that you have to be a major nerd to brew beer. At least, that's what the video implies. Well, Dave may be a big ol' nerd. But at least he's a hot one!

Here's the beer in its original carboy. See all the gunk at the bottom? There's a name for it but I'm not a beer nerd so I couldn't tell you what it is. He needs to move all the beer from this carboy to another one and leave the gunky stuff behind.
Gravity is doing its job and he has to make sure the beer doesn't splash into the second carboy. Air is bad for beer.

You can really see the transfer happening in this shot. And check out Dave's tattoo. He got it last year on our anniversary. The moon is for me because Cynthia was the greek goddess of the moon and there are two stars above the moon for Chloe and Leila. (He has a big sun on the other arm for Solana).

First Trip to the Mall

We went to the mall with Angela and her girls last Monday. It wasn't a big deal - just a way to get out of the house on a cold winter day. We listened to a kid's band for about 5 minutes but they were kind of lame so we all tagged along while Angela shopped. I pretended to be "cool mom" and let the girls run and scream like banshees through the junior clothes at JCPenny while Angela was in the dressing room. (We were the only ones there - that's what made me cool vs. obnoxious ;-) The best part was probably the Cinnamon Chai Tea Lattes from Saxby's (we're slightly obsessed with them). It was an unexceptionally really nice time. But the main reason I'm posting this is because I just realized that this was Chloe's first trip to the mall. Yay for Chloe!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Poopie Contact...Literally

Last Saturday morning started out with an unexpected speed bump. As I was putting Chloe's contact in her eye I dropped it! Well, I guess it would be more accurate to say that Chloe punched it out of my hand. She's learning a thing called willpower and, while it's a great developmental stride, it does affect contact placement and removal. There's a tad bit more wrestling involved these days...

You should see us. Chloe laying on her back. Me next to her with my right leg across her chest and pinning down her left arm. My other leg pinning down her right arm. Both hands prying her eye open and simultaneously place her contact in her eye. One of my less than graceful moments. And somehow - with all those body parts in play Chloe managed to free her left arm and punch the contact out of my hand. I looked around but couldn't find it. And OF COURSE this was the one time I didn't pull all the sheets back to work on a clear flat surface.

Dave came to help look and as we were searching the sheets and Chloe's pajamas she gagged. I immediately sat her up and finger swept her mouth as far back as I could. Nothing. Then she gagged again and swallowed. I was a mess. "This isn't happening. This isn't happening. This isn't happening."

I was thinking about the fact that it was Saturday and, once again, we found ourselves without a backup contact. She would be blind all weekend. I called the optical shop to find out if they were open. Her backup lens had just arrived the day before and they're only open one Saturday a month. Then Dave snapped at me, "Don't call the optical shop! Call her doctor. She swallowed a foreign object!" Then a flood of fear swept over me. Of course! What was I thinking?!?! All the sudden I envisioned the hard contact trying to make it through her small intestines, getting stuck on the scar tissue from her formerly ruptured bowel (you know, the one at 19 days old that they told us she probably wouldn't survive), and ripping it open. We called the pediatrician and spoke to the nurse who would talk to the doctor and call back. I considered the castor oil in my pantry as we waited. Shouldn't we make her throw up? The doctor called back and said it should pass just fine. Don't feed her anything unusual.

Saturday came and went. Sam and Sophie were here to distract us from worrying. Sunday she had two BM's and voila! The contact was in the second one! Chloe seemed just fine and the wait was over . Yahooo!!! I'd never been so happy to be covered in poop in my life. WHAT a drama!

The following picture is for documentation purposes only. I want to have this when I print this into a book so Chloe and Solana can't say, "No way! You did NOT do that!" It's pretty gross so you probably don't want to scroll down and look. Just warning you... (I'll even thoughtfully make the thumbnail small just in case you accidentally scroll past it. That's how considerate I am.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chloe's Coming Home Day

Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of Chloe's long awaited arrival home. I remember that day so well. It was MLK day. Dave was home from work and we were working furiously to get the house ready. Every speck of dirt and dust had to be removed. We had an argument because I was freaking out about the temperature in our bedroom. It had to be a perfect and steady 72 degrees F (like the NICU) and Dave was having trouble making that happen. He put a space heater in our room and even had our furnace replaced. As it turns out, heating a 60's era house is not an exact science. Somehow Chloe survived and suffered neither heat exhaustion or hypothermia. Heck, she didn't even lose weight from her body working SO hard to keep it's temperature up. Whadoyaknow. Poor Dave puts up with a lot sometimes. (Side note: He gets a lot in return! Hehe)

It's weird to think Chloe's only been here for one year. It seems like she's been here for much longer than that! Some people comment that "the first year just flew by!" I remember asking Dave, at Chloe's first birthday, if the first year seemed to go quickly or slowly. We both agreed that it was both. But now I'm thinking of her first year at home and it seems like the past year has gone by very slowly.

There are a couple of reasons why I think this might be:
1. Because, even though I'm trying not to, I'm also counting in the first 5 months that she was in the NICU.
2. Because I'm actually home with her this time. I worked full-time and commuted almost two hours a day with Solana. I got to spent a whopping two hours a day with her for her first three years. Those years flew by. But I get to spend every luscious waking (and sleeping) moment with Chloe. Maybe that makes the year seem fuller? I don't know. But I do know that it's definitely been a full year!

Chloe's homecoming day is printed on our annual Snapfish calendar. The plan was to celebrate it somehow. I didn't intend to have a huge party with balloons and presents or anything. Just maybe a cake...? But the day came and went. We included Chloe in our dinnertime prayer and I sauteed some bananas with butter and we all shared a special dessert to celebrate Chloe's special day. That's it. Nothing crazy. And I wasn't moved to do more so I was totally ok with that and I'm pretty sure Chloe was, too.

The thing that did strike me on that day was how long ago it seemed we celebrated Chloe's birthday. That celebration seemed like it was AGES ago! The thought of managing a home life and a NICU life for that long seems overwhelming when I look at it from this perspective. Dave and I were so lucky. We had very differing views on how much NICU time was appropriate but we negotiated a visitation schedule that was acceptable to both of us. We were fortunate to afford a maid during that time and ate more fast food than usual. It was such a stressful five months. We tagged off when he got home from work and I'd get home sometime around 11:30 or midnight. I don't know how we made it through so well.

I guess I figured out what this date can be - an opportunity to be grateful. Our little girl came home and is doing really well. Solana is happy and healthy. Dave and I are happily married. You can't ask for much more.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sam and Sophie

My best friend from Colorado came to visit us! She and I carpooled together when we both worked at the University of Denver. Our girls were tiny babies (maybe 2 or 4 months old) when we met and began carpooling. We became fast friends and this turned out to be fortunate since we spent about an hour and a half together in the car every day! We moved from the Denver area two years ago and since then we've stayed in touch but I miss our daily conversations. Sam is one of those beautiful, highly intelligent, always interesting, and wonderful women that just amaze me. I love having her as a friend.

Sam and Sophie now live in Nashville which is only about 5 hours away - well worth the drive for a short weekend visit! I'm already planning our trip there in the Spring after Chloe gets off her nighttime oxygen. It was so awesome having them over. Solana and Sophie took up right where they left off and had a great time playing together! They danced, played Polly Pockets, took a bath, squealed with laughter all night. The only serious moment was when they were saving their babies' lives with popcorn (a magical cure for all that ails). They finally passed out in Solana's bunk bed (both on the top bunk, of course).
Sam and I holed up in the guest room for about two hours talking non-stop. Dave had to come in and ask us if we were ever coming out! We had a lot of catching up to do! Hehehe.
Dave and I were amazed at Bluebell's reaction to Sophie. She was obsessed with her and claimed her immediately - blocking Monty (our 6 month-old Aussie) whenever he tried to come near. She never acts like that. Maybe she remembered Sophie? I don't know but it was funny to see.

I would preface this video with a caption but it speaks for itself.

Dave was so sweet. He took the girls sledding. Sam and I were just dying to go out in the snow but SOMEONE had to stay inside and take care of Chloe...
"To rip the glasses off her face or not to rip the glasses off her face. That...is the question."

We asked Sophie to take our picture. Didn't turn out so well...

So we asked Solana to take our picture. Umm...better?

It was a great visit! I can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Name Change

Dave just informed me that Mexican drug cartels identify themselves using the same naming convention that I used to name our blog. Seriously, dude? How does my husband even know that, anyway? I guess I need to come up with a new blog name. Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmmm. I'm stumped.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chloe's Crib Antics

"Ummm...Babe? I think it might be time to lower Chloe's mattress..."

Yep. Definitely time to lower the mattress...

My talented little stinker! It's about time she starts getting into trouble around here! I had no idea she could pull herself up from laying down. Heck! I didn't even know she could SIT up from laying down until she pulled off this little stunt. Very proud. Very proud, indeed.

Almost Snow Day

We got dumped on yesterday! I was surprised and Solana was disappointed that a "snow day" was not declared by the school. Note: Her first and last snow day was spent making cookies. I'm sure that has something to do with her excitement for another one... :)

I was told to expect 4-5 inches so I put a large plastic bowl outside early in the morning. After dinner I had a surprise for Solana. She got to make our dessert out of snow.

Mix the following in a bowl (all to taste):

It was super yummy and super special. She loved it and I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome 2011 and My New Blog!

For the past year and a half I have kept a blog for Chloe. It began as a way for me to keep my immediate family and closest friends updated on her NICU status, progress, setbacks, etc. The blog quickly became much much more. 1. It's a documented record of almost every one of Chloe's 148 days in the NICU and includes comments from the great friends who prayed and hoped for her healing along the way. 2. I got lots of great advise from experienced moms who cared enough to share their knowledge. 3. The blog became a sort of therapy aid for me. Deciding how to describe my emotions (and there were lots of them!) was cathartic and helped me become introspective in a way I'd never been before. 4. A way for me to make some fantastic blog friends - something I never expected!

Chloe has been home for almost a year now and she's doing fantastic! We couldn't be more thankful for her progress and our many blessings.

For a while now, though, I've been playing with the idea of starting a new blog. You see, I actually have another daughter. An equally amazing and wonderful daughter named Solana, who hasn't gotten much blog time. Often times I want to blog/brag about her but Chloe's blog just didn't seem like the right forum for it. My family in Texas loves to hear about both their girls in Ohio so Solana stories are shared via text messages and Facebook. Neither of those last, though, and I want both my girls to have a record or our memories to enjoy when they're older. So...as we begin a new year I also begin 'La Familia Hendrickson'.

P.S. If you're curious about the palm trees I'll tell you the story... Our family vacation spot is to our favorite resorts in Mexico. Dave and I have been 4 times, Solana twice, and Chloe and Leila once (although we didn't know they were there, yet). We skipped our vacation this past summer since Chloe couldn't travel and we're feeling it. Mexico has definitely been on the brain. Two of our family photos from the last trip are labeled 'La Familia Hendrickson.' The palm trees are a sweet reminder of warmer days past and excitement for warmer days to come :-)