Thursday, April 29, 2010

Real Texans Grill Anything & Everything

There is saying around here that is very common: "We do everything bigger in Texas".  I believe that saying extends to BBQing.

Today was Andrew's company picnic at the Emma Long Metro Park.  This is a beautiful park situated on Lake Austin where you can camp, hike, picnic, and boat.  This picnic was huge.  Huge as in the amount of food.  There were tons of brownies, cookies, (notice that I listed the important food items first), beans, potato salad, etc.  I cannot even begin to imagine just how may pounds of beef were on the grill or how much meat was smoking.  That's right.  You heard me.  Smoking.  What kind of park has a smoker on site?  A Texan park.

We Texans love our BBQ. (Yes, I do recognize this monumental statement--I just referred to myself as a Texan).  It shouldn't come as a surprise seeing as we have a Big Green Egg in our backyard, but still I was shocked to see a smoker chained to a cement pad just like the grills in a picnic area.

Central Market has this radio advertisement for their Thrill The Grill that pretty much sums it up "When people ask if you smoke you proudly say 'yes'.  Does the word spit cause you to drool?"  Yep, in Texas smoking is mostly in reference to grilling rather than cigarettes.  We prefer to eat our carcinogens rather than inhale them.  Boy are they tasty. . .

Now, it may surprise you that Ellie looks like Andrew.  Shocking, I know.  While Andrew was off grabbing meat off the grill, I sat with Ellie.  People at the picnic would come up to me as say "this must be Andrew's daughter".  Funny, I do not see the resemblance :-P

Well, here it is 5pm and Andrew is off to work. . . .I guess I better get back to "work" too.

Must have Daddy's coca-cola.

I am SO happy.  Daddy's is going to be me a new house.

Our Future Home  

Hey, picture of me with Ellie :-)

Nah.  They do not look related :-P

Emma Long Park on Lake Austin

Ooh!  Look at those short-shorts!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Couldn't Come Up With a Clever Title

This week so far is full of all sort of progress.  Baby steps actually, but progress nonetheless.

Ellie has been spending a lot of time in the minimal support sit--either the tripod sit or in the IKEA bin.  I have also been working with her in bringing her knees up under her--sort of like a crawling stance.  Ellie's determination and perseverance have paid off for twice today she has gotten onto her hands and knees and rocked back-&-forth.  Granted, she only lasted for about 2 rocks, but she did it!  The other motor skill that she is practicing--moving backwards. I still have not quite figured out how she is able to do this.

Tripod Sit

Yes, there is a dog in the background.

The Baby Bear-Bear is still signing, but she thinks that everything is "eat".  When I ask her if she wants the elephant or the ball she signs "eat".  Oh goodness, I can just picture Jan having a conniption fit over this.  Ellie still thinks that she must have my finger in her hand as she signs, but now she occasionally signs "eat" with just her hand during meal times. I am attempting to sign just about everything to her (ie ball, elephant, sleep, bear, milk, mama, dada, cat, dog), but I have only taught her how to sign back "eat" and "more".  Most of the other signs require too many fine motor skills and dexterity.   I believe that she is starting to recognize the signs for "water" and "bath".  Of course this is just my perception as a mother and I have no scientific proof to tell me otherwise.

Speaking of fine motor skills, a few weeks ago I decided it was time for Ellie to practice self-finger feeding.  Now I do not expect her to have the "pincer grasp" down yet, but I thought that "raking" of the fingers to grasp objects would be a great skill.  All of my friends get these little puff things from the baby section.  All of these puffs are wheat.  Ellie cannot have wheat or oats.  After searching high and low at various food places, I was able to find some rice husks that will easily dissolve in the mouth.  Ellie Bellie loves these things but she still needs a lot of help.  Most importantly, she understands that it is food.  She understands that she must grab it and bring her hand to her mouth.  There are two issues though. 1) She had the food in her hand and does not realize it. 2) She does not know how to release the food to the mouth.  Jan recommended wetting the rice husk and sticking it to the bath of the fingers.  This has helped her to get the food into her mouth but it sort of defeats the whole "raking" part.

Oh and, Ellie is a stripper.  This is what I found the other day after a full night of sleep.

Ellie likes to dance an Irish Jig.  Apparently she kicked so hard she got her legs out of the feet of her jammies.  She managed to get one arm out during her gymnastics.

Note: The pincer grasp is where you bring your thumb and index finger together to grasp objects.  Infants around 9 months usually start to perform an inferior pincer grasp.  Raking is using your index finger through the pinky to "rake" in objects.  This is typically seen in infants 6 to 7 months-old.  The tripod sit--sitting while leaning on the hands is seen in 6 month-olds

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ellie In The Box

As promised, here are some photos of Ellie sitting in the IKEA bin.

Get away Sophie!  This is MY elephant.

Yummy Yummy Yummy

Come on Mom!  I am done with the pictures and sitting in this plastic thing.

Mommy is so funny!   Yes, I do look like my Daddy and I can roll my tongue.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sitting and Signing

Our developmental therapist was here today.  She was very pleased with the progress Ellie Bear has made in the past 2 weeks.  

Ellie showed Jan how good she is at sitting using the boppy for support.  Jan was very impressed when Ellie started to fall sideways and she used her body to move into a controlled fall.  I didn't teach her that.  Ellie figured it out all by herself :-)  

We are now working on side-sitting and trying to sit in a tripod position without support for short periods.  There is also another technique which I find rather entertaining.  I will try to capture a picture of Ellie doing this in the near future.  You put Ellie into a box or small laundry basket (we used a plastic IKEA bin).  She is able to sit and play with her toys, but she doesn't have to worry about falling off to one side.  She is still building her abdominal muscles and working hard even though she is Ellie-in-the-Box.  

The Bear still does a lot of back arching and extension which is apparently "bad", but a normal atypical movement for babies with DS.  Jan showed me how to move Ellie from laying on her back into a seated position to then picking her up--this is more for when I want to pick up Ellie from the crib or off of the changing table.  The key is to not place any support or pressure onto her back but rather onto her arms or tummy.

Basically our main goal is to strengthen Ellie's abdominal muscles so that she doesn't rely on her back so much and do the arching.  

Jan is also happy with how quickly Ellie is picking up the sign language.  Ellie is recognizing different signs (more, eat, milk, play, and cat).  She will sign (while holding my hand) "eat" and "more".  Jan recommended tapping Ellie on the elbow to see if she will drop my hand and complete the sign.  

At the recommendation of a fellow friend who is a speech pathologist, I picked up Monta Z. Briant's Sign, Sing, & Play Kit.  It has a book so that I can learn all sorts of signs as well as colorful flashcards.  What Ellie really enjoys is the CD that has songs for me to sign.  I find the songs extremely annoying and I want to pull out my hair, but Ellie loves them.  This is actually how I get her to sit using the boppy pillow--I sit in front of her and sign the songs.  I have only learned 4 of the songs thus far, but she loves the bath one and the traditional "Itsy Bitsy Spider".

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Furbabies Are Growing Up

Well, it is official.  I have a toddler now.  Sophie turned 1 yo this past week.  Although Border Collies are apparently puppies until they are 2 years-old.  That might explain the hyperactivity and separation anxiety.

My "children" have discovered an endless source of entertainment--the pack'n'play.

Tama is now 6 yo, give or take a month or so.  No one is really sure of her age seeing as she was found in Camden, New Jersey wondering around the ACME parking lot.  Gangster Kitty.  She is going through some kitty teenage angst right now.  She thinks that Ellie playpen is for her own personal entertainment.

Sophie begs to differ.  If you look closely, you can see Tama in the playpen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy 7 Months Ellie!

. . .and happy 3 years to my Godson Grant.

Well it has been approximately one week since the Ellie Bear had her ECI evaluation.  Now I know that I was a little skeptical about the signing, but need not fear!  I am over that.  Okay the truth is I am over it because The Bear is doing very well.

Here is our progress:

Anna: "Does Ellie want to eat?" [makes sign for "eat"]

Ellie: Grabs my hand and brings it to her face to sign "eat". Steals the spoon.  

When Ellie wants more, she does the same thing--she grabs my hand and signs "eat" while holding my hand.  That is a lot of progress.  Now I just need to figure out how to teach her that she doesn't need my hand to do the sign.

Babycakes is also doing great with her sitting exercises.  The boppy pillow seems to really help with the positioning.  She tired easily but she seems to actually enjoying sitting now rather than doing her back-arching thing.

I like to read like Mommy!  I am learning about colors.
(yes, that is Sophie standing in the background--you can see her front paw-paws)

That Sophie puppy is so funny!  I just love to watch her.

Laughing.  Ellie Bellie loves to have her tummy tickled.  She has the cutest little giggle.  Yes, I know that I am her mother and of course I would think it is cute, but really, seriously, it is a cute giggle.  Yesterday I had Mama Dunja on speaker phone and she thought Ellie was crying.  I was tickling Ellie's belly.  Oops, I guess her giggle sounds like a crying over the phone.

Ellie is starting to like mirrors.  She stares at the mirror, talks to the mirror, and tries to eat the mirror.  She sees the baby in the mirror, but she does not realize that the baby is her.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

DIY & Be Aware of Oak

I took some photos a few days ago of Andrew's home improvement endeavors.

Andrew installed these cordless blinds over the kitchen table.  I get to pick out a valence :-)

Backsplash!  Yes, that is a UT gnome.

More backsplash.   Please note that the microwave is now back on the counter and is not in the middle of our island. 

Okay this was much more impressive before the Oak trees bloomed.  The ditch looked like I drove through the yard with a truck.  Andrew is still working on this project.

Close up of drainage ditch.

This is just to show you how the oak has taken over.  We are all feeling the allergic effects. Zyrtec anyone?

Happy Gerbera Daisy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

On this day, 2 years ago, Andrew and I tied the knot.  We had a beautiful, small church wedding that involved BBQ.  Only in Texas would one think brisket and ribs constitute an excellent wedding reception.

It is amazing how many life changing events can occur in such a short period of time as well as how much home improvement one can accomplish.

In the past two years we have traveled around Germany (Flitterwochen), Ottawa, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Plano, and Big Bend National Park.  I know.  Andrew camping!

In the DIY world we have mostly completed the kitchen.  By we, I actually mean Andrew.  I stopped after the painting part.  Most recently I got a backsplash and some window treatments in the kitchen area :-)  We put up a wall in the in-law suite to create a dining room (aka Anna's sewing room) and a media room complete with large movie screen, fancy sound stuff, and a projector.  Andrew enclosed the carport so that we now have a 3 car garage that currently holds neither one of our trucks.  He has started to reside the garage.  I actually have baseboards in the entire house.  Let me repeat that--baseboards!!!  All of these projects were started and mostly complete by my honey bunny Baby Drew-Drew Love.  While I may joke that there are all of these half completely projects, I am very proud of my man. Our house has truly become the one of our dreams and it is because of him and his many DIY talents.

During these past two years we bought another Tundra after trading in my beloved Corolla and Andrew's Infiniti.  Do not worry.  We still have the hearse and the Supra.  Our house now sports a new paint color as well as a new metal, energey-efficient roof.  We also invested in the Big Green Egg.  It truly is the best smoker and grill.  We have made many friends in the past few years and many of you have been able to experience Andrew's beef & pork ribs, slow smoke briskets, chicken legs, and most recently his special sour cream chicken enchiladas.  I have learned the jobs of having a double oven where one is a super large convection oven.  I can make 3 dozen cookies in that oven alone.

There have been some tragic events as well.  Andrew and I both lost our Grandmothers.  Our beloved border collie Rodeo passed away.

I left my job as a pediatric nurse practitioner and I managed to throw out my back twice.  The most recent injury is due to a compressed disc.  About a year ago we had a devastating hail storm that destroyed our roof and one of our cars.  Thankfully, no one was injured.  Our little girl had surgery and later on, an anaphylactic reaction to gluten.

On a happier note, our union in marriage enabled me to say good-bye to COBRA.  So long!  And Hello to Aetna.

As with mother things, there is the circle of life and when one door closes, another one opens.  We adopted Amelie that day after we returned from our honeymoon.  Tama was not happy about that.  We have had Sophie for almost a year now.  She is still nuts.  My oldest Nephew went to Iraq and returned.  We welcomed a new nephew into the family.  Of course, we welcomed our beautiful baby Ellie Marie into the world this past September.

Our courtship, in spite of being long distance, was wonderful.  Our marriage has been even better.  Andrew and I are both individuals and a very strong team.  I cannot imagine waking up in the morning and not seeing him next to me.  I love you, Andrew.  Happy Anniversary.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Sitting Bear

Super Ellie!!!  She is in a supported sit position using the Boppy.

Still sitting very pretty.  This is called a tripod sit because she is hunched forward and using her arms for some support.

I guess she is a little hungry.  Yummy Block!

Tired Ellie.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Developmental Progress

10/22/09: Ellie's Goals for first 6 Month Period

1. She will be able to hold her head up when I/Andrew carry her--check
2. She will reach out and grasp toys--check
3. She will sit and play with toys--Not yet

Yesterday was Ellie Bear's 6-month Early Childhood Intervention Evaluation.  Jan, our case worker and developmental therapist, along with Juana, an occupational therapist, evaluated what skills Ellie has developed--ie she raises her head & chest while on her tummy, she will grasp toys across the midline with each hand and so forth.

They were very impressed with Ellie's progress and she is pretty much right on track developmentally.  For the past few months, we have been working really hard in getting Ellie to sit with some support.  Ellie has a different idea--she wants to stand.  She does this big back arching thing which I have been told is "bad" because "no one gets up to a stand by arching one's back".  Okay then, but I have yet to see a person with Down Syndrome unable to walk.  Anyway, we (Andrew & I)  have be trying different positioning techniques in the Bumbo, with the Boppy, and on the floor.  Anytime she arches her back we are to bend her forward at the hips.  Yesterday we tried even more ways to get her to sit with minimal support.

Ellie has strong back muscles from all of her tummy time, but her stomach muscles are weak.  With these modified sitting positions, the goal is to strengthen the stomach muscles so that the tone & strength is equal to her back.   Ellie Bear did a very good job yesterday as we moved her through these different positions and I am feeling a little more positive.

I hate the word "Eat".  Mealtimes used to be fun, but they have turned into a battlefield.  Because many children with Down Syndrome have speech issues, parents are encouraged to start sign language.  Yesterday, the team decided that we need to start using signs when communicating with Ellie.  It is good to start with one word at a time.  Jan said to start with the word "eat".  Repetition is key.  At each meal, I am to sign "eat" while saying the word.  I am to wait for her to sign it back.  Yeah right.  If she does not sign it back, I am to take her hand and have her make the sign while saying "eat".  Then I give her the spoon.  Here is what happens:

Me:  "Ellie want to eat?" [signs eat]

Ellie: Laughs

Me: "Ellie want to eat?" [signs eat]

Ellie: throws hissy fit because she wants food.

Me:  help Ellie make the sign for eat as I say "eat".  Give her food.

Repeat multiple times.  Eventually there is now more laughing at the sign, just angry babbles.  She has made some progress--when I take her hand to make the sign, she thens opens her mouth in anticipation for food.  Not bad for only doing this for 1 day.

Since Ellie is progressing quickly, we have decided to bump up the visits to twice a month to keep challenging her.

New Goal:
1. Ellie will sit without support in a high chair or shopping cart.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Painted House

Imagine this. . . hiring painters to redo the exterior of our house.  I know!  It is so hard to believe that Andrew didn't DIY this project.  That being said, there were still a few things that needed to be completed before the house could be painted.  These things date back to when we remodeled our kitchen--outside window trim & doorframe.  We (Andrew) are a little slow with the DIY.  Actually, we (he) has a bit of ADD with house projects.  That is an entire blog entry all together.

As I was saying, we recently had our house repainted.  When Andrew brought this in the pre-Anna times there was two-toned trim.  The main shade was teal and the accent trim, if you can call it that, was a very faded red.  It was awful.  Even more hideous--the porches were also the same faded red.  Yuck!

Believe it or not, we got hired our painters through Costco.  It sort of reminded me of that movie Idiocracy with Luke Wilson where he comes across the Buy & Large.  Or maybe that was WALL-E.  Anyway, we pay Costco and Costco in turn pays Certi-Pro painters.  The key is that we must like their work or Costco will not pay the painters.  Fortunately, we had awesome painters.

Idiocracy Trailer

Here are some pictures:

This is the front of the house.  What you cannot see are my newly planted petunias and geraniums.

Front Porch.  Everything has a yellowish-hue due to the pollen.  The trim and porches are actually grey.

Back Yard.  This will be our next project.  
Andrew would most likely want me to point out the Big Green Egg Smoker.

The wall to the right of the back door is somewhat new.  When I moved in, this wall was torn down because Andrew was putting in a new window that was a different size than the original.  Please admire his beautiful window trim and door trim :-)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ears, Nose, & Snot

There she goes again taking pictures of me.  This time she has me in a ditch of weeds.  I wonder what Mommy will come up with next.

The Ellie Bellie Bear had a rough night.  She was cranky and snotty.  We did humidification, nasal saline, and bulb suction.  Oh she was not a happy camper with the nasal saline.  We did spend some quality time in the bathroom with the shower running.  The Bellie-Bear was up multiple times last night which meant that I was up as well.  Today she is still snotty, but not cranky.

This Blue Bonnet Baby spent the afternoon at her post-operative ear tube appointment.  Dr. Zapata was actually able to see into the left ear. Finally!  Both tubes are in place and patent.  They are lovely and titanium. Yay!  Her ear canals are still narrow and they probably will be forever, but it was exciting that her left canal is now wide enough to allow the ear drum to be viewed.

We did a behavior audiogram after having her ear de-waxed.  She did about as well as one can expect with a 6.5 month-old.  Basically I sit with Ellie in a closed off room.  There are hidden toys in the walls of the room that make noise.  The audiologist will also talk through the speaker.  The goals is to have Ellie turn her head in the correct direction with different noises and different decibel levels.  She did pretty good, but she was more interested in turing around and looking up to make sure that I was still with her.

The results: Borderline Normal Hearing.  As in their may be some mild hearing loss.

It is not completely accurate because it is behavioral and also because this age sometimes has trouble with localizing intonation.

We then tried to get a more accurate view of her hearing by doing Otoacoustic Emissions.  This is similar to repeating the newborn hearing screen.  The only problem is that an ear bud must be placed into the ear.  Ellie just had her ears cleaned.  She does not like things in her ear so she didn't exactly cooperate with the OAEs.  We will try again in 3 months.

Hum, this blanket Mommy made me is rather interesting.  I would like to chew on it.

Well, at least I have my sunbonnet.  If Mommy would just get the hair out of my eyes. . .

Haha! Mommy is making funny faces at me.  She sure is super silly.

A mask for kids with Down syndrome

Do you hear crickets?  Yes, we are here!  We are alive!  We are safe and healthy!  We haven't been inside a restaurant or store since m...