Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Baby Stella Adventure

Morgan has shown very little interest in dolls. She has a few of them and puts them in a doll stroller here and there...but really, she doesn't do much with them expect remove their clothing. Poor naked dolls.

Piper has a doll named Baby Stella. I know there is another post in here somewhere about her. She is a super-cute doll with a soft body. My generous Aunt Berri bought it for her a few Christmases ago. Piper loves her Stella, but I wouldn't say she's overly attached to her. Lately she has been doing more imaginative play with her, putting her in her baby crib before bedtime and giving her kisses. Sometimes she does a shortened version of our bedtime routine which includes singing her some songs before she goes to bed. She puts her in the doll high chair and feeds her. There is a lot of diaper changing that goes on too.

In the last week or so, Morgan and Piper have been fighting over Baby Stella more. Morgan has decided that she likes to do a little pretend play too, probably inspired some by what Piper is doing. Sunday, I kind of had it with the arguments and doll tug-o-war, so I asked Morgan if she wanted a doll like Stella too. She said "yes." I showed her a picture of a "Baby Stella" that was almost like Piper's doll, but had a full head of dark hair and ponytails. She got a big smile on her face and said she wanted her.

So, that afternoon we headed to the only store in town that carries these dolls and had a little adventure at the mall at the same time. David had left town that morning for a business trip and I needed to keep the girls busy so this was a welcome opportunity. As soon as we got to the downtown mall we made a beeline for the toy store. Morgan didn't previously know this store was there. I don't usually buy toys at this store as I can buy them cheaper at other stores or on Amazon. It's where I go for ideas. Yes, we could have bought the new doll online, but I decided the experience was worth the extra money. I also wanted to see the doll in person, to know what we were getting.

As soon as we got to the doll aisle, Morgan spotted her. "There she is!" she said. I made sure she saw all the other options to be sure this was the one she wanted. She carefully looked at the dolls and the other "accessories". I asked her again if this was the one she wanted, she confirmed and we put her in our stroller to buy. No one was currently riding in it, so I figured the new doll could sit there for now. The girls checked out the other items in the store for a while and were surprisingly well behaved. Piper kept showing up with new toys to suggest...and I quietly put them back in their spots as she moved on. We did score a big container of fizzy, colored bath tablets. They LOVE these things and they'll last us a while. Finally, Morgan declared she had to go potty, so I took advantage of the situation and paid for our two items and hightailed it out of there.

A few shots at Auntie Anne's sharing a soft pretzel. Those things are big! And, since when did they cost $3.00?! We haven't been there in a while and I don't remember them being that expensive. No wonder we don't go out much.

Here's Morgan's new friend! Morgan and Piper both decided to walk instead of ride in the stroller, so "new" Stella got the prime spot to ride.

Here she is, out of her box and in Morgan's arms! Morgan kept saying all night "I LOVE my new doll!" and and think she said once "Thanks for my new doll!" Love her! Currently this doll is also named "Baby Stella," but we'll see if we can coax her into giving her a new name. Less confusion that way.

And not to leave out Piper and the original Baby Stella. I think she's got the idea that the new doll is Morgan's and not hers. She does take advantage of playing with her when Morgan's at school though.

Overall, time will tell if this resolves the "fighting over the doll" issue or if it opens a new can of worms. So far so good!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Piper's Developmental Screening - Part 1

So, I don't think I mentioned this here...but a few weeks ago I decided to schedule a developmental screening for Piper. Wondering if she was developing on track was making me nuts, so I thought the best thing to do about it was have some professionals help me determine where she is at. I went through all the protocol required to sign up with Early Intervention, as we did with Morgan, just in case Piper qualified for services. We finally went for the screening Tuesday morning.

I got up in the morning thinking, "Okay, good or bad, we're going to have all the info we need today." Well, not quite.

As usual, these things never get completed quickly and it's still more waiting for us. BUT...we did get some good information and good news, just not everything we wanted to know.

First off, as soon as we showed up and checked in...out of nowhere comes Morgan's old Speech Therapist. I can't remember if I posted about this, I think I did...but, this is the woman who just offhandedly stated, while walking out the door after an appointment, that she thought Morgan would be diagnosed with Asperger's or some other form of high-functioning autism. This was after we had been to one consultation where they said no autism. Of course, ultimately she was right, but it was brought up so nonchalantly like it was no big deal. I remember that feeling of my blood running cold and somehow knowing my life was changing forever...then she just left me there alone.

Anyway, she walks up to us in the waiting area, says hello and asks about Morgan. I went on to tell her she was doing well in school and then it dawned on me that she didn't know Morgan DID actually get a PDD diagnosis (this was after I mentioned it like she knew). The way she approached us, I though she was going to be one of Piper's screeners...but then she asked if I'd checked in and then disappeared into a back room never to be seen again. It was so strange. Then I got a little angry...it was like she showed up just to get the satisfaction that she was right about Morgan. And how the heck did she know we were there? I didn't see her talk with any other patients/clients, then she was gone.

So...back to Piper. After that therapist disappeared, the actual screening therapists came out and greeted us. We went back to a large room and they started running Piper through the usual paces, a lot of it familiar as we went through it with Morgan many times.

I was SO proud of Piper! She did better than I expected at following directions and listening to the therapists. I thought she might get shy or non-cooperative, but she got through it with only minor redirection.

In the end she was evaluated in the areas of Speech/Language, Physical Therapy (gross motor) and Occupational Therapy (fine motor/sensory). She scored slightly behind in OT, but still within the average range and the same was the case with PT. This surprised me as gross motor was an area of more concern for me. I was surprised that she didn't qualify for services. Go Piper! The Physical Therapist does want to do a follow up next week to go over some exercises we can do at home. That works for me.

As for Speech/Language she also scored within the average range and actually above it in expressive language. Wow! Here's the odd thing...they didn't fully complete the test. They had to decide to stop as our appointment time was ending. Piper wasn't getting enough questions/items wrong in a row to stop the test in the way it is structured (they have to get 5 or 6 in a row incorrect to stop the testing). Does that make sense? This only makes me nervous because Morgan always does this with this particular test. She can go on and on and complete questions/items much higher than her age because it only requires "static" answers that are easy for her (like identifying colors/shapes, pictures, etc.) To me, this means we could be concerned...or the reality might be that Piper is really just pretty smart. Of course, I hope he latter is the case.

So, they're scoring up their tests and I ask "What about the social/emotional, and adaptive skills tests"? They paused and said "Funny you should ask that..." They did not have a designated person to administer these tests at that time. I was quite annoyed because those are the areas that are crucial in knowing if Piper is doing okay. Morgan was/is obviously delayed in these areas.

So, when we have our follow-up with the PT next week, she will administer the social/emotional and adaptive skills screenings. More waiting. They did say from what they saw yesterday, their gut says Piper is doing just fine. That was nice to hear. It was especially nice to hear from the Speech Therapist that she thought Piper's language was developing typically and her usage of her language is as is should be. In comparison, Morgan was/is drastically different.

So, all in all it was good, but I'm still a little nervous about next week.

Monday, February 20, 2012


It just breaks my heart that Morgan goes through such anxiety from day to day. It is so hard for us to manage, and so many times there is nothing we can do about it.

We took the girls to the local "Jump and Bounce" today. They always have a great time there. Because of the holiday it was packed today and I'm sure both girls were completely over stimulated by the time we left.

When we got home for lunch, Morgan refused to eat any of the mac and cheese I made. She then choose to go right to "quiet time"...but once she was there she got upset again and wanted to come back to the kitchen to eat. By that time we had let Piper sit in Morgan's usual spot, which completely threw Morgan into a tizzy. Can we say "rigid"?! We finally got Piper to switch back to her own spot/seat (I know, so not fair), but once they were seated in the appropriate places they both melted down. Morgan could not calm herself, so we decided to just put her upstairs again for quiet time. Piper calmed down pretty easily and ate a little...then went down for her nap. Morgan is still upset and crying in her room. At this point we just have to leave her there. There is no reasoning with a child with autism. Either she'll finally calm down or cry herself to sleep.

There are a lot of things we are doing with/for Morgan to help reduce her anxiety/rigidity and make her more flexible, but as with all therapies, they take time. We are barely at the beginning of our marathon.

Let me give you another example of what we see often. The other day Piper wanted to play with the cookies and cakes in our little kitchen play set. Morgan came to join us. We had a fun little game with the cookies, but when Piper went to get the cake all hell broke loose. When we usually play this game we sing Happy Birthday together and blow out the candles, then remove the candles from the cake and cut pieces for us to pretend to eat. This time Piper, being the flexible kid she is, decided to just bring the cake over to us, leaving behind the plate and wooden box we keep it in. Morgan became upset, so I grabbed the plate as I thought that would help. Apparently that wasn't good enough, we needed the box too. I kept telling her it was okay if the cake was on the plate without the box, but that did no good. With Morgan, we have to play the game exactly the same way each time, or she loses it.

There is no flexibility for our girl in her play, no creativity, no real "pretend." Same means "good" to Morgan. If she knows how it goes, she likes it. Anything new or different thrown in can cause total meltdown. Occasionally I throw something in that goes over OK, but I find I have to build it up before I actually do it, so she has some warning. This is good, but then the next time we play if I don't do the "new" thing the same way she freaks out. She locks in on anything she likes and can't venture outside it. When I play with her alone we can sometimes manage these issues so we can still have fun. When she plays with Piper it is more difficult because Piper has no clue what Morgans needs or what her issues are in this area. Unfortunately she is starting to learn this and either will accommodate her or just not want to play with her. Truthfully, it's not a lot of fun to play with Morgan. Piper is taking a jump forward in her creative play and I'm really enjoying it, but when Morgan wants to jump in...total buzzkill.

Last example of rigidity. This one is food related. I'm sure I've mentioned Morgan's beloved "dinosaur" sandwich. If not, it is a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into two dinosaur shapes with a special bread cutter. She has a particular technique to eat this. She pulls the bread apart, eating the honey side first. While she eats the honey side, she holds the PB side in the other hand. I know...so odd. Lately we have had a few bread issues, such as one time the head just fell off the dinosuar and another time the bread was had some odd creases in it. Wouldn't most kids think that he head falling off was just hilarious?! When this happens Morgan demands it be fixed, which generally is impossible. Or, she asks for a new one. We accommodated this for a while, but lately have just told her if there's something wrong with it, don't eat it, and we're not making a new one. Depending on how hungry she is determines whether she'll have a meltdown or just not eat the offending sandwich.

This is exhausting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Our Valentine's Day didn't start off so sweet. Piper woke up looking like death-warmed-over and proceeded to throw up and dry heave several times throughout the next hour or two. Morgan's fever was back and she was cranky as a result. I quietly put away the gifts and candy and decided to wait to see how the day progressed. I had a picture of Piper sleeping on the couch, but it seems to have disappeared from my phone. Morgan was looking at them later and may have accidentally deleted it. Oops.

They did feel better later in the day, especially after their afternoon nap. We made a trip to Morgan's school for her parent/teacher conference (more on that in a separate post) and though they were still not themselves, I think they were glad to get out of the house.

Dinnertime became our "Valentine's Day" and they were thrilled with their goodies! They also had a few sweet treats without any incidents. Last year, Morgan managed to eat treats all day long (cinnamon rolls for breakfast, cupcakes at school and a lot of treats in between), and ended up getting sick at bedtime. So glad we avoided that this year!

Morgan and Piper love their Tinker Bell and Princess "purses"! Morgan requested I take this picture as she balanced it on her head.

We took advantage of the dollar bins at Target and picked up these cute shades. Piper wears them a lot around the house and Morgan is requesting to go "to the beach," which means the cool water park we discovered last year. I had to be the bad guy and tell her it's closed until summertime. Bummer.

It looks as though both girls are on the mend and we hope we can avoid more sickness for a while, if we're lucky.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Morgan has decided that Piper's name is now "Pipey" (or "Pipie"?). The majority of the time she calls her by this new name. At first I thought this sounded really odd, but it's grown on me. I don't plan on calling her "Pipey", but it sounds pretty cute coming from her sister.

Morgan tells us directly, "she is not Piper, she is "Pipey" She has even gone as far as pointing out Piper's name letters in her bedroom, telling us to take down the "R". I've asked, "How do you spell it?" She says it's "P-I-P-E." Explaining that this, in fact spells "pipe", not "Pipey" is totally lost on her. She insists this is how it is spelled.

We'll see what this morphs into next week...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I "tweaked" my back on Sunday. We were at the church playground with the girls after the service. Piper insisted on going on the "big" swings. The surface of the playground is bark and the swings have huge "pits' under them from the kids dragging their feet as they swing. I pushed Piper for a while and suddenly she started to let go. I stopped her real quick and went to pull her off and "tweak!", I had a big pain and spasm in my lower back. In fact it was so low, I'd say it was around my tail bone/hip area. I manged to get Piper off the swing, then realized I couldn't move without a lot of pain.

David was watching Morgan on the slide and started shouting to me when he noticed Piper run right in front of the kids at the base of the slide. I motioned him to come to me and told him I needed help getting out of the "pit." He then went into "super-dad/husband" mode and took care of the girls while I tried to get a sense of the injury. All sorts of things went through my head as I realized I couldn't pick up the girls, much less bend over at all. Ugh. It was not a good feeling.

Well, to make a long story short, it is much better now. I spent some of that day resting and lying on a heating pad. A little ibuprofen worked wonders, so we were still able to have some friends over for the Super Bowl. I took the day off of working out on Monday, but was able to resume our P90X program, albeit modified a bit, this morning. I am still sore and don't know when I'll be 100%, but for now I'm happy it's not worse.

This reminds me of how quickly things can change, for the better or worse. All we can do is be thankful for all we are blessed with and do our best each day.