Sunday, December 26, 2010

Preschool Christmas Party

Natalie had a Christmas party at preschool last week and Cook, Ronan, Aunt Hez, and I were all able to attend.

Waiting for the party to start.

Ronan's here! Oh boy, I never get to see him.

Ronan hamming it up for the camera (looks like Natalie's considering kicking him).

Ronan enjoying the toys in the classroom.

Oh boy, it's Santa. Natalie was very excited about Santa. Ronan, not so much. Even though Santa had a gift just for him, Ronan was not about to go within 10 feet of him. I bet next year will be totally different.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just a kid


I love regular moments like those captured here, when I watch Natalie playing, like the little girl that she is. She's growing up and it's fun to watch her.
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Friday, November 26, 2010


Reading my friend Anna's recent blog post inspired me to write a short post about what I feel thankful for this year. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my family and friends), I am not nearly as funny or sassy as Anna! If you want a good laugh, be sure to read her post.

I won't pretend that this has been anything other than a difficult year for me. However, I've gone through other difficult times and it's true that it always does get easier and better as time goes on. I am lucky in SO MANY ways. First, I am lucky to have Natalie and I try to never forget how easily that may not have been. She loves me unconditionally and completely. I am inspired by her persistence and amazed by how much she is learning and asserting her independence lately. I also love how she curls up against me and sticks her little hands under my arm to go to sleep at night.

In addition, I also happen to have a truly awesome family. I don't even dread spending time with them during the holidays like many do. In fact, I look forward to it! My family understands me like no one else and they do everything they can to help with Natalie. Seeing my nieces and nephews grow up and interact with Natalie is amazing. They get so excited to see her and they help her do things that she has difficulty doing on her own. Natalie loves giving everyone kisses and likes dancing with Ronan and Kiernan and wrestling with Carter.

Then, last but not least, I have the greatest friends! They keep me entertained (Roller Derby - need I say more?) and help me out whenever I need it. Many of my friends have known me since junior high or high school and know me as well as my family does.

So, in case I don't say it enough or at all, I truly appreciate all of these people who make my life (and Natalie's) so much better!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Natalie's 5 years of Halloween fun

NICU baby 2006:

Piglet 2007:

Kitty Cat 2008:

Monkey 2009:

Pinkalicious 2010:

Pink and Tink: **Natalie stood without any support for about 30 seconds**

With the whole gang: Kiernan (Tinkerbell), Natalie, Carter (The Amazing Bumblebee), and Ronan (cowboy):

Natalie did a GREAT job walking with her walker up to several houses this year. I am so proud of her. After she followed her cousins up to about 5 or 6 houses, she insisted on holding a piece of candy in each hand and having me carry her. When someone would try to give her another piece of candy she would try to give it back to them! She dressed up as Pinkalicious, a character in one of her favorite books right now. I love seeing how much she has grown up over the last 4 years!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The amazing Ipad

Check out this link to a Wall Street Journal article about children with special needs using the Ipad for communication. Since Natalie's communication device just got denied by insurance and medicaid, an Ipad could be in Natalie's future. (Although I will be appealing the medicaid denial).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Little bits of Natalie

There are so many times throughout the day that I see Natalie do something and think that I need to remember to blog about it. I don't want to forget the little things that she is learning and doing all the time. So, this is just a little list of Natalie's recent quirks and accomplishments:

*She can make herself sneeze. I have no idea how but I think it's an impressive talent! I discovered this a few months ago when she sneezed and when I laughed at her and asked her if she had to sneeze again, she did (over and over again)! I need to get it on video.

*She has been adding a few new foods to her diet here and there. She will now eat hummus (if it's on a pretzel and spread pretty thin) and pumpkin bread (stuff I made that I thought was mediocre at best). She has also been drinking prune juice mixed with her bottle of Pediasure at night. Next step is to eliminate the bottle (she just has one at night but it's a pretty solid part of her bedtime routine)!

*She can walk much longer distances with her walker and she just learned how to turn it to go in different directions. The turning process is still rather unsafe if someone is not right there next to her but she is getting better every day! She seems to relish the freedom it gives her and she is getting VERY stubborn about doing the walking thing her way (i.e. picking the direction, the pace, stopping/starting etc). She's also been trying to stand up by herself in the middle of the floor but her balance is not quite there yet to be successful.

*She likes certain parts of preschool but I am not sure she is as excited about it yet as she was last year. It's hard to live up to Miss Davis! However, Natalie does seem to at least enjoy gym and library time and I think as time goes on, she will love it as much as she did before.

*She follows directions so well! She heads straight for the stairs and goes up to her bedroom when I tell her that it is nap time. She gets certain toys or books when I tell her to. Natalie goes right to her chair in the kitchen when I tell her that it is lunch/breakfast/dinner time. I should note that she has been able to follow directions pretty well for awhile now but I don't know if I've ever made it a point to note it. I just started trying to teach her letters and I think she will pick up on it pretty quickly. I tested her today on one of her toys which has rather small letters buttons and she seemed to know "N" and "A" after I showed them to her a few times.

*Natalie had her first appointment with her new pediatrician a couple weeks ago (4 year appt)and she was 35 lbs and 39 inches tall. That is the 47th percentile for weight and 28th percentile for height. This is GREAT for a former micropreemie! It's funny that she's only at the 28th percentile for height because everyone always comments on "how tall" she is.

*She has now had stitches in her chin a total of 4 times(May 2009, January 2010, April 2010, and August 2010) and her ped said that the next time she needs them(because there will be a next time), I should have the ER doctor put a few internal stitches in first. He made it sound as if they should have known to do this before - interesting!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cook's babies

My mom loves all her grandchildren and how could she not? They are all so adorable and have such unique and fun personalities. Notice the newest addition, Lucy Marie, in my mom's arms. She's beautiful and Carter and Kiernan are helping their parents take good care of their little sister.

Natalie hasn't quite gotten the hang of hamming it up for pictures like Kiernan and Ronan have but don't worry, they are working on teaching her.

Check out these two blonde Backyardigan junkies watching TV together:


Just wanted to do a quick post of birthday party pictures. Cook and Howard hosted a little birthday party for my big girl on Sept 5. She had tons of fun with her cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents and friends! Thanks to everyone who came to celebrate with Natalie!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday Natalie

Wow, Natalie is such a big girl now, a 4 year old preschooler! To think that just 4 years ago tonight she was born a 1 lb 6 oz micropreemie. I am so proud of all that she has accomplished in 4 short years and I can't wait to see what she will be able to do after 4 more.
We had a little birthday photo shoot in which Natalie very UNenthusiastically participated.
What mommy, you want me to cooperate? HaHa!

Maybe I will just pick my nose...

Or play with my toy Boots(thanks Kristin!)...

Or lick my knee...

Fine. Is this what you want?

This is as good as it's going to get tonight. I guess she's at least looking at the camera in this one(well, sort of anyway)!

Monday, August 16, 2010

First day of school

Natalie started her second year of preschool today. Since we have moved she is in a new school and new school district (actually the same one that I went all through school in). The drop off was a little chaotic so I did not have time to get a picture but when I picked her up I was able to get a few although Natalie was obviously not in the mood for a picture. Aunt Hez and Ronan were there with me to pick Natalie up - they needed to practice since they will be doing the school drop off/pick up several days a week.
Natalie's teacher said she had a good day but I didn't get much detail about what they did so there's not much to tell. I'll update again soon when I have some more details.
In the meantime, compare last year's first day of school to this year by clicking here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Best Friends

Natalie loves when anyone reads to her but she especially loves Amy. Oh, and even though I didn't get a picture of it, she also loves when Brian reads to her. Thanks to Amy and Brian for cutting down on the time that I have to spend reading!

Friday, July 9, 2010

June updates

Wow! So much has been happening with Natalie since I last posted. Here is a recap of June in pictures: She finished her first year of preschool. Here she is with her teacher, Miss Davis, who she LOVED! She got glasses in mid-June and has been so good about keeping them on! She started Hippotherapy (again) and Aquatic Therapy (new therapy for her). She's been spending a lot of time with her cousin Ronan. And Kiernan and Carter too. She's been walking like crazy too!
Which makes her so tired that she sleeps all night (ha ha..let's say half the night if I'm lucky) in her new big girl bed!

Friday, June 11, 2010


Back in January, during a brief encounter with Natalie's school physical therapist, she said to me "I see Natalie being a walker in the future". A few years ago I would have cried with relief if a therapist had told me this. At that time, however, I just thought "I know". This is because even though I had a hard time picturing her actually walking, I was more confident that she would eventually get there even if it wasn't until she was 5 or 6 or even 10!

Now, 5 months later, she's really getting excited about walking. FINALLY! It's as if something clicked for her and she went from doing just about anything to get out of walking to wanting to walk EVERYWHERE and ALL THE TIME! To make it clear to those who don't see her often, she is not walking independently (yet). She walks with someone holding her hands, as you would with a baby first learning to walk, or she uses a walker. Just this week, I was able to borrow a bigger walker than the one that she was using and she really took off with it. I think she feels more secure in it than she did with the other walker which was really too short for her.

Below is a video of her walking this week! Try to ignore Howard's loud background commentary.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Teddy Bear Picnic

Reading in the car

Combining two of her favorite things right now - Dora and books! This is how Natalie keeps herself occupied lately on our drives to and from Dayton. She will look at one page for a long time and then hand the book to me to turn to the next page for her.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Being a mother

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a mother. I grew up in a large, close family, always with plenty of people around to play and laugh with. I saw my grandparents several times a week and until I was about 14 years old my cousins lived next door to us! I was the oldest of my siblings and cousins and growing up we had tons of fun adventures together.
I never imagined that the road to becoming a mother would be as long and difficult as it ended up being. However, about 4 years ago this month, I was celebrating my first mother's day as a mother-to-be. I know I was so excited but it all felt so unreal. I'd wanted to be pregnant for so long it was almost as if I did not believe that I really was. On top of that, I was pregnant with twins!
Little did I know then that in a few short months everything would change. I went into preterm labor at 20 weeks and was on bedrest in the hospital until 23 weeks and 5 days into my pregnancy when Natalie and Andrew were born. Being thrust into the world of parenting a micropreemie involved so many terrifying decisions with the very first being did I want to even give my children a chance to survive. They were born so early that they had less than 40% chance of surviving and very high likelihood of having significant disabilities. Most readers know that Andrew survived only 2 days and Natalie spent 110 days in the NICU fighting infections, having surgeries, and learning to eat.
So while the road was not easy in any way, I am thankful that I have the chance to be a mother. Being Natalie's mom is the best! Her wonderful personality makes it easier to put her traumatic beginnings behind and just enjoy her each day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

AAC Trial

Natalie is currently in her third week trialing the Vantage Lite, an AAC (Augmentative & Alternative Communication) device from an awesome company called Prentke Romich. These type of sophisticated communication devices have opened up the world of communication to many children and adults with disabilities who otherwise would not be able to, or would have significant difficulty, interacting with others. I understand they are widely used for children with neurological conditions such as CP but also for children with Autism and a variety of other disabilities which negatively affect the ability to communicate verbally. Normally, if the trial goes well and everyone agrees that there will be significant benefit from its use, we will place an order for Natalie to get her own! In case some were wondering, the fact that we will likely be going this route does not mean that we have in any way given up on Natalie being able to communicate verbally. Research has shown that AAC devices actually facilitate speech skills and many kids start speaking more, and more clearly, after using an AAC. I am very happy to report that Natalie has very quickly picked up on how to use her device to communicate some basic wants and needs. It was exciting to see that she seemed to really "get it" from the very first day. Below are some short videos of Natalie using the Vantage Lite during meal times. Just a note that this is a very complex device and the way we are using it now is in just the most basic way. See Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords to learn about Schuyler, an older child who uses this same AAC device in a much more sophisticated way. This will illustrate the possibilities this device will give Natalie over the next several years.

**Please excuse Natalie's crazy hair in the last video. Someone who I won't name but who babysits for Natalie 2 days a week must not have felt the need to comb Natalie's hair that day. I suppose it makes sense knowing that this same person did not willingly brush her own hair until she was about, oh, maybe 10 years old!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh, did I forget to tell you? I know my colors.

I got a pleasant surprise at Natalie's Occupational Therapy session last week. Her therapist was working with her on stacking blocks and started asking Natalie to get certain colors to stack next and I was amazed to see her get it right nearly every time. It seems that she knows green, blue, red and yellow. I had no idea. I wasn't prepared with my camera at the time so this week I made sure that I had the camera ready to get a video or two. She was not really motivated to do the stacking this week as you'll notice but who cares -- SHE KNOWS HER COLORS!

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Skills

Recently, I was unloading the dishwasher while Natalie was eating.  She was eating cheerios and s'mores goldfish crackers (chocolate, graham, and marshmallow shaped fish).   A minute or two after putting them on her tray I looked over and saw this:
I was so excited that I ran to get the camera.  Why was I so excited you ask?  Well, because I have never seen Natalie do any type of  sorting activity.  I decided to see what she would do if I put a few more chocolate fish on her tray.  When I did she immediately looked at them, picked them up one by one, and added them to the area with the other chocolate fish.   Not only is this a great developmental step but it shows that she is using her vision well to distinguish colors.  I've since realized that she apparently does this because she does not like to eat the chocolate ones.   She also doesn't like the marshmallow ones but it's more fun to just throw those on the floor!
Natalie also continues to get stronger and more stable when standing and cruising.  She pulls herself up more steadily and confidently.  In fact, if she sees something on a table or counter now, she will try her hardest to get it.  Here she is in the bathroom trying to reach something on the counter.  Just a few months ago I would not have considered leaving her for even a second to get the camera because she was so unsteady she would have likely fallen quickly.  Now she can even get herself down from this position safely. 
I am so proud of my big girl!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Valentine

Natalie had a wonderful Valentine's Day weekend visiting with some of her favorite Valentines.  On Saturday she got to visit with both her Mamaw Hall and Cook.  On Sunday she spent some time with her Great Grandma and Great Bop. 
Natalie and her Great Bop

She also got a special Valentine balloon from Grandpa Howard (it's tied to the back of the fire truck below):
Happy girl driving her truck

I also snuck in some standing practice with her balloon.  It was hard to get a good picture because she was so excited about her balloon that she kept losing her balance. 

Hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day weekend!