A Wish Come True

In the summer of 2020, we were nominated to have a wish granted from the Make-a-Wish foundation for Greyson. At first, we thought about maybe going on a trip, but with COVID and his seizures not being under control, we decided to askk for something that would last awhile. Greyson has a huge swingset at his Grammy and Pappy’s house, so we already knew that he loved to be outside and loved swingsets. SO naturally, his wish would be a playset of his own for our house.

It felt like forever from the time of initial contact until we were finally picking out a swingset for Greyson. Over the course of a few months and tons of emails/phone calls back and forth, we finally picked a set and had a delivery time frame. Flash forward about 4 months and Greyson’s wish has been granted!

The swingset arrived on Wednesday, April 21st and as soon as it was assembled, Greyson was practically crawling out the door to go play. He has been outside every single day to play on it. We knew he was going to love the swingset, so we are incredibly blessed that the Susquehanna Valley Make-a-Wish was able to grant him this wonderful gift.

Greyson and Roslynn were on the tire swing underneath the slide

Despite a swingset and spending time outside, Greyson has had a tough couple of weeks. He reached his ideal dose of Lamictal shortly after my last post and continued to have issues despite the medication. Due to his frequent seizures while asleep, Greyson began sleeping in bed with me again about 2 months ago. He woke me up on Tuesday last week, with violent convulsions and twitching. Luckily I am a light sleeper and woke up to the movement and was able to monitor him.

On Thursday, Roslynn had a benchmark test for school around 9 am. While she was taking her test, I received a phone call from Greyson’s school, stating that Greyson had fallen asleep after a lengthy seizure and was unresponsive. I jumped in the car and made it to his school within 15 minutes (tyically a 20-25 min drive). When the school staff brought him out to the car, he was accompanied by EMS, the school nurse, his teacher and his personal care assistant. The EMS staff informed me that he was stable and his pulse oxygen level was okay and he was in a deep post-seizure nap (which happens after any seizure of his). I got him into the car and took him home immediately. Derek was working from home that day, so he was able to stay with Roslynn, so that helped me in getting there quickly. Once he got home, I fed him lunch and laid low for the afternoon until his RBT arrived. He didn’t seem like anything was wrong once he woke up, so I was feeling pretty confident that he was not having any issues and was okay to go outside to play.

Little buddy and I after his post seizure nap

Greyson wasn’t the only person in the Martin family to have a wish come true this past week. Derek and I began looking for a new house in 2018, mainly due to the fact that we outgrew our house shortly after moving in. Because I lost my job last spring, we put our search on hold until we knew we would be ready to proceed with selling our house and purchasing a new home. We began viewing houses again in early March and by this past weekend, we saw a total of 9 houses and had an offer placed on one, which we lost to another couple who offered more money than we did. I did not feel very optimistic on many of the houses we saw, or the homes that we were finding on Zillow, Realtor.com or from our agent.

Wednesday last week, we were sent a listing for a home in New Holland, PA, which was our ideal location due to the school district of the area. We pulled into a quiet cul-de-sac, tucked in between main street and farmland and immediately were in love with the neighborhood. Expecting to fall in love with the house and to lose it to another bidder, we walked through and confirmed our fate. We peeked around another home in Stevens, PA that we liked as well, but couldn’t get the thought of the previous home out of our minds. We slept on it, and decided to place an offer on the New Holland house. A few hours later, we got a call from our agent and the sellers accepted our offer! It feels like a century since we began looking and now actually having a contract in hand, but we are so excited! We will have plenty of space inside AND outside for the kids, lots of storage and a huge fenced-in yard for the dog! We settle in mid-July and will physically move into the house in September. This gives us plenty of time to do minor things around our current home and get it on the market to sell, too. Guess this was the week for wishes to come true!

OUR NEW HOUSE!!!!!

Mr. Tickle

An actual story about G

If you haven’t heard the story, Mr. Tickle by Roger Hargreaves, you are missing out. I absolutely love the Mr. Men book series, and this story in particular always reminds me of Greyson, since he absolutely loves tickles. Mr. Tickle also has a way of making everything completely inconvenient for others due to his love of tickling, but luckily for us, I am not ticklish and Greyson likes receiving those tickles. Interesting enough, our pastor recently read Mr. Fussy as part of his sermon a few weeks ago. He used the connection of Mr. Fussy with a gospel reading where Jesus explains to his disciples the outcome of his life. Mr. Fussy loves to be in control of everything and is so particular about every detail of his life, it seems like utter chaos when his cousin, Mr. Clumsy comes to visit. In the true fashion of a person with OCD, losing control of a situation or any hiccup in the person’s “perfect” world, can cause severe internal panic and uneasiness. I know, because my life has been a complete hiccup since Greyson’s diagnosis journey began and you know there’s not enough Sertraline in the world to calm my nerves. Our pastor goes on to discuss how his life is a lot like the life of Mr. Fussy, with the world only feeling content when he is in complete control of it.

Why does this all matter? Well, about a year or so ago, Derek and I were discussing the benefits of Greyson having an iPad with Proloquo on it, to aid in his communication efforts. We both knew a few clients who used Proloquo to communicate with others and express wants/needs, but we knew that we would need a new iPad to run such an extensive app. After months of research and learning about the program, our hopes of getting the program for Greyson was fading, since the iPad, app and case for the tablet would be about $1,000. And who has that kind of money just hanging around? When Derek was at our church recording a worship service, he was voicing to our pastor and his daughter, the program and the possibility of Proloquo helping Greyson and our wonderful congregation pulled together money to provide us with a grant to fund all the necessary items for the program. We purchased the tablet, program and case and programmed the essentials- Proloquo, Disney Plus and Youtube. In Proloquo, you can personalize the buttons to have pictures instead of just words, so Greyson could associate the button with the picture, since he isn’t able to read. I set the photos to all of his commonly requested/needed items: drink, food, Mom, Dad, Roslynn, Grandparents, about 50 different Disney movies and of course, Tickles.

Neither Derek or I knew how to introduce Proloquo to a child since we have no Speech/Language training and have a limited knowledge of sign language, so we brainstormed with his ABA therapist how we were going to use the tablet in his daily sessions. We put the two main reinforcers for Greyson on the main screen, so he could request them whenever he wanted to: Gummy Bear and Tickle. I was optimistic to see Greyson taking to the tablet right away and with some help, was able to push and request to be tickled. Roslynn also got a kick out of showing Greyson how to push the button and get a tickle or gummy bear in response. Soon, this became a daily request/tickle match between the two. I was so excited to see them interact with eachother and it was great to see Roslynn respond to Greyson’s request. We are so incredibly fortunate to belong to such a wonderful congregation that truly cares about each and every person who comes into the church. We have been very blessed with a small, but mighty roster of members and they have been so supportive and amazing throughout our difficulties and our joys.

Vocalizing “Tick” for tickles!!
Lunchtime and getting him used to the tablet

Greyson has been obsessed with corn lately. The people at the grocery store probably think that I am crazy, since I usually am buying 4 to 5 bags of frozen corn each week. He eats one bag of corn each afternoon when he gets home from school, along with his vegetable chicken nuggets. It seems like he always finds a food to become fixated on, it lasts about two or three weeks, then he never touches the food again. We are starting week 3 of the corn obsession, so I will let you know how it turns out. Earlier this year, the school psychologist told us that Greyson was functioning at about a 9 to 12 month level. I never realized how much he had regressed in some of his skills until I was watching him try to eat corn with a spoon. He was making a lot of progress with silverware when he was in early intervention, but over the past year or so, he refuses to try and use it. I was surprised when I put a bowl of corn in front of him with a spoon, and he began to use it.

I sat across from Greyson at the dining room table, teary eyed, watching him eat the corn. Here I am, watching this sweet little boy try so hard to eat with his silverware, but struggling with every scoop of the spoon. I took a short video of him to show Derek, and in hopes that I could find an older video of him using silverware to compare this one with. I wasn’t going to share the video, but I think it’s important to see how much he is struggling with these skills that he once had. I reviewed older videos of him from before he was having seizures, to this video and there truly is no comparison. A 10-month old Greyson was using utensils much easier than the now, almost five year-old Greyson sitting across from me. I figured be had regressed a good bit after the first few seizures, but flash forward 10-15 large seizures later, and he is a totally different child.

Enjoying his favorite veggie

The new seizure meds he is currently taking has been helping a lot when it comes to his daytime episodes. We have noticed his “twitching” when falling asleep has gotten significantly better as well. We are hopeful that once the meds are all leveled out, we will be seeing his verbal communication efforts take off. For now, we will take what we can get, enjoy time together and push forward to the future.

Playing with sissy’s barbies
My beautiful boy

The Rover and The Ice Storm

Back in early January, we saw the neurologist for a follow-up regarding Greyson’s seizures and severe headbanging. The doctor placed him on a new seizure medication routine and scheduled an MRI to check for any new damage or cause of migraines. We elected to have the MRI done in Philadelphia, at the CHOP main neurology hospital, the Buerger Center, since we previously did an MRI in August of 2019 there. I was monitoring the weather since Monday, due to a snow storm coming into the area, expecting to dump a few inches of snow on us and I REALLY did not want to reschedule his MRI. To get in for a sedated MRI already took long enough, prolonging it would only make this process harder.

Now, since the whole stitches fiasco last week, Greyson has been having a tough time walking into medical facilities. I guess its the whole “White Coat Syndrome” you read about in Psychology books, where the patient gets all nervous when they see a doctor and their blood pressure spikes, etc. Not to mention, this poor child has been poked and looked at by doctors for the past four years. Due to COVID protocols at the hospital, Greyson was required to have a negative COVID-19 test, resulted no more than three days from the scheduled MRI. Derek took G to the lab on Tuesday for his COVID test, which went about as well as you can imagine- four staff (and Derek) holding him down, just to get a quick nasal swab. The number 1 reason why I miss him being small: less people to restrain him. That evening, we received his negative result and I sent it over to the CHOP sedation team to proceed with the MRI on Friday.

Many conflicting weather forecasts later, it looked like we were set to receive about 6-10″ of snow Thursday, with snow ending very early on Friday. Perfect! The snow should end before we have to be in Philadelphia early on Friday morning. NOPE. Luckily our area received more sleet/freezing rain than snow, so that reduced the amounts for us by a few inches. All in all, by late Thursday evening, we received about 5″ of snow and it began to sleet a little before we fell asleep.

We were set to arrive at CHOP by 7 am on Friday morning. Not thinking too much of it, I figured that we could definitely do the 2 hour drive, since I was sure the PA Turnpike and main roads would be okay. I got up around 3 am and checked outside- no surprise that we had another light dusting of snow, but it didn’t look bad at all. Walking out to the car in my Old Navy driving loafers, the ground was slightly icy, but nothing too bad, as long as I walked along the salted walkway. We got in the car and I began to back out of the driveway. Side Note- if you’ve been to our house, you know our driveway is probably the worst thing about the property. A HUGE hill, which starts extremely steep, dips off into the cul-de-sac at the end of our quiet street. Well, I can say that even with AWD on and going VERY slowly, backing out of the drive turned into a large slip and slide for my Equinox. Once I regained control at the bottom of the drive, I was very concerned about enduring two hours of driving, if the roads were anything like this. To get onto the main highways to get us to the turnpike, we had to take some rural back roads, which were not yet plowed or salted. Needless to say, it was quite the “white-knuckle” drive the way up 222 North to the turnpike. The only time I truly feared for our trip was on 222 right before getting off onto the Turnpike- a huge tractor trailer was behind me and I hit some slush/ice and began to fishtail, driving about 50 MPH. Luckily, I was able to steer into the slide and we were able to safely get onto the turnpike, but only after the truck driver flashed their lights at me and beeped. RUDE. The rest of the trip went smoothly, the turnpike wasn’t too bad, minor spots here and there and the streets of Philadelphia were pretty much like the back roads here in Lancaster.

The staff at CHOP were fantastic. I said several times to Derek, I hate the drive to Philly, but the care Greyson received was unlike any other hospital we have been to. The staff had his behavioral plan in hand, so they knew what exactly would trigger him and what would help keep him calm during our visit. Childlife (the staff dedicated specifically to keeping children calm and distracted during difficult appointments/procedures) brought in their newest gadget, The Rover. The Rover is a large wooden box on wheels, about 5′ tall, that housed a projector, music player, color-changing bubble lamp, and fiber optic cables that also changed colors with the bubbles. Greyson absolutely loved this thing. It completely calmed him and kept him distracted from the staff walking in and out of the room, prepping for his sedation. When the MRI machine became available, the anesthesia team came in and administered Midazolam which is a nasal spray medication that almost completely relaxes the body within 5 minutes. It relaxes the patient so much, that it makes it impossible to struggle when getting an IV put in.

Enjoying the Rover

Once Greyson received the sedation medicine, he was out pretty quickly. We were assured that he would be okay and were able to kiss him goodbye before going into the lobby to wait. To pass the time, Derek and I decided that we were going to watch the latest episode of WandaVision on Disney Plus (if you haven’t watched this yet, you’re missing out!). We sat and watched the episode and once it was finished, we waited about another 25 minutes until being brought back to Greyson. Once we got into the room, Greyson was still asleep. He typically takes awhile to get up from sedation/anesthesia (very much like me), so I wasn’t expecting him to be up right away. This time, it did take a lot longer than any other time he has been under sedation, about 50 minutes total. I slowly removed the layers of warmed blankets from him, to help expedite the process to get him up and moving. Eventually, he did wake up and was very displeased he was in the hospital. He removed his supplemental oxygen tubes and was about to work on removing his IV, when I was able to get him to drink some juice, a requirement before discharge. Once he was able to drink a little and wake up completely, we got him dressed and were ready to go home.

He is out cold

Greyson was a fall risk, so he was strapped into a wheel chair for the discharge and short walk back to the car. We packed him in and left the hospital. Luckily by this time, the sun was out and the temperatures had increased enough to melt some of the ice and snow, so the roads were so much better than the morning had been. We made it home in pretty good time, since the speed restrictions on the PA turnpike were lifted. Once we got home, I picked up Roslynn from my parent’s house, who was having a Nana & Pop-Pop sleepover. We got back home, and the Martin besties were reunited. The rest of the afternoon was pretty low-key and the kids were happy to be back together.

Snuggle Bugs

I was not expecting the MRI results until Monday at the earliest, so I was pleasantly surprised to receive a message from the Neurologist. She stated that Greyson’s Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) AKA brain damage from birth, had not progressed or regressed. Essentially meaning that there was no new injury to the brain from his headhbanging, but his Intellectual Disability and Epilepsy is most likely caused by this injury. 92% of children with PVL will develop cerebral palsy in their life, which I am honestly shocked he has not been diagnosed already due to his gait and lack of muscle tone. We will cross that bridge if/when it comes, but for now, we are grateful for no new injuries and our healthy little man.

PVL Seen on the MRI. Note the darkened white areas.
Side shot of the little dude’s head. I love his little nose and lips!
One last photo of his little noggin

Slippery When Wet

Lancaster County saw it’s first significant snowfall in years, during the first week of February. I absolutely loathe the snow and don’t go out in it, unless I desperately have to. Because it’s been quite some time since it snowed enough to “play” in, Greyson had never felt snow before. About a foot of snow fell in our town, so we went out to play in it as soon as the larger flakes died down…..we meaning: Derek, Roslynn, Greyson, Duke and myself. Duke loves the snow, so it was fun seeing him interact with the kids, who were both walking through snow right above their knees. I was very impressed with Duke, who goes outside on a tether that gives him free-range to the backyard. Any time that Greyson would get close to the perimeter of the yard, he would bark or go to Greyson and redirect him back to the playhouse we have outside for the kids. Greyson lasted about ten minutes outside before he got too cold and wanted to go inside. I think he liked the snow, but didn’t like the thick winter clothing.

Definitely not feeling the layers

Roslynn ended up staying outside with Derek and Duke for about an hour, until her cheeks were bright red from the cold. We had a minor snowfall last weekend and last evening, with more projected in the upcoming week. A very active winter weather pattern for the Pennsylvania area. Yay…..not.

We began Greyson’s new seizure medication about three weeks ago now, and we have noticed he’s been doing pretty well on them. He isn’t having any of the side effects that we were warned about, except for flushed skin when he first takes an increased dose (we have to slowly increase this med to avoid blisters, which I guess is a common issue if given too much of this med, too soon.). He hasn’t been too drowsy and his sleep has been a bit more sound, which is always very welcomed. The only downside we have seen is that he has been a little more aggressive recently, but I think its Greyson testing how far he can push us until we react to the aggression. If you’ve ever had a child smack you across the face, or headbutt your nose for no apparent reason, then you know how difficult it is to keep a straight face and not react at all to random acts of violence from a toddler. I have been enjoying all of the snuggles and kisses he’s been giving as well, but once he turns into Mr. Hyde, the gig is up and I am typically protecting myself with couch pillows.

Look how sweet my Dr. Jekyll is

Greyson’s hair was getting super long, so I scheduled an appointment for him yesterday with ShearFade in Strasburg. Kim, the owner, is a former special education teacher and is absolutely excellent with Greyson. She is patient, kind and doesn’t get annoyed when Greyson frequently tries to escape her chair. Probably not the best idea to schedule it on a Wednesday, since its our busiest day of the week, but it was really the only time that Derek had available for this week. Derek took a new position within his agency, so he went from an hourly rate to a salary position, but he did lose some flexibility now that he’s tied to a desk for half of the week. After the busy day of school, therapies, virtual class, and dance, I know that taking G for a haircut was the last thing that Derek wanted to do at 6:30 at night. Luckily, the haircut went well and despite a tantrum, Greyson came home with less hair. Fast forward to about 8:30 pm (Derek was home for about 45-minutes at this point), Derek took Greyson up for a bath, part of Greyson’s nightly routine.

Now, Greyson has been experiencing some difficulties in the bath recently, jumping in and out whenever he has the chance. He thinks it is his personal pooltime, so he isn’t really concerned about anything but jumping around. We have had a few instances where he slips and slides around, but doesn’t get hurt typically because Roslynn is in the tub to catch his fall. Last night though, Roslynn was pretty beat from dance class, so I promised her that she could have a bath this morning since she wanted to go to bed. About five minutes after I heard the tub water stop running, I heard a very loud BANG coming from the upstairs guest bathroom. Immediately after the BANG, I heard screaming and crying……and this was the “I’m hurt” cry that Greyson does when something is very wrong. Next thing I know, Derek is hollering for me to hurry up the stairs and as I approach the bathroom door, there is a lot of blood in the tub and on a bath towel that Derek is holding to Greyson’s face. He managed to jump into the tub, but instead of jumping into the water directly, he hit his face on the side of the tub, right onto Derek’s left hand, clipping Derek’s wedding band on his face. After assessing the siutation, I determined that G was most likely going to need stitches. I made the necessary phone calls to the Pediatrician and had them fax the referral over to LGH Emergency Department (I would’ve taken him to an urgent care, but all were closing at 9 pm and it was 8:52 pm by the time this all happened). Due to COVID-19 and the fact that I can’t handle Greyson very well, like Derek can, so Derek elected to take G to the ER. I felt absolutely awful because Derek was going out again and had only been home for about an hour out of his then 13-hour day, but it was the only way that G was getting stitches.

Front view of the injury
Side view of the wound

Derek got to the ER around 9:15 pm and was told that the wait was going to be awhile……little did we know, awhile meant 3 hours. Exhausted from working all day, taking G for a haircut and now waiting in an emergency room lobby, he was done for the day. Luckily, I was able to call and say something regarding the wait time and the fact that our son with special needs was waiting in a COVID infested petry dish, waiting for a few stitches. RIDICULOUS! This helped Derek get put into a “fast care” room almost immediately after. The doc did a quick evaluation of the area and determined G needed stitches…….well, duh. About an hour later, four stitches were put in to close up the very wide wound and Derek was waiting for discharge paperwork. By the time he got home, it was about 2 am. A ridiculously long, busy and exhausting day. Luckily, Greyson had no school today due to the minor snow overnight, so he was able to sleep in a bit. Since waking up, he’s managed to pull one of the four stitches out. Hoping he can keep the other three in until his skin has healed enough to close the gap.

The next week or so will be just as active as the local weather forecast. Greyson is having an MRI next Friday, February 19th to assess for any progression in his PVL, or if there is any new brain damage caused by Greyson’s self-injurious behaviors. Because the procedure require sedation and fasting, we are set to arrive in Philly by 6:30 am. WOOF. He also needs to have a negative COVID-19 test resulted to CHOP before we can check in, so hopefully all goes well and smoothly with that test on Tuesday. Please continue to keep G in your thoughts, since this next week will be hard for us with his school being on a 10-day break and with these upcoming diagnostic tests.

Next time you get into the shower or tub, just remember- it definitely is slippery when wet.

New Year, Old Habits

I think it’s safe to say that everyone is happy that 2020 is finally over. With COVID-19, a tumultuous election season and so much going on in the world, 2021 has been warmly welcomed. 2020 was uneventful for Greyson and his medical concerns, up until the very end of November, when he began to have issues with his sleep again. He has been off of seizure medications for a year and strictly only on Medical Marijuana to manage his epilepsy and seizure episodes.

We moved Greyson into the master bedroom right around October due to concerns with his seizure activity at night. I wanted to monitor him more closely and because I don’t sleep very heavily (like Derek does), I thought it would be beneficial for him to be close if something was to happen during his sleep. His medicine was helping with some of the sleep concerns- helped get him to bed sooner, but nothing has helped keep him asleep….ever. He began waking up in the middle of the night in November, popping up from a deep sleep, only to begin screaming bloody murder and thrash his body all around- all while still appearing to be asleep. When he was having episodes like this in the past, we were sent for his first EEG and that’s when the seizures were discovered during his sleep. When he began having these issues, I started to assume that we were going to have to go on seizure medications again.

We discontinued all of Greyson’s medications back in early 2020, so he could have a fresh start and for us to try something more natural with him (medical marijuana oils). For about six months, things were going very well and we (and the school staff) saw a huge improvement in him from the time he was on the anti-consultants. Among the 7 or 8 different meds we tried for his seizures previously, all made him either more aggressive, excessively sleepy/drowsy, or caused him to have serious self-injurious behaviors. Weening him off of the meds was easy and it was almost instantly that we saw the benefits of no medications. When he started showing issues again with his epilepsy, the thought of pumping him with drugs again, was not appealing to us. As time has gone by, we realize that the medicine will do less harm to him than a seizure would. Afterall, it really only takes 1 large seizure to cause serious damage or death.

Right after Christmas, I contacted the neurologist to address my concerns with Greyson and a new EEG was ordered. His most recent EEG was a 24-hour EEG in Philadelphia in August 2019, which showed abnormal sharp waves in his left parietal lobe. This wasn’t much of a difference from his previous 24-hour EEG in the Spring of 2019, but did show more evidence of ESES, which is a condition where a person’s brain doesn’t rest and has seizure-like activity constantly through sleep. Not sure if I have talked about ESES before in previous posts, but here is the actual medical definition of it:

Electrical status epilepticus in sleep (ESES) is a childhood-onset epileptic encephalopathy characterized by epilepsy, cognitive regression, and marked activation of epileptiform activity during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep to produce an electroencephalography (EEG) pattern of near-continuous spike-wave discharges.

I had also scheduled an appointment for Grey to follow up with the local Neurologist, to address the concerns and to review the EEG. Today was that visit.

Greyson hasn’t been sleeping well, so naturally no one in the Martin house is sleeping well, including Roslynn and Mr. Duke the dog. G was up around 2 am and hung out with me for about two hours, watching Coco and jumping all over the bed. Once I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, I sent him to sleep with Derek and I finally was about to get 3 hours of sleep. Prying him out of his sleep to then go to the Neurologist at 10 am was a fun task. We were all pretty miserable and were in desperate need of a nap. Greyson’s schedule was already thrown off for the morning, so when he realized he wasn’t going to school, he was extra grumpy.

CHOP has strict requirements for appointments due to COVID-19, so only Derek could take him to the appointment today, I was phoned in for it. The visit lasted a little over 45 minutes and it was concluded that Greyson will need to be on seizure medications to avoid a possible SUDEP case.

“For some people living with epilepsy, the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is an important concern. SUDEP refers to deaths in people with epilepsy that are not caused by injury, drowning, or other known causes.”

We addressed our concerns about previous side effects with seizure meds and we are willing to give them a chance again. We will begin G on Lamictal shortly, which is proven to show less side effects, especially drowsiness and has even reduced aggressive behaviors in Autistic patients. Here’s to hoping that we can get this under control and get Grey back to a good baseline. We are planning on keeping the medical marijuana too, since it has shown to help his behaviors and self-injury. The doctor also recommended that we do a repeat 24-hour EEG for Greyson and an MRI in Philly. The MRI is to check for any progression in his Periventricular Leukomalacia and any abnormalities that could be contributing to the seizures and migraines.

So 2020 may be gone and in the past, but 2021 begins to show past challenges that we are hoping to tackle head on. Cheers to 2021, to health, to no more COVID and hopefully to no more seizures. Maybe 2021 will bring some sleep, too. LOL!

A Change of Plans

The last time I have shared a post, was back in August. Since then, its felt like a year…..at least.

Roslynn has been doing AMAZING in school! We knew that she was extremely smart, but the time it has taken her to grasp concepts (and retain them), has really surprised me. Because our school district’s virtual program it totally ahead of the in-person classroom, I think she will go into first grade ahead of many other kids. She has also begun a musical theater dance class on Wednesday evenings, which focuses on singing, dancing and beginner acting for kids in Kindergarten to Third Grade. She is the smallest (size wise) kid in the class, but she really enjoys interacting with the other kids and it’s a great way for her to express herself outside the house.

Roslynn’s current grades for Kindergarten!

It’s a huge relief knowing that Roslynn has picked up Derek’s love for learning, especially since I did NOT have it when I was her age. I actually only really started liking to learn and pay attention to life, until I was well into my 20’s. I guess having kids does that to you.

Greyson is doing fantastic with school, as well. After being away from school for almost six months, I feared that he would have a difficult time transitioning back into the class. He has had zero issues with transitioning to pre-k again at our local intermediate unit, and he’s been doing fantastic with riding the bus. I love picking him up off the bus because he gives me the biggest, cheesiest smile possible when the driver is turning around in the culde-sac, so excited to come home and play with his sister. We have placed him on a very structured schedule, which has really helped with his behaviors, with exception of Fridays and weekends, when Greyson has a hard time comprehending that he does not have school. I often have to hide his backpack, jacket and shoes, so he doesn’t get triggered by seeing them. We did get word last night that his school is closed until December 1st, due to staffing issues that involve COVID-19. For the next two weeks, I will try my best to teach kindergarten in the morning AND function well enough in the afternoon to do some small table sessions with Greyson. I also have several meetings via Zoom, with both Greyson and Roslynn’s teachers for check-ins. Woof.

I’ve realized while homeschooling Roslynn, that I totally could have been a teacher! I use the school district curriculum as a guide, but I often modify lessons to make it easier for Roz to understand things. For example, she had to do a module about Animal Habitats for Science class. I knew that youtube and looking at pictures was great and all, but for her to truly understand and get the full concept of the lesson, I took her to the zoo, which is located about 45 minutes from our house. We went around and looked at different animals, took photos of their habitats and made notes of what we saw. This really was handy when her habitat project was due. We had a little bit of time left while we were in Hershey, so we went to Chocolate World while we were in town.

Roslynn had been to Hershey’s Chocolate World once or twice before, but she was very small and didn’t remember it. The building itself had changed so much, it was like a new experience from the last time we were there. We went on the factory tour ride, which she had such a blast. I felt so happy that I could do something with her for once, though I wish Derek could have been with us (he was working). I know that we don’t have the opportunity to do much with her, due to the amount of attention Greyson requires. She picked out her own treat while we were in Chocolate World and begs me to go back weekly.

Some photos from our trip
More pics from Hershey and other October photos

COVID-19 is still raging on in the US, so we are still staying home as much as possible…..which means I am still doing mini home projects and miscellaneous re-arranging of cabinets, drawers, closets, etc. My last post documented my painting prep for our powder room, which formerly had HIDEOUS floral wall paper. I finally finished the powder room remodel (we still need a new toilet and lighting fixture), and am really happy with how it turned out. In the past month, I have also rearranged the master bedroom, guest bath, pantry, refrigerator, all kitchen cabinets, laundry room and have been gutting the garage. Keeping busy, so I can do tasks that really keep my mind off of all the recent troubles of our country and world. My other release from the world, is by singing at church. We couldn’t come back as a full choir due to COVID, so we have weekly quartet singers that come in and sing. Each week is a different quartet and I have had a busy time making sure all services are fully staffed and the singers know of the protocol for the Church and the COVID pandemic. Its only a few hours a week, but it really helps me escape the chaotic life we live, and gives me the opportunity to feel “normal” sometimes.

Finished Product

With all the uncertainties of life right now, I totally forgot that next week is Thanksgiving. 2020 has been probably the most difficult year of my short 31 years on earth, but it has also taught me that I have a lot to be thankful for. Though it’s caused us to make a lot of financial sacrifices, I transitioned to being a full-time stay at home mom, something I never thought we would be able to do. I am so grateful to have a husband that supports my decision to continue to stay home with the kids and who supports me during this challenging time in life. I am thankful for my entire family and know that after this year, I will never take a day for granted that I have with my parents, sisters, niece and nephew. I’m hoping to update more often, but things have been so crazy, I haven’t had an extended period of time to sit and write, which I need to commit to. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and stays safe and healthy.

More Fall Fun

“Teacher Mommy”

So much has happened in the past two weeks, that it honestly feels like I haven’t given an update in months….

About ten days ago, the 2020-2021 school year was going to look a little like this- I would homeschool Roslynn for the first half of kindergarten, with guidance from the Penn Manor School District virtual school. Greyson was set to learn from home as well, with a teacher coming out to the house daily to see him, specialists and his classroom teacher doing weekly check-ins and he would receive his ABA services in-home too. This plan drastically changed ten days ago. On Friday, August 21st around 3 PM.

ABA services have been wacky recently, due to COVID-19 and changes with staffing, etc. so I received word that Greyson’s RBT (who had been spending 4 hours a day with us, providing essential services) was moved around to other clients, leaving majority of Greyson’s hours unstaffed. This meant that I was going to be teaching kindergarten from home WHILE watching/tending to Greyson, who really needs one-on-one care 24/7. Derek and I slept on it and after much debating, we decided it would be in Greyson’s best interest to send him back to school. It was such a difficult decision to make and I still wonder to myself if it is a good choice. I must say, Greyson riding the bus from 8:10 and not getting back until 11:50, is a much needed break for me, even if I’m teaching kindergarten at that time. Greyson now will have an opportunity to have his PT, OT, VB and speech in person/at school and will continue to have ABA services from 4-6 PM.

Leaving school after his first day back!
Not sure if he’s happy or annoyed that he has to come home already

We informed his classroom teacher on Sunday, August 20th that Greyson would be returning to the classroom (after telling her for months that he would be home, telling the bus company that he didn’t need a ride and setting up weekly consultations with staff for his check-ins). Luckily, she understood the predicament we were in and after rushing to get papers signed, forms in from doctors, medicine clearances, etc., we were able to send G back to school on Wednesday, the 22nd. In a typical school, there is absolutely no way that would have been done in two days- just goes to show that the IU in Lancaster has great staff members, who don’t mess around! Excitingly enough, he will begin to ride the bus tomorrow. Fingers crossed for a safe, smooth and easy transition into that.

Roslynn had her first day of kindergarten today! It’s hard to believe that she has gotten so big and is already five years-old and in kindergarten. Due to the overwhelming demand for virtual schooling, the school district’s programs for kindergarten and several other grades were not equipped to manage so many online students. While we wait for her modules and kindergarten classwork to be added to her portal, I had to improvise activities for today and most of this week. Now, I DID at one point want to be a teacher, but after working in a kindergarten classroom for a year, I knew there would never ever be a day when you’d see me teaching a class full of kids. It certainly takes a village to raise one child, but boy does it take one hell of a person to teach 20-25 hyperactive children.

As we wait for the school district to get everything together, I will continue to improvise and go with the flow of activities she likes to do, particularly on ABC Mouse and other educational programs. Today for example, I taught her the different between capital and lower-case letters, had her practice writing them with and without composition lines, then got her accustomed to using a mouse and laptop. She only cried once when she had a really tough time clicking and dragging items on the laptop. Overall, I think its going to be a lot of work, but I am hopeful that this is the safest option and it also allows her to work at her own pace, which is always very good for her.

Obligatory “first day of school” photos
So proud of her use of the mouse and touch screen laptop!

Gone are the days that I was able to do small home improvement projects, as I’ve been doing for the past two weeks. I’ve traded in my hammer and paintbrush for a computer and curriculum guide. I’m actually legit proud of myself for doing these improvement projects, mainly things that I’ve wanted to do, but didn’t have the time when I was working full-time.

Painted our front door!
Tore out ugly wallpaper, spackled holes and prepped for painting
Before, with the hideous wallpaper

I’m hoping that I can give Roslynn a positive kindergarten “environment”, even though she is home and that I can live up to the name that she has given me, “Teacher Mommy”. I’m also hoping that the computer system gets its act together soon- one can only make up pretend lesson plans for so long! Sending prayers and good vibes to all those who are homeschooling, or making the hard decision to send their kiddos back to school.

She would prefer to go to school to become a unicorn….

Raincoat

For the past year or so, Greyson has seen a local pediatric dentist, who works for a practice that isn’t the greatest with a non-verbal, autistic toddler. We began seeking a new dentist for him back in the fall of 2019 and were referred to the Penn Medicine Dental Program in Philadelphia. They do many “in home” procedures with laughing gas and they do sedated visits at CHOP, when needed. After the referral was placed, I was able to make sure they accepted his insurance (which had changed since his last appointment due to the loss of my benefits in April), which they did. Roslynn’s dentist (who Derek and I both see, along with the rest of my family) does not accept her new insurance, so I figured we would have her see someone at Penn Medicine too, since we were going to be there for Greyson. Today was the intake appointment for both children at the main campus in West Philadelphia.

The morning began as usual, with the exception that Greyson FINALLY slept in his own bed, for the first time in nearly two years! I was shocked. I woke up this morning, not knowing where we would find him, but I checked the clock at 7:30 AM and there he was, laying in his bed, snuggled under the covers, looking so cozy. I was hopeful that if he got a good night’s sleep, maybe he wouldn’t be a total grump at the dentist. Well, that hopeful thought lasted about an hour, because soon after waking up, he was not happy. Overall irritable, but energetic, so I was super confused. Alas, both kids were up, dressed and ready to go, so I felt like despite his attitude, maybe it would still be an okay trip.

Greyson sleeping in his BIG BOY BED!!!!!
Grumpy Greyson angry that he had to wear actual clothing today
I was convinced we were going to go to the ER instead of the dentist when he pulled this down onto himself…..

After many visits for CHOP for MRIs, EEGs and miscellaneous appointments, I knew that leaving early would be best for the sake of traffic and I always prefer to be early for appointments, just in case. So, like I typically do, I google mapped the location (for the 5th time) and route, along with the nearest parking garages and meter parking availability. I felt pretty confident that I knew where we were going and where to park, so I actually did not feel anxious for a “mini-trip”, like I typically am. That should have been my first warning that the day was not going to go as planned so easily. Greyson, who was the first appointment of the two kids, was scheduled for 1:00 PM and Roslynn was scheduled immediately after, at 2:00 PM. We left the house around 11:00 AM, stopping for gas before hopping on the highway. Roslynn and Greyson both had virtual psychiatry visits this morning at 9:15, and Roslynn was also scheduled for her weekly (virtual) outpatient appointment with her therapist at 11:15 AM. Luckily her therapist was okay with us doing the appointment in the car as we were driving, so Roslynn had her session in the back seat while I drove, Derek navigated and Greyson watched “Trolls”.

At the conclusion of her visit, Roslynn was starting to feel car sick, as she typically does when in the car, so I was giving constant reminders for her to breathe and close her eyes, etc. The GPS was reading an arrival time of 12:53 PM, so I was getting a little nervous that we weren’t going to have much time to get situated before we had to go in for the appointment. We got onto the Schuylkill Expressway and I felt like we were making pretty good time, despite traffic being a little heavy. We soon pass the exit for the Philly Zoo, CHOP and the Philly Convention Center, and I realized that I had never seen signs for Independence Hall before on our trips. The thought then crossed my mind that I had never seen Independence Hall before at all, until it was sitting right in front of me. I still continued to follow the GPS, just assuming that it was taking us on a short cut around construction. I began to get even more nervous when the GPS stated that our “location was approaching on the right side”, and we were sitting in front of a spa, tucked away in a busy city block, far into Center City.

This doesn’t look like the Penn Medicine Dental building

Panicked, I have Derek check the GPS address and he changed the GPS application we were using to good ol’ Google Maps. Turns out, the app we were using (which has never given me any issues before), took us to the other Penn Medicine Dental Program on the completely opposite side of the city. 12:53 PM came and went. I knew we would be really late, so Derek called and informed the receptionist that we were going to be late, to which she responded that we had “15 minutes past the appointment start time” as a grace period to get to the appointment. The GPS, with the correct location this time, was reading 1:10 PM arrival. Whew. I took a deep breath and got us across Philadelphia by 1:08 PM. We made it. I was so relieved. Traffic was getting heavy around the facility and there was no parking available out front of the building, so I dropped Derek and the kids off at the door and circled around the block to find a parking spot. About 20 minutes later, I finally got around the block and found a spot right in front of the building. I pay the $5.40 parking fee for two hours of parking and feel confident that maybe the trip wasn’t going to be a disaster afterall!

The Pediatric Dentistry program waiting room- super cute!!

I quickly go through the security check-in, get my temperature taken and smother Purel all over my hands and arms and join Derek and the children in the waiting room in the pediatric wing of the building. Greyson and Derek went back first for the first appointment. I sat in the waiting room with Roslynn and heard the occasional scream/cry come from the exam room that Greyson was in, so naturally I assumed all was going well. Back story to why I really wanted to find a dentist that could manage an ASD child, was because Greyson injured his mouth/front two teeth back in early 2020, when he head butted the steps the entire way down from the top step, to the bottom (pre-helmet arrival). His front right tooth had been turning a gray-ish color after the injury, so we were really upset that Penn Medicine wasn’t accepting new patients (due to COVID) from March until August. About 30 minutes later, Derek and Greyson come out of the exam room and into the waiting area, and the same dentist took Roslynn and I back to the same exam room.

Before we began with Roslynn’s exam, the dentist debriefed Greyson’s visit with me. Shockingly, Greyson had zero cavities! He did however, have an extra tooth growing in between his front two teeth. The gray tooth is in fact a dying tooth, as we expected. The dentist did not feel like it was necessary to pull the dead tooth at this time, mainly because it isn’t causing him any pain or discomfort at this time, and the dentist doesn’t want to give him anesthesia unless seriously necessary, which we agreed with. I was able to see the x-rays from G’s visit and saw the very crowded front teeth, 3rd tooth and all. Roslynn’s exam was fast and informative. She did great for her x-rays, cleaning and fluoride treatment, giggling at the dentist and dental assistant’s funny jokes the entire time. I knew that Roslynn had a cavity on her lower left side of her mouth, which was visible whenever she opened her mouth wide enough, but I was not prepared to hear that she had 5 additional cavities.

Roslynn has always been a great brusher. Every morning she always brushes her teeth after she is dressed and her hair is done. Evenings, she does need reminders and help with motivation to go into the bathroom and brush well, which she tries to avoid frequently. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I felt like a horrible parent when I heard that she had so many cavities. The dentist assured me that most of the cavities are between her teeth, mainly due to the fact that she has very little enamel on her teeth, which is a common issue with children. Basically any small teeny tiny evidence of a cavity beginning to form, Roslynn gets a full-blown cavity, quickly. The dentist stressed to Roz that she needed to allow us to help with her brushing and flossing. She reluctantly agreed, received her fluoride treatment and we set up her follow-up appointment to come in and have her cavities filled. We made a pit-stop at the bathroom before we began our 1 1/2 hour journey home and made our way to the exit.

I was so excited to show Derek what a great parking spot I got. Since both kids were getting pretty antsy and wanted to go home, Derek was relieved to hear that we wouldn’t have a far walk to get back to the car. We exit the building and I immediately noticed a bright orange piece of paper in the rear windshield wiper blade of my car. I at first believed that someone placed a flyer of some sort on the car, but didn’t see any other cars with any papers on them. As we approached closer to the car, a homeless man walked closer towards us and stated that the Philadelphia parking authority had been by, ticketed my car and marked it for towing. WHAT???!!!! I literally paid for parking, so I was so confused when I pulled the ticket and the bright orange paper off of the car. Having seen the show, “Parking Wars” on A&E, I knew that getting towed in a big city was something that you did NOT want. I quickly tell Derek and Roslynn to hurry up and get in the car, while I skim the car, looking for a boot that would prevent us from leaving. No boot. I thank the homeless man for his information and we pull away before a tow truck could come and move the car. Derek pulls the ticket out of the envelope and the $55.00 fine was written due to parking in an AMBULANCE spot. I honestly checked the signs when I was parking and saw zero signs regarding anything except “two-hour parking” and a loading zone a few feet away. Sitting at the red light feet away from the parking spot, Derek saw an ambulance loading/drop off sign that was in a spot close by the “3-hour handicapped” parking sign that I was looking at when I parked the car. I wanted to get out of the city and be done with the day, so we paid the ticket online and were done with the disaster of a day we had so far.

I swear, I can’t make this crap up. I have the BEST of luck.

Both kids were fairly hungry by 3:00 PM, so we stopped at an exit off the PA turnpike and got them some food. That held their crying over for about 20 minutes, until Greyson began to get fussy from sitting in the carseat. He was screaming and crying his high-pitched squealing cries that Derek and I just love so much. I was hitting some heavy traffic, so I was trying to calm Greyson down verbally, while paying attention the road and other drivers. Roslynn, who was complaining about motion sickness, was screaming for her raincoat, which we brought as a precaution. I asked her why she needed the raincoat, but of course, her anxiety and frustration of being in the car for so long, prevented her from answering me. She continued to scream “raincoat” the rest of the way home, which was about 45 minutes with the heavy traffic.

We got home finally around 5:00 PM, and were greeted happily by Mr. Duke. What a busy day. Both kids are out cold, just as I had hoped they would be. I love looking at them while they peacefully sleep, wondering what their little brains dream about at this age, (hopefully) not knowing the chaotic, challenging and uncertain times we are all facing as a nation. One thing I am certain of though, is I better not hear the word “raincoat” for awhile.

Evaluation Day

Evaluation Day La Vie de Autism

Evaluation day in Baltimore for a diagnosis of Sturge-Weber Syndrome…..or was it? Follow us on our mini-trip down I-83 to Baltimore, MD where we receive some interesting news about Greyson's condition.
Evaluation day in Baltimore for a diagnosis of Sturge-Weber Syndrome…..or was it? Follow us on our mini-trip down I-83 to Baltimore, MD where we receive some interesting news about Greyson’s condition.

A “Dig-a-lay-lay” Birthday

Just a quick reflection of this past celebratory weekend……

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that Derek and I are somewhat decent at deciphering Greyson’s vocal stims. For example, “Uh-DUHHHHHH” means he’s really mad and you should leave him alone and “dig-dig” is typically something funny (it’s turned into more of a “tig-tig” for tickles now). The only stim that we have not figured out is “dig-a-lay-lay”. We did ask how he felt about his birthday on Saturday, which he replied “dig-a-lay-lay”, so hopefully it means something good? HA HA. He’s trying so so so hard to communicate, especially when he is extremely excited or passionate about something.

This past weekend, we celebrated Greyson’s 4 year-old birthday by having two separate family parties. We did it this way due to COVID-19 and not having a large group of family members together. Saturday, his actual birthday, was celebrated with my family, where Greyson had a “Toy Story” themed party. We had only immediate family members (again because of COVID) and it was small, but Greyson had a blast! Greyson woke up on Saturday and was extremely excited. I think he knew that something was up, especially since Roslynn was screaming “Happy Birthday, baby G!” all morning. Once I began decorating with the Toy Story decor, his face lit up immediately. It wasn’t as fun as the Bounce Kraze party we had last birthday, but it was more intimate and it was nice that everyone could talk and hang out.

Low-key decor for the cake table
Giant did a wonderful job on his cake!

Greyson’s favorite part of the day was the balloons. We had a few dozen balloons for him, and he was so excited once Derek brought them into the house. The next 8 hours basically consisted of him wrapping himself up in the balloons and playing with them rather than the toys he received as gifts.

Our birthday celebration continued into Sunday, with Derek’s immediate family, who planned a fun picnic outside for Greyson. Greyson was able to play on his swing set and run around outside, despite the heat and humidity. We had a blast playing and running around, which is his favorite activity. G’s seizures are typically triggered by heat/sun/humidity, but because we discovered this last summer, we were able to spot his warning signs (starting to foam at the mouth and slow down physically), preventing a seizure. I’m starting to think that maybe Greyson even realizes his limitations, because every time he gets overheated, he requests to be picked up and carried inside for water…which he would have never done last summer.

Me, trying to take an artsy photo of Greyson
He takes his sliding-board work seriously
Right before he requested to go inside and cool down

As of today, we are officially at 1,007 days since we began seeking a diagnosis and/or explanation into Greyson’s medical issues. This feels like a lifetime, and we aren’t even close to the finish line. I used to believe that we would have an answer after seeing a few specialists, but it seems like the more specialists we see, the more problems the doctors discover. My personal goal for this year is to stop obsessing over the idea that we will get an answer. This doesn’t mean I am giving up on finding one, but I am slowly coming to the realization that we may never really know all of the answers, and I can’t let it consume me. That’s just something I’m working on accepting.

Looking so serious
I love seeing him so happy
These kids love their snapchat filters
Post birthday parties- both of us are pretty tired!
“Ok mom, stop taking my picture”