Calm, Cool and Collected.

He loves his water slide!

When I sit to write a post, I’m typically doing so while Greyson is napping, or in the middle of one of my insomnia episodes at 2 AM. I have had my fair share of insomnia episodes over the past month, I have not written a post. So much has happened over the past month, I keep waiting for things to calm down before I can process them and put our life experiences into words. Unfortunately, I can’t forsee our lives calming down anytime in the near future, so chaos writing it is.

Lexi, Aiden and Roslynn in my sister’s wedding

Well, first and foremost, Roslynn celebrated her 6th birthday on May 29. She finished kindergarten on the 28th, which was the same day as my sister’s wedding. What a week it was! Squeezing one last full week of schooling into two days, a rehearsal dinner, wedding, dance recital AND a birthday pretty much ran us down to empty by memorial day. Roslynn was a flower girl at my sister’s wedding, and I was SO impressed at how well she did at the rehearsal and actual ceremony. She and my niece literally started the dancing at the reception and they were certainly the hit of the dance floor! We had such a great time with friends and family, and my sister looked gorgeous. Greyson was an honorary ring bearer, but because of his epilepsy and severe needs, he stayed home and had a nice mini staycation with his Pappy. I must admit, it was so nice to have time away where Derek and I could act like a couple, and it was nice to feel like a “normal” family, even for just a few hours. I know that sounds like something a parent shouldn’t say, but for Derek and I to have a few hours to not worry about chasing after Greyson, worrying about him having a seizure, or what he has in his mouth, was liberating in a way. I did miss him a lot when we left and checked in regularly with Pappy. He was extremely happy to see us once we got home and could snuggle with him.

Birthday Princess playing pretty pretty princess

Things were going fairly well until the end of May. Greyson started having seizures again the week before the wedding, so his neurologist increased his medications for seizure control. He seemed to do okay for a week or so, but has been having frequent seizures since his initial breakthrough in May. Duke came down with a mysterious infection a few days after we picked him up from the kennel, where we boarded him while we were participating in wedding activities. About a day or so when we picked him up, we noticed his hair was falling out a good bit, but I assumed this was because he had a bath at the groomer before bringing him home. By Friday of that week, I noticed that Duke was really biting/scratching at himself, particularly around his ears and neck. Derek and I determined that we would call the vet on Monday morning and see what the deal was with the itching.

What a sad Mr. Duke

Monday morning came and I called the vet’s office at 9 am when they opened. Well, I called for hours and no messages could be left on the machine and I couldn’t get anyone to respond by phone, via facebook messenger or by email. I later found that the office had been closed due to an emergency, so I had to wait until Tuesday morning. Once I finally got someone on the phone on Tuesday, all appointments were booked until Thursday. At this point, Duke’s neck, left side of his face, eyes and several areas on his body were visibly infected. I tried other vet offices for a sooner appointment, but everyone was booked. I scheduled for Thursday with his vet, but something deep down was telling me not to wait, that this could not wait any longer. After calling around and doing some research, I found a newer emergency curbside vet in Lancaster and gave them a call. Luckily, they could see him that evening, so off he went to the vet. After several tests and observation, the vet was ready to send Duke home with two medications and some follow-up lab work orders to be completed after his medicine was gone. Along with the infected hot spot on his neck, that spread to several parts of his body, he also has a condition in his kidneys that dilutes urine too much. Not sure if there is a cure or what we can do about it at this point, but we will follow-up with the vet once we are finished with the meds. The vet said it was a good idea that we didn’t wait, because the infection could have been much worse by the Thursday vet appointment.

Throughout the entire dog ordeal, my concern was getting Duke back to 100% ASAP. With Greyson having seizures frequently again, we need the dog to show us when Greyson is going to have one, or is having one. We gave him lots of TLC, hugs, treats and let him sleep in the big bed with us until he started feeling better. Though he has many bald spots that have remained on random parts of his body, we are so relieved that he is feeling better and is on the mend.

Best buds

Greyson continues to have these partial seizures, which seemed to only impact the one side of his face. Up until yesterday, Greyson had not had a full tonic-clonic seizure in a few months and we knew that the partial seizures lasted for a few minutes, but stopped on their own most of the time. Not that they aren’t concerning, but we were getting pretty confident that we knew what to do and how to manage these partial seizures. Last evening however, Greyson had a severe tonic-clonic drop seizure, which is when the person with epilepsy falls mid-activity and slips into a complete state of unconsciousness. This has happened once before to Greyson, back in July of 2019 when we were on our family vacation. He dropped onto the floor while eating chips and went into a full tonic-clonic seizure. Similar to that event, last evening, Greyson also dropped (luckily on the bed, so he was not injured from the fall) and began having a full tonic-clonic episode. The difference with this episode was that Greyson immediately began to turn blue: first in the lips, then his limbs. I knew that this seizure wouldn’t stop on its own, so we gave him the emergency seizure medication. About 20-30 seconds later, he was up and aware of what had just happened.

His most recent partial seizure

I continue to glue all of the possible triggers together, so we can avoid or try to help him before these happen, but it seems like a completely different issue each time. Whether it be heat, lights, headache, extreme tiredness, hyperactivity or lack of medicine, the possible triggers are endless. I try to be a patient, understanding and informed parent when it comes to my son’s medical needs and concerns; however, after almost 5 years of medical and behavioral concerns, I am quickly losing hope that we will ever find someone who can truly help us. I constantly remind myself that there are individuals out there that have children who are far worse off than Greyson is, and that we could have it so much worse than we currently do. That is always my drive and motivation to keep pushing on and to fight/advocate for him and his needs. As much as we think we know about Greyson and his conditions, there is so much we don’t know. That’s why it is so important that we keep going, keep pushing and keep the faith, despite it being in low supply at the moment.

Post major tantrum nap

As we get closer and closer to settlement and move-in day for our new house, we also get closer to the peak of the summer. I think of how much better things will be for our family once we have space to move around and not be confined to the living room, which serves as our play room, tv room and dining area. Once we survive the hellish heatwave we are experiencing this week, one can only hope that the remainder of the summer is calm, cool(er) and at least a little collected.

DéjàVu

This kid is a water rat

Déjà vu. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know that it can be extremely confusing and weird. I have had issues with déjà vu for as long as I can remember. I definitely feel like I get it a lot more often than most people. I always chalked it up to me just being really in-tune with my memory and surroundings. But if you look up why a person experiences déjà vu, you may find the following explanation:

People who are exhausted or stressed tend to experience déjà vu more. This is probably because fatigue and stress are connected with what likely causes most cases of déjà vu: memory.

https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/july/deja-vu

Totally makes sense! The concept of déjà vu itself is so confusing, but the sensation one feels when they have the “Ah-Ha” moment, is truly unsettling. At least for me. I hate standing in a moment, knowing that I have been in this exact place under the exact circumstances, but not being able to pinpoint where or when I was in that moment. Oh how the brain plays such tricks on us.

We have been living in a déjà vu haze over the past two weeks, when Greyson began having grand mal seizures again. We had a period where things were going really well when he was just on the medical marijuana, but once his most recent EEG showed that he needed to go back on seizure meds, it seemed like everything that was going well, slowly unraveled.

Greyson’s grand mal seizures this time around have changed a lot. His typical tonic clonic seizures began in May 2017 and impacted his entire left side of his body. For those keeping track, that is the side his port-wine stain is on. But if the left side of his brain was impacted by the vascular birthmark, wouldn’t the right side of his body be seizing, not the left? And why does it seem like it’s just the left side of his face twitching, too?

The most recent seizure on Friday evening

I feel like every spring we jump back about 6-9 months in his progression. Seems that every time the weather begins to get nice, the seizures come more frequently. Greyson’s inconsistent behaviors and the recent increase in seizure activity, always makes me scared to leave him. He spends almost every waking moment on or extremely close by me, even sleeping with me at night so I can wake up and take care of him if he begins seizing at night.

On Saturday, we celebrated my younger sister Becca, who is getting married next Friday. The bridesmaids and some of her friends all got together and we did an Escape room and painted pottery before going out to dinner. It was such a fun time and I had a blast hanging with my sisters and Becca’s friends. I realized that it was my first time in over a year that I had gone out and done anything fun and it was almost two years since I went out for dinner somewhere. I never noticed how much time had passed among the pandemic, the kids, maintaining a house and managing to keep appointments, therapies and everyday functions running smoothly. Looking back, it feels like forever since I was able to relax and enjoy time to myself. And enjoying the day was great, but I couldn’t escape the feeling of being on edge every time I thought of Greyson.

I blacked out everyone else’s faces because I didn’t ask for permission for their faces to be posted. My sisters can deal with it 🙂

I’m sure I will be even more on edge next week, when Derek, Roslynn and I are at the rehearsal dinner and wedding. Greyson will be in great hands (spending the time with Pappy!), but Duke will be at the kennel and with the increase in seizures, the dog not being around is worrisome. Pappy is great and knows how to do Greyson’s meds if needed, but no matter who he’s with, I always worry about my baby. Regardless, I am hoping we can have some fun, enjoy the evening and relax.

The next few months are going to be crazy busy. We will be moving into our new house in September, and packing up 7 years of stuff from our current home is going to take a lot of time and energy. I am not one to procrastinate, quite the opposite actually, so I anticipate everything will be packed and ready to go by then. I hope. Lots of changes are coming: marriages, birthdays, moving and selling houses, a new school year and hopefully returning to work. I’m hopeful that we can get G’s meds figured out so it’s one less thing to worry about come fall.

Always sporting a Toy Story shirt
Always together
Our new house finally has the SOLD sign up!
His shirt says it all: he’s a happy camper

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

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.

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”

Patched

In December 2017, Greyson had bilateral ear tubes put in for frequent ear infections. The tubes appeared to have been working for a few months, but by late 2019, we noticed that he was having frequent infections again. Turns out, Greyson’s tubes never fell out, like they were supposed to, falling into his inner ear canal. Because the body sees the tubes as a “foreign” object, his body began to send white blood cells to his ears to get rid of the tubes, which just resulted in more and more infections, drainage, hearing loss, etc. With both ear drums perforated and his infections becoming frequent in early 2020, we knew by February that he was going to need surgery to correct it. Because of COVID-19, everything with Greyson’s procedure stood still. We were unable to do anything about his ears since Pennsylvania was on an elective surgery restriction. By early May, Greyson’s ears had become so troublesome, that I made an office appointment with his ENT. Dr. Da Costa, the surgeon, agreed that Greyson needed to be sedated for a bilateral tube removal and ear drum patch, to replace the damaged ear drums.

Now, to schedule a surgery for a kiddo at the ENT center, we had to have a pre-surgery clearance appointment (within two weeks of the procedure) with his pediatrician and get the “OK” from her to proceed with the surgery. On Monday, July 27th, I was able to get in with our pediatrician for the pre-op appointment. This was going to be the first time that G was going to be under anesthesia without actively being on an anti-convulsion med for his epilepsy, and due to his most recent seizure, the pediatrician did not feel comfortable signing off on the procedure until she spoke with the neurologist. So, frustrated that we didn’t know what was going on, I was afraid that his procedure was going to be cancelled for August 3rd, which would require a longer wait for G’s much needed relief. By Wednesday morning, we received the clearance for Greyson’s surgery, but only if he could have the procedure done at a hospital, rather than the small outpatient center we typically go to for these types of day surgeries. I received a call from the surgery scheduler at the ENT office and she stated that she had one cancellation for August 5th at Lancaster General Hospital, but if we couldn’t make that work, we were looking into late October for the surgery. I refused to wait that long for Greyson. I knew that once fall comes, he is more prone to getting a cold, which almost always involves some sort of ear infection. We took the appointment for today and were able to get everything sorted out. Our pediatrician also recommended that both Derek and I could attend the day of surgery, since COVID has been restricting companions to 1 per patient. Greyson has been to LGH in the past for ER visits and an EEG in 2017, but never needed sedation for a procedure, so I was a little weary of the hospital, since it’s not necessarily a children’s hospital.

Like our other adventures involving sedation, Greyson almost always was scheduled first thing in the morning, due to his age and having to fast, etc. Today was no different- up at 4:30 am and out the door by 6:30 am. Now, I’ve been to LGH hundreds of times, but again, here I am the evening before, google mapping and street-viewing the parking, entrances, etc. I think my nerves always spark a fear of not knowing where I am going, which is a HUGE fear of mine. Fortunately, I found the parking garage with no issues and we checked in around 6:50 am. Each patient upon parking in the garage, is guided to the information desk for a COVID-19 screening, including a temperature check, symptom checker and questionnaire. LGH has quite the system when checking in for a procedure, so after we got our “screened” stickers, we made our way to the first stop, which was admissions. Being so early in the morning, there weren’t many people checking in, so Derek and Greyson stayed in the hallway, so G could spin and run up and down the halls. Mid way through check-in, I could hear Greyson’s sneakers running up and down the marble hallway, letting out the occasional squeal in excitement that he was out and running around. My faith in LGH was increased when the woman checking us in followed me to Greyson out in the hallway, to put a wrist band on him. She was an older woman, so I didn’t have much hope that she would understand Greyson and his needs, but she was great. She walked us to the elevator, was able to help us carry belongings, while Derek carried Greyson. Expecting her to leave us at the elevator, she accompanied us to the next floor for the pre-op waiting room and introduced us to the staff that would be helping G for the morning. HOLY CRAP a Lancaster County medical facility that had staff who saw our struggling and jumped right in to help. This has never happened for us at a non-children’s hospital.

The greeter assisted us to check-in and pickup our surgery pager and six-digit tracking number for us to check on Greyson’s progress throughout the morning. Though his job was to simply greet us and direct us to another desk, he took us back to a room immediately. HOLY CRAP. Another staff member who saw that we were struggling with an almost four year-old boy and jumped in to help us. I never would have expected this. We were brought back to Greyson’s pre-op room and begun the process of going over medical history, changing him into surgical attire and speaking with the anesthesiologist and eventually the surgeon. Due to Greyson’s allergy to Red Dye #40, we were unable to give him the sedative medication that the hospital carried, so a pharmacist made a special syringe of sedative that was dye-free. Once we administered the medication, Greyson started to feel pretty loopy after about 15 minutes. Because of the red dye hold up, we waited about 1.5 hours total in pre-op, missing Greyson’s surgery start time of 8:30 am by about an hour.

In pre-op waiting for his “happy juice” to calm him
Not liking the strings on his hospital gown

Waiting in the surgical waiting area was like waiting in a busy train station, while attempting to socially distance from other people. Pagers going off every few seconds, notifying family members that their loved ones were finished in the OR, or the lobby phone ringing repeatedly from doctors calling families to explain the outcome of the patient’s procedure. Greyson’s entire procedure lasted about an hour or so. His surgeon came out shortly after we were notified that he was finishing up in the OR and let us know that Greyson did great. We were relieved. Luckily, his ears weren’t too bad- some wax issues in the left ear, which was causing some hearing loss and both tubes just hanging out in the ears. Dr. Da Costa patched both ear drums and we were brought back to the recovery room shortly after speaking with him.

The tracking board, where we watched Greyson’s progress in surgery

Now, I know this entire day sounds relatively normal and boring, but in the true Greyson style, the morning was about to get more…..difficult.

Derek and I predicted that the recovery area would be complicated because of his age and also because of the risk for seizures and self-injury. Our predictions were more than true, especially when recovery called up to the front desk and told the staff to make sure we had Greyson’s helmet. I put up my frizzy, untamed, curly hair and we made our way down to recovery. Precursor for this entire day would have been nice for me to tell you. Because Greyson, Derek, nor I had a COVID test before the surgery (which we were told wasn’t necessary), Greyson was treated as if he had COVID. That means full PPE- two masks, scrubs, dressing over the scrubs, a cloth/disposable covering over the dressing, goggles, a face shield, gloves and shoe coverings. It seriously was borderline the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman. Every person who came in contact with us was required to have the full protective gear on. Once we got into the recovery room, Greyson was in a tiny pod, specifically for kiddos that have had procedures that may be scared or fussy. The pod still opened up to the other recovery beds, which is in an open room with curtains separating patients. Not really conducive for a screaming autistic child.

Greyson was still asleep when we got into the pod, which was just enough room for Derek, Myself and one other staff member. The staff member was in a hazmat suit, almost resembling an astronaut suit, complete with an enclosed helmet with a filtration system attached, so that she was breathing in purified oxygen. I thought it was a little excessive, but then I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. While the anesthesiologist came in to inform us that he did well and she wasn’t anticipating any issues, we received word that his COVID test (they did as a precaution when he was in the OR), was negative. I went over discharge paperwork with a nurse and we were discharged straight from the recovery room, rather than having to go back to the pre-op area due to him being extremely upset and having pulled out his own IV. As soon as we were done going over the information, I trekked down to the parking garage with all belongings in hand and pulled the car around to get Derek and G, who were waiting at the entrance in a wheelchair with three staff assisting. By the look on Derek’s face, I knew that Greyson probably freaked out once I left the room. Greyson was in the hospital pants, a t-shirt and helmet, and was hitting, kicking and headbanging Derek as the staff attempted to help get G under control. Once he was in the car, G began to hit himself, bite his legs/feet and scratch his body. We got him home, fed and put on “Tangled” for him, his latest Disney movie obsession.

The ride home went a little bit like this:

The day was successful, stressful but also relieving to see that the staff at LGH were so accommodating and kind, despite being exhausted, working through a pandemic and having to use extra precaution for each patient. Again, my faith in the hospital system in Lancaster has been restored (for now) and I would highly recommend LGH for any pediatric procedure at this point. As for us, we will manage our still somewhat loopy toddler and torture ourselves by watching his favorite Disney movies this evening, just to keep him happy.