December recap

Time flies by really fast. I didn’t even write anything about Thanksgiving and here we are on Boxing day already. It has been a very busy and difficult month. So get yourself a warm beverage of choice ‘cause this is gonna be a long one!

Thanksgiving was nice and we had O and family over for a great dinner. As usual, my wife cooked a ton of food and we barely finished it all several weeks later (there are still some sweet potatoes in a small container that I’m afraid of opening to throw away….weary of something similar to  the curse of Tutankhamun happening!). The kids did fairly good considering the change of conditions (change of routine is not their friend), although we had spurts of crying, which we’ve come to expect pretty much all the time now.

For some odd reason once my parents left, the kids behaved a bit better. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it had something to do with the change in their environment once again. We could have sworn that Isabella was going to drive us nuts asking “Where’s grandma/grandpa?” after they left, but it didn’t really happen. I guess that’s not such a bad thing because they realize who’s mama and papa and didn’t get confused (which was something the pediatrician was worried about). We have no doubt that bonding has been close to perfect for all of us. The twins both recognize their grandparents now, even when showing them some old video from past travels to Malta for family visits. We have been video-Skyping with them too and the kids play along and respond really well.

On the health front, we’ve been very busy. Isaac has been doing very well in Physical Therapy and we finally got some slots in for Occupational Therapy, twice a week. Unfortunately next year our benefits for therapy are very limited (thanks Health Insurance companies for keeping us hostage for the good of your own shareholder profits) and according to some estimates, we can only get a total of about 12 sessions next year (that’s both P.T. and O.T.), which is not even close to what Isaac’s needs are. And oh, last time I was mistaken about the cost of a 45 minute session; I was told that prior to meeting our deductible, it’s $309 per session!! I sure hope that’s incorrect (perhaps that’s not the “discounted” rate) and if so, we might be able to get a few more in than currently estimated. Isaac is having a bit more trouble with O.T. as keeping focus is not an easy thing for him. Due to our situation, they told us that they would be able to work with us on a home program to help cut down on clinic visits, which we’re very grateful for.

We also had a developmental evaluation at TCH. The interview lasted for close to an our and a half and the clinical psychologist observed the kids and listened to our stories of the kid’s past, their behavior, etc. We were very encouraged that she didn’t see major behavioral issues, as she said “Remember, they’re very young kids!”. We’re new parents and have nothing to compare to except our own childhoods, so we’re quite lost at times (make that “all the time”!). We spent some time discussing how we can improve our parenting skills and she suggested we read the book Parenting the Strong-Willed Child. I’m almost half way through and I really recommend this to all parents, not only ones with strong-willed kids. Actually after reading through descriptions of strong-willed behavior, I can say that the twins don’t come close to being THAT difficult, although they do exhibit a few “symptoms” (Isabella in particular) which I think are mostly the result of attention deficits. The tips discussed in the book and the general approach to communicating with kids has already helped me a lot over the last weeks, especially in focusing on rewarding good behavior, which is very hard to do when you’re so consumed with the bad x 2 kids! However this shift in focus has actually improved the bad behavior a LOT. More on that later.

We also had speech evaluation and Isabella did pretty good, although she can definitely benefit from some speech therapy. Lori was impressed with how much she seems to be learning in pre-school. Her lack of concentration is an issue and you have to constantly remind her to keep her focus, snapping your fingers, making loud noises (like clapping) etc. If something interests her a lot though, it’s getting easier to maintain involvement. This has become clearer when they watch TV, with her attentive stint usually longer than that of Isaac. His evaluation went fairly well too and as expected, he definitely needs a lot of help through speech therapy. On the upside though, it seems there are no other issues impeding his speech development besides the obvious. In a few weeks we’ll re-test hearing after doing further ear cleaning last week.

At the Developmental evaluation they suggested we look into PPCD, especially for Isaac. The diagnosticians at our school district have observed the kids in their pre-K environment and then looked more closely at Isaac in our Elementary School. There hasn’t been a 100% conclusion yet but it’s almost sure that Isaac will be admitted in their half-day program. He’ll receive a good amount of P.T., O.T. and Speech therapy through this and we’ll see how he progresses. He made a positive impact on the teachers with his friendly temperament, even though he had a bad start that morning due to another seizure which required a shot of Diastat.

Speaking of seizures….persistence paid off and we got an appointment for Neurology. We’ll be changing Isaac’s medication as his current one can have an adverse effect on liver function and is not controlling his seizures anyway. It took about 4 days to cut through the red-tape and get it (thanks again, Health Insurance companies). They approved it just for once and we’ll have to go through some process to perhaps get them to cover the medication in the future. It cost us $50 for just this one bottle, so don’t think we’re getting it for free! Doctors and specialists act in the best interest of their patients and prescribe appropriate medications. However we then have to wrestle with Health Insurance companies, who seem to know better what’s best for our health (their pockets, really). If you can’t tell, I’m really ticked off at the complete waste of time resulting from this. Anyway, we also had a follow-up visit with the pediatrician who has noticed positive improvement. Both got the flu and H1N1 vaccines and Isaac also got two more immunization shots. We’re now waiting for the results of a couple more blood tests on him. As you can see, quite a busy month!

Behavior was becoming an issue at school, where Isabella started imitating her brother’s bad traits, laughing at the teachers and running out of class. We were very firm and consistent, putting her to bed early on each occurrence, causing major meltdowns. A few weeks ago, I even had to “take the bike back to the store” and Isabella would constantly ask for it, questioning “Isabella good?”. It is quite funny and endearing actually, but we held off to see if she could have two good days in a row, which didn’t really happen. Then the worst behavior at school started and that’s when we resorted to even tougher consequences. I spent some time talking to her after she gained composure and seemed more thoughtful and focused about the situation. Next day we seemed to turn a corner (on Tuesday 22nd) and she was SOOO excited to have behaved well in school that she couldn’t wait to have mama call me and let me know about it. The questioning tone turned into an enthusiastic “Isabella good!, Isabella GOOD!” and so I promised to “get the bike back”. After pulling into the garage, uncovering the bike and taking it in, I was greeted with a shriek of happiness and some more “Isabella good”. I’ve been really making a huge effort to be sweeter and more attending to her, and she’s responding very well. Lori was already sweet and attending (papa was the tough one) but I’m adapting to a different style than what worked with me as a kid! The book mentioned previously gives some great tips on how to make this work but it does require some effort to change your thinking.

We also had a couple great days when Carol came over and visited for a few days. The kids enjoyed her company and she could see them doing better than the last time she saw them when departing Nikopol. We also met up with the Bush family in Discovery Green (which we termed as “The Houstonian Nikopol Reunion”!). Lori couldn’t make it after being hit with food poisoning late that afternoon. I didn’t do too bad with both kids by myself as I had Carol’s help (like old times eh??). I goofed and lost my bearings after parking in a garage structure, so we got there extra late. Shame on me, but next time I’ll remember that there’s a parking garage right under the site…duh!! We had a great time though and always enjoy some great company. Lucas and Emma are very well-behaved and sweet kids, which is something we aspire to see our kids grow into. We have a looooong way to go!

IMG_3574Isaac and Isabella finally met their other Grandpa. It took a while for it to register that they had another Grandpa, but I think they got it. They kept asking “Grandma too?” but we just said that only Grandpa was coming and left it at that. We went through the same ritual of explaining that this is Mama’s Papa and so on and so forth.

IMG_3566 And then there was Christmas Day (I promise, I’m almost done with this novel). Lori bought them a ton of little gifts, some of which were intended to drive me nuts, such as a drum set. So far I have not seen extraordinary rhythmic talent, but we’ll give it a longer chance ;) Their absolute most favorite toy was a personal CD player. Isaac also got his own and they’ve both been jamming all along. Isabella sometimes acts a scary version of Ray Charles, swaying from side to side while giggling and laughing in her pink sunglasses, while Isaac repeatedly asks us to put on the Itsy Bitsy Spider song for him. I need to burn a CD with about 20 instances of that song and I’ll make him the happiest kid on earth!

Late at night on Christmas, the kids and I laid down on the carpet playing with foam blocks. It was the first time I managed to get both of them interested at the same time, so that was the best Christmas present for me. 20 minutes of play doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start.

They woke up really early on Christmas morning, excited about opening presents. Isabella had been asking to “open it” all week long, tearing a piece of wrapping here and there while snooping around when we’re not watching. Christmas wore them out pretty good, as it has done to me writing all this. Sleep tight!


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