Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Oh My Goodness"...It's Christmas!

"Oh my goodness!"

That's what Jeremy said when he saw what Santa left for him on Christmas morning. Ah, I can't even express how words like this are the true Christmas gifts for our family this year.

Christmas Eve, we went to see Santa. I completely forgot and therefore we had to see the overpriced mall Santa ($22.99 MINIMUM order!), but luckily he was really great and Jeremy loved him. I could see him shaking a little bit, but he knew exactly what he needed to do, and you better believe he was not going to leave without telling the big man what toys he wanted. He asked Santa for "Lady, Emily, and a Thomas table". (Possibly a certain mommy has been placing emphasis on certain items when he reads his Thomas catalog - yes, he reads a catalog, he thinks it is a real book.) This is the photo Brian took behind the mall photographer.Jeremy had fun cooking on Christmas Eve for our family feast. He helped me make cookies for Santa and added the tomato paste to the Boldreghini gravy (meat sauce to go on homemade ravioli - recipe from my great grandmother), which prompted him to believe he made the gravy that I had spent 7 hours on. Good thing I like him so much.After mass, Joel came over for dinner, and after I put Jeremy to bed in his new Thomas jammies, Joel stuck around to help Brian put together the Thomas table. Santa's helpers are so cute!Here was our Christmas spread. I think maybe a certain little boy is horribly spoiled, but this is his last Christmas as an only child, so we felt justified. For the record, only the table is new. All the stuff on it he already owned, we just newly arranged it for him.And here he is Christmas morning. There was no jumping up and down or screaming with joy, just open-mouthed awe. I think the most telling part is the moment poor Mr. Moo hits the floor. It was about 30 minutes before Moo was remembered and lovingly introduced to the new toys.

Here we are exploring new gifts and opening presents. The cat is from Cheri and looks a lot like her cat, Aurora. Upon opening it, Jeremy screeched, "Aurora the cat!" and started hugging and kissing it. The only other gift to get such a reception was Emily, the engine Dani sent. Otherwise, he just said "clothes" or "books" in a disappointed voice and moved on. Growing up so fast...After lunch, we headed to Nashville to visit with the Hoppers and Jeremy had fun seeing his cousin, Philip! We had a slight meltdown when Jeremy did not want to share, but other than that, he was wonderful.We had an extremely white Christmas, particularly in Nashville, and Jeremy had a blast hanging out with "Unca Dave" in the snow.This post is way too long, but I just have to say that we have the best family and friends. I told my mom in passing that our circa-1999 TV has been having some problems and tada we get a brand new LCD HDTV from the Carr family. What?! Pop and Nona are also the amazing ones who provided the piece de resistance: the Thomas table! I told my mother in law how I love her quilts and always wanted a UT quilt made from my MANY t-shirts from school/work and tada, the largest and most impressive scrapbook I have ever seen. I almost cried. And check out the ornaments one of the grad students I work with made. Katie, you officially gave Baby Trains his/her first gift!We so love the people in our lives, and we hope every one of you had an amazing Christmas!!

And look! Baby Jesus finally made it into the manger!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Baby Can Sing! (and maybe read)

I sometimes feel like I harp on Jeremy's speech issues a bit much in this blog, so a quick note before I show my video. He is so much more than speech. He is hilarious, precocious, and loves trains, cars, trucks, and books. We read at least 6 books every day, which is probably a low estimate and does not include when he is in school. He also loves Glee and vintage The Office, which are entirely inappropriate, especially since he is now repeating things from the shows at school. Oops. Jeremy is very loving and some of his favorite things are to play "Go, Go" a game we made up using the Cat in the Hat song from PBS Kids where we jump him on the bed and toss him down while singing, and "Squeeze the Stuffing" a game we also made up where we give him a huge hug that "squeezes out his stuffing" and reduces him to giggles. Jeremy also knows the entire alphabet (for a long time now, actually), but is now sounding out letters and starting to combine letter sounds. He can count to 14 without problem, but then repeats 14 until he gets to 20. Close. He can say his full name now when you ask him, but you have to be specific. Q: What is your name? A: Buddy. Q: What is your big boy name? A: Jeremy Hopper. He knows all his colors, and can do matching games and puzzles like a genius (seriously, I have child development professionals who have told me this and said his IQ is exceptionally high.) He also loves sports and can identify football, baseball, and basketball. If he sees one on TV, he runs to get the corresponding ball and runs around with it for a while.

Basically, he is kind of amazing and quite possibly the best kid ever invented. Recently, I have fallen in love with him in a new way as he has taken to randomly lifting up the bottom of my shirt to say "Hi, Baby Trains", then gives my tummy a kiss. When he puts my shirt back down he says, "Bye, bye Baby Trains." Then runs off like nothing adorable just happened. Melt.

Anyway, here is my actual reason for posting today. Jeremy can sing a full song. That's right. You heard it here first, folks. My kid can sing. My kid who less than a year ago could not say one single word can sing a song. I will pause while you shout for joy, wipe the tears from your eyes, and offer sacrifices to the gods.

Seriously, we have been working on this with therapists for ages and then out of the blue the other day after his birthday party, Jeremy looked at me and sang this song. Like he had been doing it every day of his life. I almost cried. OK, maybe I did cry. A little. (I didn't record it until we made him do it 20 times in a row, so some of his excitement is gone and he is really just trying to eat his cereal, but you get the point.)

Oh, and we were driving down the street and passed Kroger, and Jeremy said "Kroger!" Then he named "Food City!" as we drove past, then "donuts!" when we passed Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I always say "store" rather than Kroger and I have never taken him to Food City or Krispy Kreme.

So, obviously, my baby can read.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Very "Thomas" Birthday!

Yep, the party's here! This was the lovely decoration that adorned our door to alert everyone looking for some choo-choo train fun that this was the party to crash. Jeremy's 3rd birthday party turned out to be a really fun one. I wanted to do a properly themed party since he is so obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, and I was under no little pressure after attending some of the parties for the kids in his class. I think we managed to pull off a fun one! It looks lackluster here, but Jeremy and I spent hours making this homemade birthday sign. The kids started with a paint-your-own-Thomas-train craft where we gave them all a wooden train to paint and decorate with stickers. This was super fun and not nearly as messy as I thought it would be. Jeremy spotted the trains before we started so we had a panic moment and a "sharing" talk, but all worked out fine. And the kids had a nice little treat to take home with them (along with the Thomas goodie bags we gave out full of whistles, games, tattoos, stickers, and candy - all Thomas themed, of course). Here are the bags and Jeremy's finished product:After the trains we did cupcakes and birthday song! I prefer cupcakes to cake for toddlers, much easier and already in serving sizes. Jeremy really enjoyed his birthday song this year, now fully understanding that it was HIS special day. My mom took this great video:

Then, we opened presents. I have to say, my child is beyond spoiled. We invited 3 friends from his class (William, Audrey, and Nicholas), his friend Maddox, and various family and work friends who have been Jeremy's babysitters over the past year. He got an outrageous amount of stuff! I am thrilled so many people wanted to celebrate his birthday, but I fear I am giving him a big head (the hat he put on immediately after unwrapping it made this impression stronger to me). If you look closely you can see that Baby Trains did indeed attend Jeremy's party.The obvious highlight of his birthday was seeing his Pop, who traveled to Knoxville with Nona for the special occasion despite the random snow storm that hit Tennessee that very weekend. Love them! Overall, I'd say we had a blast signaling an end to the "terrible twos!"

Enjoy the pics of the party and then our decidedly smaller celebration the next night on his actual birthday:

Monday, December 13, 2010

3 Years Ago Today

I woke up at 7am in my little apartment in South Carrick Hall, where I worked as a Hall Director for a building of 530 freshman female students at UT. I thought it was just a really strong kick from my little bundle of energy, but as soon as I stood up, I knew it was something different. I barely made it the three steps from the bed to the bathroom before it became abundantly clear that my water had broken. And I must say, it was much grosser than movies and childbirth classes had led me to believe.

I yelled for Brian, who woke up in a daze, and for Cheri, my older sister who had come to stay with us to help out when the baby came. Since I was feeling no contractions, I figured we were fine on time, so Brian took a shower and Cheri helped me get ready and grabbed our hospital bags. About 30 minutes later, we were off! Cheri was in charge of calls, so she managed to contact both sets of parents and my hall staff to let them know we were heading to the hospital three days prior to our due date, and one day before my building closed for the winter holidays. At the hospital Brian got us all checked in and we got into our first of many rooms. I was not dilated very much, so the nurses told us to settle in for a long haul.

After a few hours, the anesthesiologist came in to place my epidural, but, since I was in no pain, he only placed it and did not actually give me any medicine yet. I had been told this was a painful procedure and they made Brian sit down and not look. I thought it was fine and kinda cool. A huge needle being placed in your spine? Awesome. Not sure why this was so fascinating rather than scary, but I'll take it. Another few hours passed and I was only at about 4 inches dilated, so the nurses headed to lunch after some encouraging words. I was just starting to begin to feel little pains, but nothing too bad, so no medicine yet still.

Then, at about 12:15pm, the one nurse still working came into our room and asked me to move around a bit, as she was concerned over what she saw on the monitor regarding the baby's heart rate. I did as she asked and it did not abate. Every few seconds, the heart rate dropped rather dramatically, especially if I had a contraction. The nurse smiled encouragingly, but Brian, Cheri, and I were not distracted from her quick step out of the room and her worried eyes. The next thing we knew, our room was full of doctors and nurses, the word "emergency" was passed about, and Brian had scrubs tossed to him to change into immediately. A quick examination had determined that the cord was prolapsed, meaning the umbilical cord was coming out ahead of the baby, so each time I contracted, his head pressed pressed against it, effectively squeezing it shut so that he did not receive any oxygen, etc. I had read that section of the book, entitled, "When Things Go Wrong" so I was familiar with cord prolapse, but naturally I never thought it would happen to me. Fun times.

Not to go into too much detail, in order to get the baby safely out, they had to perform an emergency C-section. However, it was getting to the operating room that was the tricky part. They did not want the baby to lose any more oxygen, so they had one nurse in the bed with me holding his head off the cord. That's right. She was my pal for about 20 minutes while they wheeled me to the room and prepped everything for surgery. She also remained there when the anesthesiologist returned to finally put the medicine in my epidural. Use your imagination: I had to roll over so my back was exposed to get the medicine, while a nurse was in bed with me holding the baby's head on the inside. It was fun. I had had no medicine to this point and they needed to get him out immediately. What if it did not take in time? I was pretty sure a C-section was a rather painful procedure. Is it wrong that this was my biggest concern at the time?

But, all was well. The medicine took, the music in the operating room switched to bagpipes, which made Brian happy, and within two minutes of starting I heard Dr. Broady say, "Look at those chubby cheeks!" Clearly, my son had arrived! Brian was positively beaming and got to hold him almost immediately. He kept saying how perfect he was and didn't I agree? I felt too bad to tell him that he was holding him at an angle that preventing my seeing him at all, so I just agreed. I figured Brian wouldn't lie about our boy being perfect.

It was about 30 minutes before I was stitched, cleaned, and moved and therefore ready to finally hold and see my baby properly. He really was perfect! My little monster entered the world in dramatic fashion with an emergency C-section due to cord prolapse and had baby acne, a hydrocile, a hernia, and reflux. The nurses jokingly told us he would most likely turn out to be just like his birth: trouble. I, for one, wouldn't have had it any other way. Who wants a boring kid? He was exactly what he was intended to be: my little monster angel.

I remember few things really clearly from that first day due to my drugged state. One is Brian coming in from peeking at him in the nursery. He said that he couldn't tell which was ours at first but just picked out the best one. Turns out, that was our boy. Brian was beside himself. Another was Cheri holding him and being so great. She brushed my hair, cracked jokes, and ran around like a maniac helping us do everything by basically doing it all herself. That's what sisters are for. I also remember my parents arriving. They live 6 hours away and made it barely after the delivery. Impressive! That's what parents are for. And I remember holding my son for the first time. Those chubby cheeks and tiny toes just begging to be pinched and kissed. Love at first sight.

The first photo of our little man, taken by Aunt Cheri's camera phone about 30 minutes after delivery:Jeremy Campbell Hopper, 9 pounds, 2 ounces, 21.5 inches, December 13, 2007, 12:35pm.

Other fun photos:
Happy Birthday, Jeremy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Very Special People

Jeremy turns 3 years old this weekend, which means that all the services he has had for the past year from TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System) are now gone. In order to keep some speech therapy and not have to pay an arm and a leg for it, we had him tested with the Knox County Schools Special Education system, called Child Find. We were very lucky and I am happy to say that Jeremy qualified for two speech therapy sessions per week for the next year! He will be considered a student (weird!) at Bearden Elementary, where I will take him twice a week to see the school's speech therapist for a half hour. He even has a student ID number now, which will follow him all the way through high school if we keep him in the Knox County School system. Naturally, he is also continuing his enrollment at the UT Early Learning Center, where we have met with some AMAZING teachers.

Unfortunately, with all this change and exciting new eligibility come two very sad endings. Jeremy has been working with two very special people for the past year. TEIS set us up with a speech therapist and an early interventionist when we initially qualified for services last year. We switched Early Interventionists around May, so Jeremy has been seeing Miss Elizabeth once a week since May. She is actually the head of the company she works for and she is amazing at what she does. Her job is to work with Jeremy's goals and reinforce the work he is doing in speech. She has taught him to use scissors, worked with him on the alphabet and counting, taught him matching games, helped him learn social skills that enable him to make friends easier (his speech has impeded some friendships since other kids don't understand him), and generally just helped him to adjust and transition better. She is amazing and when she comes to his school on Friday afternoons, the teachers tell us Jeremy runs to her saying "Lisbeth" and gives her a huge hug. Here is a picture from their last meeting that took place on Friday the 10th. We will miss you, Elizabeth!Jeremy has been seeing his speech therapist since this time last year. For those of you that remember, this time last year Jeremy had NO words. Literally, NONE. He was two-years old and could not say "mama", "bye bye", "hi", anything. He was very good at grunting and tantruming, though. Miss Jennifer enter our lives and he hated her with a capital H. He spent the first MONTH of sessions screaming and refusing to look at her. This is not a joke. On Thursday December 9th on Jennifer's last meeting with Jeremy she told me he was one of her biggest success stories. We spoke of how unbelievable it is now to think there was a time that he did not talk. I remember her early sessions (once he deigned to look at her) were spent teaching him how to move his lips properly and to make sounds like "shh" and "mmm". Now, they are working on full sentences and he said "impossible" to her spontaneously. Is this seriously the same kid? Jennifer stuck with our little monster and turned him into a happy little boy who can name every one of the trains that lives on the Island of Sodor. Long story short, Jennifer was our own version of a fairy godmother for Jeremy who worked her magic perfectly. After seeing her three times a week for a year, their goodbye was a sad one. Jennifer, I don't have the words to say how much we will miss you and appreciate all you have done. Here they are on their last day together (she gave him a Thomas book as a gift, so perfect):We are now entering Phase II of Jeremy's speech development and I sincerely hope our next chapter will be just as successful as the first. He is miles ahead of where he was when we started, but that does not alter the fact that he is still quite a bit behind his peer group. There are enunciation problems, social factors, and the horridness of still hearing from people when they meet him for the first time "Has he been tested for Austism?" One day this question will disappear from my life and I will be a much happier person. In the meantime, though, I have two HUGE thank yous to give to Elizabeth and Jennifer who truly changed my little boy's life for the better. Jeremy has a bright and full future ahead of him thanks to all their care and expertise!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Photos... So Far

I will have many more to add later this month, but here is a first taste of the holiday season for our family. We traveled to Memphis for a quick Thanksgiving trip and Jeremy had a blast with his favorite person ever - Pop! Not sure what the gang sign is all about, though.Here he is with his Nona and his Great Nona! I love this one. As kids, we (all 700 of my cousins and I) were obsessed with these grape lights that hang in Nona's living room. Now, Jeremy has discovered them and loves them too! Here, Chris is helping him reach the grapes so that he can touch the "treats"!And this is my family. I love them. Joey hanging Jeremy upside down, his lovely new wife Megan acting like the Carr she has now become, and Chris being, well, Chris. And here is Velita Marie, my cousin who is totally beloved by my little man. She is great with him and he took to her immediately back when he was a wee little lad. On our way back home, we were able to stop in on the Hoppers in Nashville to wish them a happy Thanksgiving as well. And I managed to get the best picture ever. Seriously how cute is this shot of Jeremy with Grandaddy and Nana?? And then we put up our Christmas tree. My boss, Jerry, gave us his old tree (yay free stuff) and so we now have a full sized tree for the first time. Jeremy loved putting on the ornaments, especially the bells and footballs. He still runs in each morning and demands "Christmas ON!" and tries to move the ornaments around. So cute. (Please ignore how we massacred our blinds putting up the tree. Oops)I have a sneaky suspicion Christmas morning will be epic and one little boy may die of excitement. I am so excited that he is now old enough for the magic of Christmas to sink in. He even plays with the nativity scene and looks for "Baby Jesus" (this he says perfectly), who we have hidden until Christmas morning when he will appear in his manger. Love it!