Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Team Darnell" the Musical!

Team Darnell has successfully attended our first music class! We have enrolled in a toddler music class with Musikgarten Tallahassee. Our class is every Thursday morning at 11:10am. We did not know what to expect but wanted to start participating in something 'structured' for the boys and to get them (all 4 of them) out of the house during the week. I am lucky to have a job that affords me the opportunity to take off and join the boys for this fun experience!

The class started off with a song that welcomed each child to the class. During our class, there was a lot of signing, dancing, stomping around, clapping and a whole lot of fun!! The boys' classmates are all under the age of 3 but were very 'advanced.' The group we joined appear to have been attending for a while because the mothers and children knew the songs. We have a lot of homework to do to 'catch-up.' We were told that the boys could join in the fun or just hang around in the room. Well, at one moment, the other children were signing/playing along with their parents and the Darnells were running circles around the group. I was so proud... ha! We were just too excited to sit down!

While the boys spent a lot of time running around and playing with everything that was not part of the program, they were very well behaved and polite. When the instructor brought out something new, like bells, wooden dowels, scarfs or stuffed animals, the boys were very quick to make sure everyone in the class had one. They would spend the song handing the items out to everyone. They sure love to share!!

The class was so busy that we were not able to take any pictures. However, before bed, we spent some time working on our drumming skills. The at home package included wooden dowels that the boys can tap together to make music or tap them on the ground. Here are my little drummer boys...

The boys are so very creative that they did not limit the wooden dowels to function only as musical instruments. They spent a while setting them up in this toy...
As the boys are very creative, I knew it would not take too long for this to happen...
The funny thing is that Andrew did not realize that Jared had just hit him in the head. He was very focused on placing the wooden dowels in the puzzle that he did not see what Jared was doing. However, after a couple seconds, he looked up and slowly started to cry.

The boys (all 4 of them) enjoyed our musical afternoon. I look forward to the future classes! This is a 14 week class and I hope by the end of the class, we are singing along just like all the other kids in the class. Most of all, I am really going to enjoy this activity as a family...
Here is a little video of the boys playing their musical instruments. Watch out Jonas Brothers, here comes the Darnell Brothers!!! Such beautiful music...

video

Take care,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Journey to Find Our Words

On January 12th, the boys all turned 21 months old. It is amazing how fast time flies! As we enter the last quarter of our second year, it was time for us to face the reality that one of the boys is falling behind in regards to speech. Andrew and Wesley have an exploding vocabulary that forces us to watch what we say in their presence. They mimic and repeat almost anything we say. In addition, they are starting to join together multiple words (ie. "Hi Murray" or "Up Please." Jared, on the other hand, is still the strong silent type. While it is nice to have a quiet one among the trio, it was time to check this out and see if there is anything we need to do to help him along.

This morning, Jared and I got bundled up and headed off for an evaluation at the FIRST WORDS project. We have been completing self-report assessments on the boys since they were 9 months old. Every three months, we complete a questionnaire and each time the results indicated the boys were on target. At 18 months, they determined a more in depth evaluation was needed for Jared.
The picture taken above is Jared right before we headed in for the evaluation. Doesn't he look adorable all bundled up?!? Well, we headed inside for our evaluation. We were led back to an evaluation room where the evaluator proceeded to describe the program and how the evaluation would proceed. Jared was as sweet as could be and was his typical quiet self. During the evaluation portion of the visit, the evaluator interacted with him attempting to get him to gesture or indicate what he wanted. She also evaluated he ability to point and look at something when she pointed. Lastly, she evaluated his 'imaginative play' and his ability to have appropriate engagement with her.

I observed the evaluation and saw him signing 'please' when he wanted something, he looked at what she pointed to and appeared to play appropriately with the bowls, cups and bottles that she gave him. During the evaluation, she said 'good signing' when he signed please and made many other positive remarks. After the evaluation portion was complete, I was feeling relaxed until she hit me with a bomb that shook me to the core. She confirmed that he has a significant communication delay but further went on to express concerns about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Upon hearing these words, I became very emotional and was left unable to truly ask appropriate and detailed follow-up questions.

Jared has always been our quiet guy that likes to play alone. He can always entertain himself by building blocks and seems to have a long attention span as compared to his brothers. I have viewed these things and as Jared's strengths but is is specifically some of these behaviors that caused the evaluator concern. She also indicated that she could not give him credit during the evaluation for gestures as he did not make eye contact while signing 'please.' She said he stared only at the object and called this an 'object fixation.'

While I agree that some of his behaviors line up with the classic Autism signals, Jared is very affectionate and does not resist social touching or social interaction. The evaluator referred us to Early Steps which is the early intervention program in Florida. This program will complete another evaluation on Jared and will coordinate support services for us. The first service we all know he needs is speech.

After this evaluation, I received us an out pouring of support from family and friends. I will never be able to thank everyone enough for how much it meant to know we were in the thoughts of so many. I am a huge believer in the power of positive thinking and it was these positive thoughts that helped us along on our journey. I also had friends share personal stories about their children both Autistic and those with only a Speech Delay. These stories helped me stay focused on taking this one day at a time.

Maria Leon specifically played a major role in providing support following this evaluation. Maria happens to be a personal friend of a well respected Speech Language Pathologist in town, Mary Pellegrino. I determined that a second opinion was important and scheduled an appointment with her practice. The earliest appointment we were able to make was on January 29th. However, after one call from Maria, Mary contacted me directly by phone. She talked to me about 30 minutes asking many questions about Jared. She suggested some things for us to try at home and then said that she was able to get him in for an evaluation on January 25th and would see him personally. Four days may seem like a short period of time but it felt like an eternity when waiting for that second opinion. Thank you Maria!

This morning, Jared and I were off again for another evaluation. This is Jared before we headed inside for our second evaluation. He already seems happier about this evaluation! He is also holding the first evaluation in his hand.
Mary welcomed us and proceeded to evaluate Jared for about an hour. She blew bubbles, played with several toys, had him slide down a 'mini-slide' and started working with him on enunciating sounds. He was very excited and happy during the entire evaluation. She knew that the first evaluator pointed out all the signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder and during the entire evaluation, she worked to put my mind at ease by pointing out all the signs that support a "rule-out" of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She stated that he learned very quickly, he had great eye contact, he transitioned easily from one activity/toy to another. Also, she stated the fact that he was able to attend the Gasparilla parade without having trouble supported a "rule-out" for ASD.

While I was overwhelmingly relieved to learn that was probably not our problem, she confirmed again a significant expressive communication delay. She recommended 2x per week Speech Therapy which will start on Monday, Feb 1. However, in addition to the speech delay, she expressed concern for a possible immature central nervous system (CNS). When Jared gets real excited, he gets real tense and shakes/shivers. She said that these 'tremors' appear to be a 'primitive response' to stimuli. She said the prior evaluator may have observed some of these responses and felt they were an indication of Autism however, CNS delay feels more appropriate. This is something that would be addressed through Occupational Therapy. We agreed to proceed with Speech Therapy and keep an eye on this to determine if OT is needed as well.

Until that is determined, she provided me suggestions on how to help stimulate the development of his CNS. She recommended that we increase our rough housing with Jared. She said we should throw him around, spin around with him, hang him upside down, tickle him a lot, put him in a swing-twirl it up-let it go and rub his torso with different textures. She said all of this will help stimulate his development.

Upon arriving home, I shared the good news with Daddy! While we have some things we need to work on, it does not seem like Autism remains on our list of concerns. We were also happy to immediately begin working with Jared....
We are going to have trouble keeping this type of fun therapy focused on Jared. There are two other wild boys that like to join in as well! So Daddy is going to have to flex his therapeutic muscles and toss everyone around!

The past couple weeks have been challenging and stressful. I am very happy that Jared is so young, he does not realize the purpose of these evaluations. He seems to enjoy meeting and playing with his new friends. We start speech therapy next week and I hope our journey to help Jared find his words is a short one. Also, I hope that Andrew and Wes afford him the opportunity to use them once he finds them!

Take care,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gasparilla Extravaganza 2010

Has it been a year already? Wow, time sure flies. Last year, I packed up the boys to drive to Tampa on my own to attend the Gasparilla parade with Grandma. This year, we are lucky enough to have Daddy home and we all were able to attend the parade as a family.

In addition to Daddy and Grandma, the boys also met up with some new friends! I have been very lucky to connect with many triplet families through the wonderful Internet. When we were planning to attend the Gasparilla parade, I sent out feelers to see if anyone was interested in meeting up with us. The April Adams and her trio were eager to also attend the parade. So, the boys met up with their first set of triplets! Hayden, Hendrix and Hunter Adams are 6 months older than the boys. We had a great time with the Adams trio and I enjoyed talking with April in person. We look forward to making this an annual tradition!
We arrived early so we could meet up with the Adams and get a good spot. It had rained the days before the parade and there was a lot of mud. However, we are lucky that the boys are still happy to hang out in their stroller. Only Daddy, Grandma and I had to stand while waiting for the parade since the ground was wet. However, there was some entertainment to pass the waiting time. There were planes flying around. Andrew, our professional airplane spotter, was on target today with his spotting...
Then there were paratroopers...
And Daddy knew just what would keep everyone happy, a little parade food...
While we managed to stay happy during our wait, we were all happy when the parade started! Bring on the beads, bring on the candy...
The parade was worth the wait, especially when we started everything off with our favorite Sesame Street characters... Daddy's hat is still a little big on sweet Jared...
The double triple strollers were definitely a draw for attention...
Jared and Andrew enjoyed catching the beads and wearing the beads. Wes, thinking he should have been in the parade, would immediately throw back anything that landed in his lap...
The boys and I were so happy to have Daddy with us at the parade this year! Grandma and April Adams may not have been as happy since Daddy (the biggest target around) was grabbing all the beads thrown in our direction. He was so proud...
We were pretty close to the street. It will not be long until the boys are standing right on the rail collecting all the loot...
I enjoy the parade but mostly enjoy watching the boys experience the parade. They spend most of the time in awe of all the sights and sounds...
As Wes was returning his beads to the floats, we were collecting for him. I was confident he would learn to love them later and I was right, as you will see...
The following is a little video of the boys enjoying the parade...


It was a long (very long) parade, almost 3 hours, but we stayed until the very end. The boys were great during the entire parade!
After the parade, we stopped at Denny's for dinner.
Andrew, the constant comedian, entertained us all...
Once dinner was over, Wes cleaned up his place to prove that three 2 year olds can eat without making a terrible mess...
After dinner, we went home to get ready for bed. Before bed, we took some time to enjoy our booty!
Daddy showered all the boys in the treasure!
And they loved it...
All of the boys enjoyed playing with the beads. However, Jared took it to an entirely different level. He started putting them on one at a time and did not stop until he could barely stand...
He could barely move around and was dragging almost as many beads as he had around his neck. He actually had to hold out his arms to try and balance as he was moving around...
However, he LOVED every minute of it! He was soooo proud of himself! Note the cheesy face in this picture... on Jared and on his Daddy in the background. Let's just say this apple did not fall far from the Daddy tree...
It took Wes a little while to come around and start putting on the beads. Once he realized how much fun Jared was having, he got into the act. It's a good thing we were collecting for you little Wessie!
The boys had such a good time playing with their beads. We also had a great time watching them enjoy these beads. We were all laughing so hard at Jared as he kept putting more and more and more beads around his neck. It you are going to do something, do it 100% Baby J!!
We had a great time at the parade and we are already looking forward to next years' parade.

Take care,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Boys Discover the Joys of DIRT!!!

It is finally starting to warm up in Florida and the boys are able to play outside again! Even though our backyard is full of fun activities for the boys, including their swing set. The boys found the most fun playing in a patch of dirt near the fence. I can't figure out if they were trying to dig their way to freedom or were just excited to get dirty. Regardless of motive, they had a good time....

video

Daddy indicated that the boys were covered head to toe in dirt with dirt even in diapers! It may have been a mess but a good time was had by all. I love hearing those giggles!

Daddy, thank you for grabbing the camera so I can enjoy these moments!!

Take care,

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Day In The Life

The boys continue to impress and amaze us each day. They have started out life as little overachievers and they continue on this path. What are they doing to overachieve this time? The boys are 20 months old (gulp) and will not officially turn 2 for another 4 months. However, these little overachievers are beginning to act more and more like "terrible two" year olds even before their official birthday!

As they are learning to communicate their needs verbally, they believe that merely the act of saying or signing something should result in immediate gratification of the expressed request. A good example occurred tonight. We have a night time routine to get the boys dressed into their jammies and then we pass out their milk. Apparently, Wes felt he should have his milk before he was in his jammies. As we sat down to get them dressed, he said "Milllll... K" (it's hard to write exactly how he was it but the K is hard and clearly prominent) and began to feverishly sign milk in a very demanding manner. My reply, in the calmest Mommy tone, "we need to get dressed and then you can get your milk." He did not appreciate this reply and decided that kicking, rolling and whining would help drive the point home that he wanted his "Millllll.... K" NOW!!! He completely refused to cooperate and assist in the dressing activity causing a significant delay in getting to his precious "millllllll.... K." Don't you worry, Mommy stuck to her guns and milk was not distributed until we were in our jammies. I look forward to the day when they can use reason to understand they should cooperate more and you get to milk quicker. Dare to dream, eh?!?

This is just one example of many that are signals that 2 is right on the horizon! While there are a few other things the boys do that just make us want to pull our hair out.... like continue to climb on the end tables and reach into the baby-proofed kitchen drawers to pull out scissors and corn cob holders, we still manage to have more fun than I could have ever imagined!

Sunday was a day that was more fun than frustrating. We kept the boys busy with activities which usually distracts them from the temptations to drive us crazy. The first activity of the day was to play with the bubble blower that Uncle Lance and Aunt Kim gave us for Christmas. After breakfast and while the boys were still strapped into their table, we filled up the bubble blower and let the boys take turns controlling the bubble blower.
This model is really great and highly recommended. We had another one but the boys always wanted to grab it, carry it and dump out the bubbles. This one is designed to be controlled by them. It is a tea pot with a handle that controls the bubbles. When the pull the handle down, it blows bubbles until the wand thing is empty. Then they have to release the handle, fill up the wand and pull the handle down again.
The boys enjoyed learning how to use the bubble blower, controlling the bubble blower and when it was not their turn, they enjoyed playing with the bubbles. Apparently Wes thought the motor was a little loud...
Jared was in awe of the mechanical device that distributed bubbles, Andrew was in awe of the beautiful bubbles and Wes..... well, he was Wes... too cool for a bubble blower...
Andrew and Jared really enjoyed this activity....
Wes wanted Daddy to get out of the way of the TV so he could catch his show...
While the bubble blower did not excite Wes to the level of Andrew and Jared, he did enjoy his turn to control the bubble blower and is seen below telling Jared his turn was up...
After we cleaned up from the bubbles, we played for a little while and before we knew it, it was lunch time! We had lunch and then it was nap time. For Christmas, the boys received new toddler pillows from Grandma. At nap and bed time, the boys get to run in the room, grab a book and hang out for a few minutes reading before I collect books and turn out the light. On this day, the boys grabbed their books and we tried to actually lay them down using the pillow and "tuck" them in before nap. Andrew and Wes stayed in this position for the entire book reading time. It was so adorable to see them laying in the crib like big boys...
Jared did not want to lay down. He reads better sitting up...
While the boys spent their reading time resting their heads on their pillows, as soon as I collected books and moved to turn out the light, they reverted back to their traditional sleeping positions. Wes is a minimalist so he throws everything out of the crib. It's a mattress and fitted sheet for this one. Jared lays down tucking his knees under him, throws the blanket over him and tugs George close. While he read sitting up, he is the closest to actually sleeping under a cover. Andrew rolled over to a spot without a pillow and wanted 'his' blanket spread over him while he grabs a corner of it and shoves a fist full into his mouth to chew. The guys are starting to show more interest in sleeping with the pillows but I guess 20 months of sleeping flat on the mattress, it will take a while to make this transition.

Once the boys woke up from nap, it was snack time. After snack, we laid out some paper and passed out the crayons. They colored for a little while and then decided that ripping up the paper was more fun. This signaled the end of this activity.

Shoes - The boys love to wear shoes. They probably love it because wearing shoes signals we are going somewhere and it is usually somewhere fun, like outside! There were some shoes on the counter that they were able to reach and they started playing with them. A little while later, Andrew walks up with a left shoe completely on his left foot! He was able to put this shoe on all by himself and he did the right foot. I was impressed. I gave him the matching right shoe in the hopes of catching this on film but he was not able to get the right shoe on and moved on to another activity.
I was also impressed as these shoes are almost too small for the boys (size 7.5) and we use this pair on Wes because he has the smallest/skinniest feet. We have a hard time putting them on the boys so the fact that Andrew (biggest feet) was able to get it on by himself... impressive!

During the afternoon, the boys played (as evidenced by the toys in the family room) with their toys. One of our newest additions from Uncle Lance and Aunt Kim is the Sit and Spin. This has been an interesting toy to watch them discover. The boys are very creative in sitting and spinning but only Jared has figured out the traditional sit and spin method. He may not be spinning with speed yet but he is spinning...

video

I have not been able to get video of Andrew or Wes but they sit on the seat and push with their hand on the floor to spin around. They also sit on the handle part and spin the bottom with their feet, like running on a baby treadmill. As you saw at the end of that video, Andrew and Wes are silly characters!!!

Lastly, before this day was over, we were invaded by a bunch of frogs!! Ribbit... ribbit....ribbit....

video

The night prior to this video, when I told the boys it was ready for bed, Wes started hopping like a frog and quickly the other two followed suit. So that night, I put three little frogs to bed. The above video was taken on Sunday as the boys were waiting on their bubble bath to be drawn. The actually started at the near end of the hallway, hopped all the way to the end and then I got the camera. As such, I only caught the tail end of the froggy invasion!

At the end of the day, being able to kiss these three wonderful boys good night is all I need to wipe away the negative memories of attitudes and temper tantrums! It also helps that they go to sleep without any trouble so we always know that no matter how challenging the day is; it is quiet at 7:30pm!

Take care,