Wednesday, November 11, 2015


My last post on Emery was about her sensory issues (4-16-15). Things were so out of control with her, we ended up switching her meds. I read through my daily logs on Emery going back about a year. It appeared she was actually doing better on Fluoxetine than she was on her current medication. So we went back to the Fluoxetine and continued with her Clonodine. The latter is for her hyperactivity and the former for OCD symptoms.

This change resulted in Emery having a fairly great Summer. The back slamming, hand playing and face tapping completely stopped. The face pressing continued. But eliminating 3 out of 4 OCD/Sensory issues was a huge relief. Emery enjoyed boating, swimming, playing on the tramp, riding her bike and gymnastics over the Summer. She loved our California trip. Disneyland was perfect for her sensory seeking needs. She loved all of the rides, including the roller coasters. The ocean was also a great sensory source. The waves were huge every day and would literally knock you right over. She had a blast! We all did. It was our first major family vacation with the twins and it was a success. Emery only became upset one time waiting in a line at Disney. It was just a few tears and the episode only lasted about 10 minutes. I just loved California. So glad we decided to make that our vacation destination.

Emery's school year started out really good. She even handled her siblings starting school a full 2 weeks earlier than her school started. No issues. She was super excited to get back to school and she was doing good in school.

Then Bam! It all changed. About the end of September, we started getting notes that Emery was pushing her classmates a lot. The first week of October, she was pushing just about everyday at school. We also noticed she was back slamming a few times at home. Her hand playing started back up. She started pulling out her hair. She was still in a happy mood but the OCD/Sensory issues were reemerging. Ugh!

We scheduled an appointment with her neurologist and bumped her Fluoxetine dose from 20mg to 30mg per day. It has been 3 weeks and we have not seen any improvements. She is still only at half of the maximum dose of 60mg. Uncertain what we are going to try next. Her pushing has turned to hitting and poking. She pokes others really hard in the cheeks. She mainly is doing it to me, her teachers and girls in her class. She has a huge bald spot in the back of her head from the hair pulling. We have tried band aids on her thumbs, wearing a hat all day, and fidget toys to try to reduce the hair pulling. All with only minimal changes. We have tried to discipline her for the hitting/poking. Time out at school and loss of privileges at home. No effect whatsoever. She will say "no push", "no hit", "no poke". But, she continues to do it. Her neurologist thinks the issue is more OCD related than just being naughty, especially with the reemergence of the hand playing and hair pulling. Her teacher is meeting next week with the school counselor to get some ideas to reduce these behaviors. Very strange. I am not sure why all of these behaviors started back up. Emery, my mystery child.

That is the general update on Emery. More like to come on her autism diagnosis and insurance.





Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blake - Academics and Attitude

Blake still is active, inquisitive and could most likely charm the socks off of anyone. He is very social, loves people and has a caring heart. He gets all teary eyed during touching movies and worries when someone is sick. Blake loves to argue and enjoys trying to convince anyone that he is right. I foresee a career in law or politics!

In the 3 1/2 years since joining our family, the three most prominent issues with Blake are academic delays, motivation, and respect for authority.

Academically, Blake is far behind his peers. He struggles with math concepts and reading. That being said, we saw improvement over the Summer. More on Summer tutoring in another post. At the end of the school year, we discussed the best options for Blake for the 2015/2016 school year. The skills support team believes he is still getting more one on one teaching time at St. Anthony than he would in the public school system. So for now, Blake will remain at St. Anthony. With middle school quickly approaching, we may find it necessary to switch him to the public school. This is not our first choice because Blake loves the religious aspect of school so much. In addition, he has been well accepted at St. Anthony and we so love the teachers. We are in our 16th year at St. Anthony, and leaving the school would be difficult.

Blake has always lacked motivation to improve. Whether it involves academics, sports, music and even riding a bike, Blake wants to give up almost before he starts. Blake has great aspirations, he just wants to start at the top. Getting him to understand that being good at anything takes practice and a lot of hard work has been a challenge. I think he is beginning to see that he has to work for his successes. We have slowly started to see some maturity in this area. When we started swim lessons last Spring, he was adamant that he could not go in the deep end without a life jacket. With lots of encouragement, he was swimming across the deep end by the end of the 5 week session. Now he is learning how to do the back stroke and tread water. He is very proud of his swimming accomplishments and he knows he had to work hard to get where he is now.

We adjusted some of his extracurricular activities to help him understand this concept and create self-motivation. He hated having to practice piano, but loved to practice singing. So we stopped piano lessons and he joined the children's choir at church. He seems to be much happier with this choice and choir is free! I am no longer paying out $100 a month for lessons and arguing with him about practice.

He started golf lessons in the Spring as well. He was excited to play golf because his cousin is a good golfer. He was less excited when he realized he wasn't as good as his cousin. We had him stick it out and explained that Conner had been golfing for many years and it takes a lot of practice and lessons to be really good. He has since completed two more sessions and he has gradually began to enjoy the lessons. This is a sport that Blake is able catch up to his peers and potentially be good enough to play on a team in high school. It appears that he also has improved quite a bit. He was practicing his putts out in the front yard this past August and I noticed he had pretty good form. Then he got out a driver and I didn't think much of it and wanted to see what his swing looked like. I didn't know just how good of a swing he had. He nailed the ball and what a drive it was. The ball flew about 4 houses down and bounced hard on the road. I was very grateful there were no cars or people around. We then decided that he can no longer use his driver in the yard. I know I should never underestimate that kid!

The golf program also teaches core values, including responsibility, honesty, respect, and sportsmanship. So this is very good reinforcement for Blake. He will start up his 4th session in November. He will be practicing chips, putts and drives in an indoor facility and spend part of the time working on school work with a mentor. First Tee is a great program.

The other area of concern with Blake is respect for authority. He doesn't like having to follow orders from parents, teachers, babysitters, etc. Over the Summer, we noticed some improvement in this area. We were adamant about reducing privileges for arguing, back talking, and general disrespect. It seemed to sink in a bit even though he wasn't happy about it. But overall, we had a pretty good Summer behavior wise with Blake.

He had a rough start getting back to school this Fall. Same as prior years. Didn't want to do his work. Wasn't happy about his teachers "telling him what to do". He had a few meltdowns at school and at home over "not wanting to be bossed around". After a long meeting with the school staff, we approached his behavior by explaining that his teachers are doing their jobs by telling him what work he has to do. If they didn't give him work, they wouldn't be doing their jobs. His job is to do his work. We came to an ageement whereby any work not completed at school came home with him and was extra homework on top of his regular homework. It took a few days for him to realize that the less work he completed in school, the more of his free time was taken up after school to complete the work. It has been going smoothly now and he is in a good school/homework routine.

Overall we have seen progress in Blake's attitude toward school work and authority as well as academic progress. We expect to see more improvement throughout the school year. Parenting a strong willed child isn't easy. But seeing a proud smile on his face when he accomplishes something or makes a good choice, makes it worth the effort.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Life Updates in Pictures

Dad was due for a new car. But instead, the girls got a car! Really helps mom out

Blake was Priest for a Day and even went out to lunch with Father Mark.

Emery's Spring Gymnastics Show.

Happy Father's Day

Summer flowers on my deck.

Happy July 4th

Our family went on a week long vacation to California this Summer.

We stayed in Sunset Beach and visited Disneyland, Hollywood, Rodeo Drive

and Fashion Island.

We all had a great time.

Twins loved the hot tub

View of the Pacific from our house

Blake flying a kite on the beach for the 1st time.

Breakfast with Goofy

Tea Cup Ride

Emery loved Buzz

Ended up having to stay a night in Denver due to plane problems.

Poor Emery was too tired to eat dinner after 7 long hours at LAX.

Blake always manages to strike up a conversation with the pilot.

This is Blake sitting in the cockpit. All smiles of course.

Hanging out with my twinkies on the boat at the lake.

Cottage Ice Cream Party. Yum!

My silly niece

The Blakester


My handsome nephew

Ashley ran in the Grand Rapids Color Run this Summer

Ashley loved the colored chalk spray and sparkles

Color Run with friends 2015

Gracie and Harley patiently waiting for a boat ride

First Day of 4th grade

1st Day of School. Ashley a sophomore and Nicole a junior.
Ashley is West Catholic Cheerleader this year.

What a cutie!

Blake loved kayaking in the cove this Summer

First day of school for Emery. Look at that smile!

Giant Adirondack chair at the ice cream store.

Grand Rapids Art Prize 2015

Art Prize

Blake has been playing golf with First Tee since Spring.


That is a summary of life since my last post. A lot more going on. Will try to update on some specifics soon.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sensory Needs

Emery's sensory issues have been just crazy for months. This past Fall she was constantly tapping her face with various objects and developed an obsession for playing with other people's hands (primarily mine). During the Winter months the face tapping decreased, but she has added face pressing and back slamming to her repertoire of sensory related quirks.

Her most recent face tapping device of choice is an old gift card with a rubber band taped to it in a specific way (and I really mean specific).

Her hand playing is so intense that I literally had to wrap my achy wrist for two days with an ace bandage.

The face pressing involves her pressing her face directly into people's bodies (once again, primarily mine). She will face press my legs, shoulders, back, belly, and yes, even my butt. Emery also has a slight drooling and swallowing problem (also sensory related). I cannot tell you how often I have Emery lip prints on my clothes. I hate it when I forget to check for these dirty little spots before I leave to go out in public. Ugh!

Her back slamming is what concerns me the most. She runs backwards and slams herself into various objects, including counters, walls, appliances and furniture. The slams are shockingly hard. She doesn't leave any marks on her back, which is surprising. She slams into the side of the couch and the couch actually moves. This also occurs when she slams into my wood dresser. She also broke through some drywall with a back slam. Scary.

We have been consulting on an on-going basis with Emery's neurologist. We are in the process of testing combinations of different medications. We also have consulted with a retired psychologist that specialized in Sensory Integration in England. She provided some insight into the reasons why Emery chooses specific quirks to meet specific sensory needs. Both the neurologist and psychologist agree that Emery is in dire need of intensive therapy. I will talk about the effects of the various methods we have been trying in another post.
Meanwhile, after jumping through numerous hoops trying to obtain therapy covered by insurance, I am looking forward to our initial meeting in June to obtain a second diagnosis. It is still mind boggling to me that we have to put Emery through another evaluation, but I am grateful we found a BCBS approved facility that was not booked out a year.
Despite her sensory issues, Emery has been a happy and silly girl lately. She is doing great in gymnastics and just started swimming lessons, which she is ecstatic about. I think she giggled the majority of her 45 minute session on Monday. School is also going well and she is still excited to get on the bus. Praying we eventually get her the therapy she needs.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Life Updates

Other than issue related Emery and Blake updates, I haven't blogged about our life in general. Things have been chugging along as usual. Bruce left his accounting firm in December for a new job. Not much difference in pay, but his hours have dramatically decreased. He has gone from working 70 ish hours per week to about 45 to 50. He is so much happier and is rarely stressed out. I still am the one running all the kids to appointments and activities, but if there is a conflict, it is no big deal for him to get out of work to help out. He hated leaving his firm, but sometimes you have to make a decision to better balance your work/life style.

My volleyball coaching season went by super fast. I had forgotten how fun it is to work with little 5th graders. They were all so full of enthusiasm, it brightened my day. They dramatically improved from the beginning to the end of the season and were a great group of girls. I am so glad I decided to help out my friend. I was a bit hesitant about investing so much volunteer time when I didn't even have a kid on the team. But, I enjoyed it immensely. I'm looking forward to helping out again in the Fall.

December brought our family two additional drivers. Ashley got her drivers permit and Nicole got her drivers license. They haven't driven much throughout our snowy Michigan winter, but I'm sure they will be asking to drive more often soon. We are trying to find a good used car for Bruce so the girls can have his old car. It would be nice to have a few less places for me to drive to!

We had a great Christmas. Emery handled the holidays fairly well as compared to last year. The twins celebrated their 10th birthday in January. Blake had a big class party at Jesters Court (a big bounce/slide place) around the corner from our house. We had about 35ish kids and it was a lot of fun. Emery also had a great time there. Can't believe they were only 7 when we brought them home. Time just moves too fast for me.

Spring break is almost here. We are staying home and hopefully doing some major spring cleaning both inside and outside the house. No fun Florida trip for the kids and I this year. Bruce no longer has a crazy tax season, so I have no excuse to just get away with the kids.

I am looking forward to Spring and Summer. I have the twins signed up for a few new activities and we are planning a big family vacation. I will post about the activities and vacation soon.

Here are some pictures to enjoy. The twins have really grown, especially Emery. She is 4.5 inches taller than Blake now. She was about 4 inches shorter than him 3 years ago.

I couldn't get many pictures to load properly, so I am posting only a few.

Ashley all dressed up for a school dance.

Blake thought Gracie might be cold.

10th Birthday Celebration

My two drivers

15th and 16th Birthday Celebration



The weather cooperated with our chalkboard