Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oliver 2011

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Ah Oliver! My sweet, peaceful, sleep-loving baby is gone, and has grown into an active, affectionate, forever-teething Mommy’s boy!
He is still our little blondie – the hair on the top of his head is about 2.5-3 inches long now, but it’s so fair and so fine that he still looks mostly bald :) He still has the one little patch of thicker, darker hair on the back of his head which is funny!
The biggest challenge we have faced with Oliver this year has been the teething saga. Every child has different teething experiences and, for Oliver, it’s been pretty torturous. In August I first noticed the purple bruises where four molars were starting to push through. Now here we are, at the end of December, and not a single one of those molars is fully erupted. One of them has three spikes out. He has been teething non-stop for over 5 months. For the same 4 teeth. It’s been a good time for us all!!! Yikes! So my sweet, sleep-loving baby has become my cranky toddler who wakes up 2 or 3 times a night, often more. I have a feeling that this will continue until he has a full set of teeth…. maybe by the time he gets his 2-year molars, we’ll all be able to start enjoying a full night’s sleep again… But he is still a good napper. He takes one 2.5 hour nap during the day – he usually goes down sometime between 10 and 11am, but can make it later than that if he needs to.
Oliver started walking in little spurts several weeks before his birthday. He chose the week that Avery was in Texas for her leg surgery to start walking across rooms and taking 20 or so steps at a time. Since then he has loved being on his feet. In October or November he started spinning around just to make himself dizzy, which was endlessly amusing to watch! He kept on doing it, even though he would often cry when he fell down at the end! He still does it sometimes :) He also likes dancing (super cute) and racing. Of our three children, Oliver has had the clearest first word. His first word was “Go!”  The first day he said it, he was watching Avery and Brogan racing from the front room to the kitchen and back again. He was sitting with me on the stairs as we watched them race, and every time they stopped, he bounced up and said, “Go! Go!” After that he started saying it right before he ran anywhere too :) He also says Yay, Mom (maaam), Dad (Da, or day), and there are several other sounds he makes which may or may not be specific to something, but other than that he still mostly communicates his needs with pointing, screeching, and/or whining!!! He has perfected the art of ear-piercing screeches. Ouch! He also has the cutest laugh, and his squeal of delight when he runs to greet Daddy when he walks through the door is the sweetest thing :)
Oliver does definitely understand a lot more than he says. He knows what “No” means, and will also sit down when he’s told. He also will clap, kiss, and jump on demand, and will hide if you ask “Where’s Oliver?” It’s actually very cute, because he’ll put his hands up to hide his face, but he mostly just covers his mouth and nose, so you can still see his smiling eyes peeking out over the top :) Then he’ll pull his hands away and laugh and laugh when you say “There he is!!” He’ll go sit on the step when you ask him to, and will try to help putting on his socks, by lifting up his foot and pushing the rolled up socks against it. He doesn’t seem to understand why this method doesn’t work. I don’t know why I try to put his socks and shoes on him before we leave the house anyway, because the first thing he does once he’s in his carseat is take off his shoes and socks! He has started doing the rolling and beeping motions by himself when I sing The wheels on the bus. He has also started to do funny little things just for the sake of being funny!
Without a doubt, Oliver loves his mommy!!! It is very sweet, but often makes it difficult for me to cook, clean, walk, or look after my other children! There’s nothing like trying to prepare a meal with a screaming child attached to my legs…! In his ideal world, I would not do anything but hold him and love him, 24 hours a day :) Daddy says that he is not like that when I’m not home, and he definitely enjoys calm one-on-one time with both his parents. When he realised that I would pick up and/or hug Avery and Brogan whenever they got hurt, he started screaming and running for me whenever one of his siblings got upset. It was like, “Noooooo! You can’t have her! She’s mine!!” He definitely gets jealous whenever I show affection to my other children, but I think he’s starting to calm down a little bit with that. Whenever we go to the YMCA, Oliver screams as if his heart is breaking when I leave him in the child-watch. IMG_3808aA lot of toddlers do that, I suppose, but Oliver takes it a step further by screaming for the entire time I am gone. Every time I have left him there in the past 6+ months, someone has had to come find me and ask me to come get him because he won’t stop screaming. Yup, he loves his mommy :p 
This year Oliver went through a phase where he thought hitting was hilarious. Luckily, he mostly hit Mommy and not so much his siblings, but it was still not the most fun thing for Mommy! I tried not reacting, but he would just keep on hitting me until I reacted, and then he would burst into a fit a laughter! Thankfully, he doesn’t do that anymore, although he will pick up a stick or a pole, if he sees one, and whack the nearest person with it…!
Oliver loves cars, kisses, cuddles, food, putting things in containers and pouring them out again, baths, splashing, attention, making mess, pulling the kitchen towel of the oven handle and cleaning the floor with it, being tickled, snuggling closer to Mommy when strangers talk to him, trying to keep up with his big brother and sister, making noise, and all sorts of other things. He has changed and grown up so much this year, leaving the baby behind and growing into a sweet, opinionated little boy. 

Brogan in 2011


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Brogan is still the most affectionate and loving little boy EVER! If your self esteem is a little low, spend an afternoon with Brogan and you will feel better! It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when you are being smothered with kisses and hugs, and being told every few minutes, “I’m love you sooooo much.”
Brogan still loves the world and everyone in it. He loves to be in the limelight, and sometimes when he needs a little attention he will say, “Wook! Wook at my eyes!” until you look at him and then he’ll say, “Watch this!” and make up some little dance or jump right there on the spot Smile When he sees someone he knows out in public (and sometimes complete strangers too), he’ll go running up to them and say, “Hey! It’s ME!!” , and then try to give them a hug or a kiss.
He looks up to his sister, and a phrase we hear from him a lot is, “Me too!!” If Avery wants something, he wants it too; if Avery wants to do something, he wants to do it too. He is losing patience with her need to correct him all the time though. He still has his own way of saying and doing things, and doesn’t like it when Avery gets bossy with him and tries to tell him he’s doing it wrong.
Brogan knows all of his shapes and colours, and recognises most of the uppercase letters, but he has very little patience for sitting and learning at this point. His version of the alphabet song has changed a few times this year – for a while it went, “A B C D Effigy, H I J J PPP PPP PPP”. Most recently it goes something like this: “A B C D E F G Next time won’t you sing with me” He does like singing quite a few songs these days, but if I start singing a song when he’s not in the mood for it he will say “No! Don’t sing Mom!”
It has been nice that I don’t have to translate for him very often anymore! Most of the time he speaks clearly enough that even strangers can understand him Smile There are still some words for which he has his own unique pronunciation, I will add them here when my brain is working well enough to remember them, which it’s not right now apparently!! The only one I can think of right now is “Switch”, which is how he pronounces “witch”. Oh, also, he calls pajamas “Dramas”. He has to wear Dramas to bed – he won’t wear a daytime shirt or pants, even if they’re comfortable!! “No! That is not a dramas shirt!!” His sentence structure is still sometimes a little funny, but I am happy to say that he has evolved from “Ah Bogin!” to “My name ‘bout Brogan” He often uses “about” instead of “is”!!
I am very happy to say that Brogan finally started sleeping better!!! It was rough for quite a while, but sometime early-ish in the year, he finally started sleeping well enough that he could start sharing a room with Avery Smile They both seem to enjoy the arrangement, but even though Brogan has been sleeping all night for months now (besides a few short phases, like the one he’s going through right now where he wants to climb into bed with us in the middle of the night…), Avery still prays most nights that, “Brogan will stay in bed all night and not shout.” Haha.
Another nice surprise came in the form of potty training! For a long time, I was worried that Brogan was going to be in diapers ‘til he was four, because he just didn’t seem to care whether he was wet or even dirty! Then out of the blue, sometime in February, he got sick with some sort of stomach virus, and apparently that was the motivation he needed to use the potty! I was so surprised and happy! He had a few setbacks along the way, but from about March until August/September he was in underwear 24 hours a day. Then came Avery’s surgery and intensive therapy, and I think that the extra attention Avery was getting made Brogan regress, and he had to start wearing diapers to bed again. But he is still wearing underwear during the day and, as long as he’s wearing stretchy pants, he doesn’t need help using the potty most of the time. I can tell when he’s gone though because he’s naked from the waist down Smile with tongue out He hasn’t quite mastered the putting on of underwear and pants yet!!
Brogan still hates having his hair washed, but he is much better about brushing his teeth and having his nails cut. He loves the swimming pool these days, and enjoyed the one round of swimming lessons he took in October. Mostly. He liked all of it, except for getting his head and face wet, and was not pleased on the few occasions when he got tricked into putting his head underwater!! So he’s back to spending time in the childwatch while Avery has her swimming lesson, which is an arrangement that makes him happy. He loves the childwatch, especially when there are lots of friends there, and especially when he gets to go down to the Xrcade with the big kids! He has alsIMG_3813o thoroughly enjoyed his last year in Nursery at church. He just loves to be surrounded by friends, and he has never met a stranger!
Mealtimes are still a struggle. Although he is considerably better than he was, there are still relatively few healthy foods which Brogan will willingly eat. He would still prefer to live on candy, apple juice and ice cream, and doesn’t seem to understand why his parents are so mean as to not let him eat candy all day! We have managed to stop fighting over apple juice – I no longer have to refuse to give him apple juice 20 times a day! He generally has one cup of watered down apple juice in the morning, and that’s it. His water intake is slowly improving. He loves toast, and has even started eating the crusts!
Brogan really is a very sweet boy. When I tell him this, he usually responds with, “And you’re a sweet Mom.” He loves all of us so much, and we just love him to pieces!

Avery’s 2011

DSCI2275Avery had a really big year this year! At the beginning of the year we were looking at wheelchairs, and by the end of the year, we were watching her walk up to 70 paces! It’s been a very exciting year!
Avery got her first wheelchair in March. It’s hot pink and had light-up casters on the front. (The casters have since been replaced with much more practical 6” tires.) She picked it up right away and was wheeling herself around in no time!
Avery really mastered the tricycle this year. Even in bare feet, she can peddle around very happily for a whole afternoon!
She finished preschool on a high, no longer qualifying for special education!! She was deemed completely independent in the school environment, since she was able to get around by herself in her wheelchair and walker, and she’s never had any cognitive delays Smile So we were proud of her for that.
Avery lost her first tooth in July, and the second came not far behind! Her adult teeth had already come out behind and were waiting to take their places. Her two top middle teeth have been loose for a few months now, but haven’t yet fallen out. We also discovered that her six year molars had already come through when we went to the dentist in the summer!
Academically, Avery and I started her first year of homeschooling in September. One of the deciding factors when we were considering homeschool was the frequency of our therapy trips (Herndon and Sterling for ABM, and, as of November, Charlottesville for Feldenkrais). It has been going well! It has been a challenge for me, and is forcing me to be more organised than I am by nature! But that is a good thing! She is a good learner, and has made great progress with her reading and basic math skills.
Avery is a mostly sweet big sister to her brothers, but she does like to get her own way, and has been earning quite a few Time Outs for pushing and yelling recently…! She also likes to start arguments with Brogan sometimes, even when he’s not disagreeing with her!! She developed quite a liking for the word “No!”, which isn’t our favourite thing, but she is getting a bit better now. She likes sharing a room with Brogan, and is an avid bedtime reader! We read a story with each of them, and then she has a pile of books on the stool next to her bed which she reads through by herself and puts at the end of her bed before she cuddles up with her bunny and goes to sleep. She is a wonderful cheerleader for Brogan and Oliver, and seems genuinely happy and excited when either of them achieves something new. She loves to make cards for her friends, and she loves drawing and writing. She has a good appetite these days, and mealtimes are rarely a battle with her, which is lovely for us! She will try new foods, and likes a good variety of things – she will even eat salad these days! She still only likes water, apple juice, milk, or chocolate milk to drink though, and that’s just fine with us Smile She won’t touch soda – hates the stuff!
We started contemplating surgery options early in the year, and by the summer we had decided to give SPML a try. With the help of many wonderful people. we were able to raise the funds for her surgery and the following months of therapy, and on August 26th, Avery underwent her first elective surgery, in the hopes of giving her the chance to walk independently and healthily. She was a complete superstar during the whole thing. She was so excited to try out her “new legs” after her surgery, that she tried to stand up and walk as soon as we got back after her surgery, when I ran out to the store to get her prescriptions for the pain! So, of course, it hurt. And the next few times she tried in that first couple of days, it hurt. So then she was afraid to try for some time after that. She had some residual pain in a couple of spots for a couple of months afterwards, which we were not expecting, and which is not the usual after SPML. After the initial improvement in her posture, movement in her feet, and separation of her legs, progress seemed slow for a little while. We went to therapy religiously and progress was being made, but then, all of a sudden, on the 5th of December, Avery seemed to make up her mind and decide she was ready. She walked all day! She walked, and fell down, picked herself up and walked, fell down again, and just kept going! It was so exciting to watch!! (You can watch a video of her walking that first day HERE!)
The progress has continued since then! Currently, her wheelchair is sitting, locked up, in the carport, because it has been weeks since 
IMG_3596we took it out of the back of the van! She has been using her walker everywhere, and has been walking independently (with her SAFOs on) in all sorts of places Open-mouthed smile On Christmas Day, during our church service, Avery started walking around in the hall, and at one point, she took SEVENTY unassisted, independent steps! Not just in a straight line either! It was amazing to watch. And the best part is how much she loves it Smile We are a very happy family, and she is a very happy girl!!
Avery has also claimed a lot more independence in other areas these past few weeks too! Since she became so motivated to walk, she has also started walking around a lot at home. She likes to hold onto the wall and walk from the bathroom to her bedroom at bedtime, turning off lights along the way, just because she can! She also likes to walk to her dresser and open the drawers, selecting her own outfits, and dressing herself- all new developments!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

We woke up to the sound of an excited Avery crawling out of her room whispering, “It’s here! It’s finally Christmas! Come on! Lets go see the snow!” She was so focused on seeing the unfortunately non-existent snow, that she only noticed all the presents after I told her to look at the tree!
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Opening stockings.
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Ready for church :)
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Avery and I tried out a new hairstyle for church, which is why her hair was in rags for the Christmas Eve pictures :) I think it turned out super pretty, but the pictures don't do it justice! (I found it here)
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After church, more present opening!! Hooray! Angry birds :)
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Presents from Aunt Evey and Uncle Naeem :) (Oliver looks so grown up!!!!)
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Colour mixing goggles.      Unicorn hairclip holder.
I got some video of them opening the marble race from Grandma. All three of them LOVE it!
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We had our friends over for Christmas dinner (they brought half the food!) I didn't get any good pictures, but I thought this one was exceptional in it's awfulness! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

I have always loved Christmas. Always. Christmas when I was growing up was always magical – something I looked forward to all year. Since having children, I have found that, as much as I loved Christmas as a child, it is even better when I get to be the Mom Smile 
Avery and Brogan both got excited about Christmas this year, which was super fun! I’ll have to write a post about some of the stuff we did to prepare for Christmas, but this is just going to be about Christmas Eve.
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The three boys got matching pajama pants this year for their Christmas Eve presents. Brogan picked out the fabric a few weeks ago Smile I was very happy when Avery opened hers and exclaimed that it was like the spotty pajama dress that the girl monkey wears in her 5 Little Monkeys book! I was going to make her PJ pants too, but then last week we were reading that book she was wishing that she had a pretty spotty nightdress too, which was perfect because the fabric remnant I had got for her gift happened to be spotty! I hadn’t planned on making her a dress since they are so hard to crawl around in, but recently she’s been on her feet so much more that a dress is more practical than it once was Open-mouthed smile 
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When I suggested in the week before Christmas that I thought Avery and Brogan might be old enough to act out the story of the Nativity, I said “Maybe Avery could be Mary or an angel, and maybe Brogan could be Joseph, or a shepherd…” Brogan responded, “No. I don’t want to be a shepherd. Maybe I can be a ghost with too many EYES!” But we did act out the Nativity, as I read the story from the New testament, and it was great. Don’t they look cute as a shepherd and Mary? The attention of my sweet 3 year old isn’t exactly the best, but Avery and Daddy at least got to the end of the story Smile
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Then it was time to leave cookies and milk for Santa! After that we sang Jingle Bells to bed, and they went straight to sleep Smile
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This is what our front room looked like after Santa had been Smile

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

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I don’t know about you, but we are all pretty excited about Christmas in our house Smile I love being a mom, especially at Christmas time!!

I do not know why I have been absent from blogger for over 2 months… I’m sorry! I haven’t even been logging in, so, besides the people I’m friends with on facebook, I haven’t even been reading any blogs, so I have a lot of catching up to do!!!! I have every intention of being a regular blogger again now though Smile But for now, here are a couple of pictures of Avery and Brogan with Santa!

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Cat in the Hat

(Yes, I know this is late, but I had to do it anyway, because I was so proud of my handiwork!!)

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Months and months before halloween, Avery, Brogan and I had discussed their costumes and had decided on a Cat in the Hat theme! I had a lot of fun figuring out how to turn Gabe and the children into the Cat, Thing 1, Thing 2, and Fish. I was really pleased with how they turned out, I just wish I’d been able to get a couple of better pictures!! (These were taken at the Trunk n Treat at church.)

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Excited to go trick or treating!! (I didn’t get any good pictures of Oliver as Fish… isn’t that sad??!)

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Thing 1 and Thing 2!!

I made the costumes out of red fleece, with a zipper in the back, and padding in the neck. I got red mittens from the dollar store, which I was going to attach to the sleeves with red ribbon, but ran out of time! The wording I made by printing onto iron-on transfers, which I ironed onto white felt, and then ironed onto the fleece. The wigs were the most time-consuming part, but I love them! I used 1/2” elastic and grosgrain ribbon to make a base, and then tied on strips of blue tulle until they were nice and fluffy Smile

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My 6’4” husband wore a 20” tall hat, and then added to his height even more by roller blading around the parking lot! I may have made his tail a little too long, since it still dragged on the ground even when he was in roller blades…! Oh well. I think he looked just like the Cat in the Hat, although I should have taken a moment to plan out his make up before I did it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The trunk of our van, when I sat and handed out candy. Notice the ghost hanging on the right – Avery and Brogan and I made that one out of paper mache and rags. It had a face too, but it must have turned around just before I took this picture.

Before the trick or treating, there were activities and games inside. One of the activities was wheelchair racing…. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Walking Machine

I am finally sitting down to write a quick update about our sweet Oliver!! He has been growing and developing so fast, and I feel bad about how little of his first year has been properly documented on our blog. He is already one!! His birthday was over a month ago!! I think time speeds up with each child.
Oliver had been working on walking for quite a while before his birthday! While Avery and I were in Texas for her surgery, Oliver started walking across rooms, and these days he spends more time walking than crawling! He loves being on his feet, and sometimes walks around clapping and squealing with excitement over the fact that he's walking! He still hasn't quite figured out what to do with his arms, which is pretty entertaining!! Sometimes he swings them back and front together as he walks, and sometimes they hang stiffly at his sides! But anyway, here's a little video showing how he's been getting more and more steady on his feet these past few weeks :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Swimming

Yesterday, Avery and Brogan both started swimming lessons! It was Brogan's very first time, now that he's 3 and old enough for classes. I thought it would be good for him because he still hates getting his face wet, and a little more confidence in the water will definitely be a good thing! It is Avery's first time since her SPML surgery, so I was interested to see how her movements in the water might be different. And of course, I was really looking forward to her benefiting from the therapeutic effects of the water again! So they will both be having lessons every Monday and Wednesday this month, with Mr Keith, who is wonderful :) And, an unexpected joy, there was only one other child signed up for classes in that time slot, so they combined the class, which means that Avery and Brogan get to swim together! On top of that, there was nobody else in the whole pool!! It was really nice!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Overdue

I have to confess that my blog has been a victim of my severe "burned out" status of late. I realise that it is terrible timing, because I know a lot of people having been watching for news of Avery and her post-op progress, but I have been exhausted!!! Every time I have sat down to update the blog, I have been too drained to actually do it. Even tonight, there are two videos I want to add to this post, but I know I won't muster up the will power to get up off the couch to turn on the computer and upload the videos. So you'll just have to come back for those in a few days ;)
Here's the good news though - Avery is doing well! And here are a whole bunch of pictures and (later) videos to prove it!! (Except these first two...)
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There was a moment or two during Avery's early recovery when she felt rather discouraged. It didn't last long. Before Avery had her surgery, we spent a lot of time preparing her for what was going to happen the day of the surgery, and why she was going to have it done. I also had to spend some time trying to quell her excitement, because she pretty much thought she was going to wake up and walk out of the recovery room. Apparently, I didn't do a good enough job of that. I think I already mentioned Avery's eagerness to try out her legs pretty much as soon as her general anesthesia wore off. I had run out to get her pain medication prescriptions filled, and she told Aunt Colleen that she wanted to try to walk. So Colleen helped her stand up, and she took one step, and of course, it hurt. She tried a few more times in the next day or two, and every time she did, she was in pain. So then she was afraid to try for quite a while. And then, after we got home, we were back in her safest, most comfortable environment, but it wasn't comfortable. She was still hurting, and on top of that, she was not only not walking, she was actually less independent than she was. Temporarily, of course, but I don't think she was prepared for that.

There! Now that we have the unhappy part out of the way, we can move onto happier times :)

When we were still in Texas, in one of Gabe's phone conversations with Avery he asked if she would like to have a "Welcome Home Party"! She loved the idea, but repeatedly insisted that it was just to be a family party, no friends! And the cake had to be a chocolate cake with strawberry frosting and vanilla sprinkles!! And we had to play musical chairs!! So on day 8 post-spml, we had a welcome home party :) Daddy went out and bought decorations and flowers :)
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My pretty girl :)

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"Present time!!" Avery announced, so I rushed downstairs and wrapped up Oliver's birthday present (a block table)... I hope he won't resent us for the rest of our lives!! And then it was cake time! 

Day 11 saw us back in northern Virginia for Avery's first week of intensive therapy. By that point, she was mostly pain-free. The only time it really seemed to hurt anymore was when I carried her sitting on my hip. She was still nervous about putting weight on her legs, but she was ready to get to work.
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Look at the way she's standing at the sink! Look at her legs! Look at her posture! Isn't it beautiful? :) And look at how my sweet boy tucked the baby doll into bed before he went to sleep :)

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And here are my two sick boys. Round one. They both got sick with colds during the first week away, and then again the second week. And then they were both perfectly healthy whenever we were home, in their own bedrooms, with Gabe around!! But really, that, and the fact that I had to miss half of her ABM sessions to keep the boys from being a distraction, were the only things that made the weeks away slightly difficult. My children are all super stars.
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Avery strapping her braces on before bed, and working in therapy with Catherine during her second intensive week.
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On September 26th it was time for Avery to get her casts cut off!! She was very excited, and was prepared for the noise :)

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To celebrate, we went and got Bubblecake :) And then we went home, and Avery played in the bath for about an hour and a half!! She went to bed a very happy girl.

Early tomorrow morning, we are all leaving for 3 days of therapy. Gabe gets to come with us this time too :) 

I also want to take a moment to say thank you. I have been amazed by the generosity of so many people. I don't even know how to express my gratitude. Family, close friends, and friends I have never met in person....  Thank you. You are making it possible for Avery to do all of this.

I promise to upload the videos when we get home :)