Wednesday, February 14, 2018

7th Birthday Interview: Abigail Rose

Up 2nd....Our Abby! 

 Abigail Rose

Abby is consistently our most grateful child. It doesn't matter what the situation is or how much she wants something, she will always say "thank you" and express her genuine appreciation for what she is given even if it's not quite what she wants. It's really encouraging to talk to her on days when it feels like none of the other kids care about what we are doing for them. Parents, you know what I'm talking about here. :)  Abby works super hard in school to please her teacher and absolutely loves her friends. She feels the highs and lows of life deeply, and that comes through in dancing and in tears depending on the day and the situation. Abby is one of the most precious, loving souls and always ready to give a hug to anyone who might need one.

How old are you? "Six turning seven"
What makes you happy? "Unicorns!" 
What is your favorite animal? "Unicorns!" 
What is your favorite color? "Pink!"
What is your favorite thing to eat? "Waffles, even pancakes"
What is your least favorite thing to eat? "Spinach" (she is super picky)
What is your favorite thing to do? "Skip. Play Dragon Master. Jump Rope." (Dragon Master is a book she is reading at school)
What is your favorite TV show? "Calico Critters" (this lady plays with toys on YouTube...and my kids love it. I don't get it...)
What is your favorite movie? "Moana"
What are you really good at? "Hula Hooping!" Do you know how to hula hoop?? " I just want to say that!"
What is your favorite song? "How Far I'll Go" from Moana
What do you and your mom do together? "Eat cake together"
What do you and your dad do together? "Drink kombucha!"
What is your favorite book? "Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore" 

What is your favorite toy? "Moana barbie"
What do you want to be when you grow up? "A princess!"

Monday, February 12, 2018

7th Birthday Interview: Caleb Sean

Time for our birthday interviews! I'm a bit late getting started this year, so I'm going to have to post one every few days to get through all four kids by the time their birthday rolls around!

 Caleb Sean
Caleb is doing so well these days! While he still gets several therapies at school, he has settled into a rhythm and is transitioning from activity to activity much better than at the beginning of the school year. He reads incredibly well, although any written assignments can cause some stress and frustration as it's definitely at the bottom of his preferred activities list. One of his best talents is having a super sharp memory which means that he can recall details, sections of historical speeches, and songs weeks after he hears them. At the same time, he doesn't talk nearly as much as his brother, but when he does, it's usually pretty well thought out and direct. Thankfully he has become good at letting us know what he needs, so there isn't nearly as much guessing now when he starts to struggle (he thrives on schedules, structure, and predictable days!) As a sibling, he most certainly has an ornery streak, and has clearly spent the last few years figuring out exactly which buttons to push when it comes to his brother and sisters. He can be both the most concerned kid for another sibling's welfare and push them to the edge all in the same 5 minutes. Sometimes it's hard to keep a straight face because his sense of humor is hilarious!

How old are you? "Six" (for two more weeks!)
What makes you happy? "My BB8 headphones" (He wears headphones to block extra noise.)
What is your favorite animal? "Lions, foxes, and cats."
What is your favorite color? "All of them."
What is your favorite thing to eat? "Pancakes, waffles, mashed potatoes, tacos, burritos, hash browns, fries, chicken nuggets, and chicken tenders." 
What is your least favorite thing to eat? "Sweet potatoes and hash browns that are not in a fry shape."
What is your favorite thing to do? "Learn some good tricks and get fit."
What is your favorite TV show? "Miles from Tomorrowland and Sonic Boom."
What is your favorite movie? "Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Big Hero 6, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Cars."
What are you really good at? "Fitness tricks like stretch out."
What is your favorite song? "The Trolls Soundtrack....Hair Up."
What do you and your mom do together? "Have some fun and get a goodnight's rest"
What do you and your dad do together? "Rest and wrestle" 
What is your favorite book? "A Fancy Day in Room 1-A. It's Fancy Nancy."
What do you want to be when you grow up? "I don't know what I want to be...I just want to be a hero."
What is your favorite toy? "My puppy named 'Blue' and all my other stuffed animals."

For fun, here is Caleb dancing to the "Hair Up!" song!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Our Christmas Family Recap: So long 2017, Hello 2018!

I'm still of the old-fashioned sort to enjoy sending out Christmas greetings via snail mail. Nothing is quite like opening the mailbox to find a newsletter and a photo, in my opinion. Receiving them is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season, so I figure others might like it to? I don't know. No one has thrown the card back at me yet. haha! But because we have so many more friends than I can possibly get a card to, I thought I'd post our Christmas newsletter here as well.

We hope each of you had a very Merry Christmas and are enjoying a New Year filled with blessings!

-- Rebecca

(Special thanks to Elijah's preschool teacher, Ms. Brittany, for taking the photos in this post! When we make a friend, we try to keep them around for life!)

A Very Merry Christmas to our Friends and Family!

I’m starting to realize that maybe a Christmas newsletter is a bit old fashioned in our high-tech age, but hey…I’m okay with bucking the current trends. Christmas cards have always been a favorite part of the holiday season for me, so I’ll keep the tradition alive as long as I can!

Elijah, Abby, Ellie, and Caleb

The Kids!
The kids are 6-years-old now, and it’s hard to believe how fast the time is going. Just today, we were watching videos of them as babies, and reminiscing about the 32 bottles that we used to go through every day….and now our kids are in 1st grade!

Caleb had a few rough days this fall with adjusting to new teachers, a new schedule, and new expectations at school, but he seems to have hit his stride. Both of his teachers (regular and special needs) are such a good fit. They are patient but expect great things out of him, so they set the bar where he needs to reach for it. Even the school staff are working with Caleb this year by allowing him to go up to the front office to help with shredding paper one sheet at a time (white noise) or opening the door for visitors when he needs a break. Caleb definitely thrives on having “jobs” to do, and the whole staff seem to love and want to see him be successful. We are beyond thankful for his team at school. Caleb’s favorite things are Legos, Star Wars, Lego Star Wars, and teaching his invisible students at home how to do life. We just roll with it.

Abby has also had a bit of a rough time this fall, and was diagnosed with anxiety, social/emotional delays, and sensory integration disorder about a month ago. We are in the process of getting a 504 Educational Plan set up for her at school which will give her some accommodations to make it easier for her to function well. Thankfully, she has the best possible teacher to help her navigate life at school. Her teacher is beyond patient with her but pushes her to do hard things and give her best effort. We are very grateful for her calming, grounding influence in Abby’s life. Abby is still 110% girly girl and positively squeals with delight over dresses, glitter, unicorns, Moana, and the idea that one day she will be a princess who is a doctor. We are hoping that Prince George doesn’t mind an older woman when he comes of age.

Elijah is doing so well in school! He still gets speech therapy, but other than that he is entirely in his main classroom. Despite his speech delay, he talks non-stop. Literally, non-stop. We joke that he will be a politician, auctioneer, or motivational speaker as an adult, because he clocks so many words that it’s impossible to keep up. Little man has a lot to share with the world, that’s for sure! Elijah’s current obsession is all things science, and he is determined to be a paleontologist when he grows up (a perfect mashup of his love of dinosaurs and science). We love that he has such big aspirations! In his free time, he is always asking for paper so that he can create art and he enjoys writing his thoughts in his notebook (which we also appreciate).

Ellie is our sweet little spit-fire who is always bouncing around and making sure things happen on schedule and in the right way. She is the natural leader amongst her siblings even though she is our runt. Ellie is doing very well in school, and her teacher’s only issue with her so far has been Ellie’s tendency to socialize during the wrong part of the day. She loves her friends, loves school, loves reading chapter books, and loves pretend play.

Abby, Ellie, Rebecca, Sean, Elijah, and Caleb

The Parents!
In January, Sean switched departments at Sprint, and started a new career path in IT. He now works on…something. I’m actually still a little fuzzy on what he does, but it has something to do with supporting the website that people go through to apply for jobs at Sprint. He has been with Sprint now for 19 years, and has enjoyed the new challenge of IT. An extra bonus is that he gets to work from home two days a week, which gives us more family time since he isn’t commuting every day.

I am almost four years into teaching wellness and non-toxic solutions withYoung Living Essential Oils. Sean works the business with me on the evenings and weekends, and even the kids have gotten to the point where they pitch in and help as well! This year, we started off by winning an all-expense paid Caribbean Cruise that was charted just for Young Living members. It was amazing and most definitely one of the highlights of our married life! We also earned a promotion and were able to travel more for conferences and to teach classes. Young Living keeps us super busy, but we consider ourselves blessed to get to help thousands of people in the process. We love having this be a family affair as we get to enjoy more travel and freedom than we ever imagined possible a few short years ago. The best part of all is that our medically fragile babies have turned into very healthy 6-year-olds, and Sean and I are much healthier as well.

Each year makes us more and more grateful for the people in our lives who have helped us get to where we are today. Thank you so much for being part of the tribe of people who have prayed for our family and cheered us on as we raise our kids!

We hope your family has a very Merry Christmas!
Sean and Rebecca Ishum
Caleb, Abby, Elijah, and Ellie (age 6)

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Price of Missed Mother/Baby Bonding

“She lacked the usual mother/baby bonding.”

That was one of the entries in the evaluation form that we just went over in Abby’s 504 meeting today.

I know that. I know that the bonding didn’t happen like it *should* have happened. I remember the weeks where we couldn’t even touch her while she fought for her life in the NICU. I remember feeding babies systematically, putting each one down after their bottles were finished so that I could pick up the next baby and get them fed. I remember having to give up nursing to keep my babies from aspirating the breast milk into their lungs and drowning. I remember having babies crawl up to me to be held, but I was too busy trying to get 4 diapers changed and babies bathed, and I couldn't pick them up and snuggle for hours.

I know we didn’t get the cuddle time that we both should have had in her baby days.

I have grieved the loss of what pregnancy and motherhood should have looked like many times. People see a "cute quad family" but they don't realize the lost dreams that are often tied to it. Seeing a missing piece formally written out in official paperwork reopened every lost aspect of that first year that I’ve let heal over with time.

I feel like I failed, but I know I did the best I could given the situation I was in. Four babies and one mom. I didn’t have enough arms. I still don’t.

It’s been a rough year for Abby. She is so smart….genius level IQ…but she struggles with anxiety, social/emotional delays, and sensory integration disorder.

When she gets super anxious, her “fight or flight” response triggers, and she loses all rational. School staff have caught her fleeing the building twice this year already. Both times, they caught her after the first set of double doors, and as she was exiting the second set at the front of the school. I’m incredibly grateful to her teacher, principal, other staff, and the lunch ladies who all know that she is a flight risk. They warn each other if she’s having a rough day, and they pay attention to where she is sitting in the cafeteria to make sure she doesn’t get triggered and start running.

Today we had the first meeting to get a 504 in place at school. She needs some emotional accommodations so that she can focus better and manage the anxiety that pops up without warning. There is no predicting it. She is so social, adores people, and does amazing work at school….but the anxiety can cripple her in an instant, making it impossible to do worksheets or talk to friends.

“She lacked the usual mother/baby bonding.”

I’ll admit to crying in the meeting because I love her so much and don’t want this struggle for her. The teacher and school counselor tried to reassure me and offered to remove the sentence from her evaluation form if it would make me feel better. They weren't blaming me for anything, and made sure to clarify that it was just a collection of data on Abby and her past, but I told them to leave it in because it is part of her story.  Her story is a beautiful one of hope, frustration, love, some downright scary moments, and ultimately God's graciousness on her life. I don't like this part of her story, but I won't edit it out because it's part of what has shaped our sweet spirited little girl...the part where there wasn't enough of me to go around.

I know she is struggling, but tonight I’m struggling too. Wishing I could have done more when she was a baby. I’m heartbroken that although she doesn’t cognitively remember those days when I couldn’t hold her because I was feeding another baby or because she was too fragile…that somewhere deep in the recesses of her visceral and emotional memory, there is a mom who couldn’t meet her basic needs. 

She is one of my miracle babies, and while I wouldn’t trade any of them for the perfect version of motherhood that I thought would come my way when we decided to start a family, I can acknowledge that this quad thing means that some of my kids will struggle long term because of it. And yes, I do realize that even if I had held her constantly, she may still deal with these things, but it's hard to separate out what she didn't have from her struggles today. As a mom, I always wish I could be more for my kids. I think that's only natural.

Raising them doesn’t get easier. It just shifts into something different. Right now, our something different is helping Abby learn how to cope with the world emotionally. We will get there. It’s just another hill to climb, but we will do it together.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Halloween 2017 - Noah's Ark!

Since Thanksgiving is in...3 days...I should probably post this year's Halloween photos, huh? Eep!! So behind!

We have a rule at our house that we don't discuss Halloween costumes until after school starts in the fall. Why? Because otherwise, I have to listen to the costume requests change weekly all.year.long. and I just don't have that in me. Just being honest.

So instead, we let the kids percolate on it for a good 10 months, and by the time we get to the middle of August, we are usually able to narrow down the choices fairly quickly. It's worked out well so far.

Caleb, the Friendly Lion

This year, like in the last couple of years, I really thought that the kids would be done with group costumes and they would move on to individual choices. Surprisingly though, they both wanted and expected that group costumes were going to happen again this year! You don't have to tell me twice! I think our themed costumes are so fun!

But this year seemed to be a little harder than previous years. There was much debate....Abby was insistent that we go with a Moana theme, but there weren't enough characters to go around unless someone wanted to be Hei-hei. I tossed out the idea of Smores (2 graham crackers, a marshmallow, and a chocolate bar), but Ellie declared that she wasn't dressing up as food. Elijah and Caleb threw several suggestions out there, and were promptly shot down by the other kids. I asked if they were SURE that they all wanted to dress up together, and every single one of them said yes. Okay then...

Abby, the Princess Peacock

At the end of the day, we decided that Noah's Ark was our best choice, and the kids ended up LOVING the costumes that they each picked out! So much so, that they have worn them almost daily since Halloween. Dressing up is a favorite pass time at our house! I love that they get so much imaginative play out of their costumes every year!

Even better, they got a bonus stuffed animal to match their costumes this year. The animals went 2-by-2 after all!

Elijah, the Mischievous Monkey

It was SO incredibly cold when we took these photos, that each kid is wearing at least 2-3 layers, and only took off their coats for about 5 minutes for the photos. They were pretty disappointed to have to trick or treat in winter coats, but there was just no way around it. They certainly weren't going to let a little cold temperature stop them from walking the neighborhood though!

Ellie the Ticklish Tiger (she is SO ticklish!)

We did have an extra person in our group theme this year....Daddy went as Mr. Noah. I found the umbrella hat on Amazon for $5, and thought it was hilarious! I had my own rainbow umbrella that I carried as Mrs. Noah, but I had to keep pulling the girls' pants up, so it stayed closed the whole time (the weight of all of the layers + no hips yet. Lol!). haha! Mom duty never ends! But we had a great time with this year's theme...and of course, next year's theme is already being whispered about in bedrooms when they think I'm not listening.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Worlds of Fun: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Thanks to Worlds of Fun and KC Parent Magazine for sending us on an awesome family adventure!

Caleb, Abby, Elijah, and Ellie

We kind of have a thing for Peanuts at our house. Not the peanuts you eat (although give me a maple iced doughnut with peanuts on top, and I'll love you forever!), but the Peanuts Characters. We like to watch the Peanuts movies that coordinate with holidays, and we have stuffed Snoopy, Woodstock, and Charlie Brown characters in our toy bin. In fact, we even dressed up as the Peanuts Characters for Halloween when the kids were 3! (Check out our Peanuts Gang here!) There is something about those fun, timeless characters that just take me clear back to childhood.

And then I found out that Worlds of Fun does an annual Great Pumpkin Fest in their Planet Snoopy kid section....what now??? That quickly went to the top of our "must-visit" list during my favorite season of the year!

On the Carousal: Abby and Mommy, Elijah and Ellie, Caleb and Daddy

**The Scare Factor Side Note**
If you are a parent, you are probably wondering the same thing I was before we headed to the park in October: "How scary will Worlds of Fun be right now?" Yep, it's a fair question since no one wants their kids to have nightmares.

Worlds of Fun actually goes BIG on their Halloween theme throughout the entire park from mid-September through the end of October. I'm talking...multiple haunted houses, roaming zombies after dark, scare zones, and very scary decorations. Because of that, I was a little bit anxious getting the kids from the front gate through to Planet Snoopy without coming across anything too upsetting. I actually warned them in the parking lot that they needed to stick with us and that there might be a few not-so-nice decorations. Abby is spooked so easily, that she is a legit flight risk when it comes to anything even remotely iffy. This girl takes off running and never looks back, and....oh my stars...she is SO fast. I had to give her the head's up going in so that I would know she would be right by my side.

Happily, Worlds of Fun actually did a really good job of keeping it pretty tame on the route from the front gate through to the kids area. There was one mean looking pumpkin/spider statue at the front, and a creepy jack-in-the-box that was easily walked around. Other than those, it was a clean walk back. They save all scary roaming minions for after dark when they close down the kids' section and suggest only age 14 and over stay (smart!). All that to say, we were happy to not have any nightmares to deal with at our house! And if my kids could make through the park, pretty much any child can make it.  **End The Scare Factor Side Note**

Just like our visit this summer, the kids loved Planet Snoopy, this time enjoying it all decked out for The Great Pumpkin Fest! I'm so glad that we went!
Love all the Peanuts decor in Planet Snoopy!
Caleb, Snoopy, Ellie, Abby, Elijah, and Woodstock

In addition to all of the rides, The Great Pumpkin Fest includes a bunch of extra kids' activities that are all free with the cost of their general admission ticket. For this Mama on a budget, that's a super important thing! Activities for four kids can add up quickly!

We loved stopping by the Peanuts Theater to participate in Pig Pen's Creepy Crafts. The kids each made a spider webbed plate, complete with spider rings, and then jumped across the room to make puppets out of lunch sacks. All of the craft items were sitting out and just waiting for some little hands to get creative! Caleb has since named his puppet, Snoopy, of course!
Elijah, Abby, Ellie, Caleb, and Daddy

Linus' Great Pumpkin Patch was another winner! The park has a section set up for kids to explore and find the perfect mini pumpkin to take home with them. Take a backpack or stroller to store your pumpkins in while you enjoy the rest of your day. Head nod to Daddy for being our designated pack mule in the park!
Abby, Elijah, Caleb, and Ellie

Peppermint Patty's Hay Bale Maze was awesome because it wasn't complicated to get through. It was also low enough that we could let our kids run through the entire thing and still keep an eye on them the entire time. They begged to do this adventure multiple times!

I'll admit to not taking the kids' costumes with us because I don't like to give away our Halloween group theme too early in the year, but they also have Lucy's Costume Contest that kids can participate in. We saw a lot of kids with lightweight costumes running around Planet Snoopy. Anything to get a few more wears from those dress-up outfits! Even better, you can find several Peanuts Characters dressed up in their Halloween costumes too!
Abby, Snoopy, and Ellie

And then there was this....the trick or treating throughout Planet Snoopy! The kids totally did this twice, and would have gone back for a third round if we hadn't cut them off. There are little houses throughout the kids' area that are brightly colored and easy to find. When a child knocks on the door, a gloved hand pops out of the window and hands them a piece of candy or a small toy. (P.S. Parents, you can quietly ask the person in the house if they will hand you a bag for the candy too!) We found Sally's Doll House, Charlie Brown's House, The Elementary School, and Lucy's Doctor Stand. The kids adored this, and it actually out-ranked the rides in terms of their favorite part of the day...and I have to admit. It was a super fun, clever way of bringing yet another aspect of the Peanuts Characters world to life!

We love how Worlds of Fun goes out of it's way to create a family friendly experience during the summer, and then take it up a notch as the season goes on! Family memories, y'all....these kinds of play-all-day adventures are the best!

Clockwise from the bottom: Elijah, Mommy, Daddy, Abby, Ellie, and Caleb

Thanks to Worlds of Fun and KC Parent Magazine for sending us on this #IshumFamilyAdventure! This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Second Day of 1st Grade

People ask, "Am I enjoying having the kids back in school?" Yes! I love them dearly, but it was a long summer, and the kids function so much better with structure. We've been highly structured and scheduled from day 1 out of necessity, so free time is actually harder for them to manage than a schedule.

But having them back in school didn't start without a few bumps in the road. I'm pretty sure the school nurse has me on speed dial from last year as she called me frequently about the bumps and bruises that are typical for kindergartners on the playground. I assumed that those calls would lessen with each year, but it seems instead, we are just starting 1st grade with more time in the nurse's office.

Halfway through day 2 of the school year, the nurse called to tell me that Caleb needed stitches in his lip for a collision sustained during PE. I guess the PE teacher had a white board and computer out  in order to teach the kids what to do in case of a fire or other emergency (at least, that's what I think happened). Caleb was wearing his new "power shoes" that his Pa (Sean's dad) bought for him the week before school, and he "forgot to put his breaks on" as he was running, and he collided with the computer stand. He split his lip open and it needed to be stitched back together.

Poor kiddo. Any 6-year-old would be in pain and scared of the blood, but a 6-year-old kid with autism? It kind of puts it on another level.
After signing him out of school, and confirming with the nurse that the best place to take him was Children's Mercy Urgent Care, we went to leave the school. As I reached for the door knob, everyone in the office suddenly told me to stop and wait while they radioed for clearance.


I've been in and out of that school a bunch of times, and never had to get clearance after signing a kid out. But okay?  It only took them a minute to get me permission to leave, and out we went. I didn't really think much of it beyond that.

But about 10 minutes later, as I was at a stop light on the way to Urgent Care, a robo call came through to inform me that the school was on lockdown with all staff and students inside due to a threat in the area.

I sat back in the driver's seat and said, "Are you kidding me?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! It's the second day of school!!!"

And then I heard a little voice from the backseat, "Mama? What's wrong?"

I looked in the backseat at my bleeding 6-year-old, and said, "....nothing. Nothing's wrong, Caleb."

It's not like turning around and going back to the school was going to help him or the three others who were currently inside the building. So on I went...praying they would catch whatever the threat was, and that update would come through shortly.
At Urgent Care, they got us right back. Thankfully, Caleb wasn't crying anymore at that point. We went through registration, the triage room, vitals, and initial questions with the nurse. Then the doctor came in, looked at it, and said she couldn't stitch it because the wound crossed the lip border. If it wasn't lined back up perfectly, he would have some funny looking lips for the rest of his life.
So off we went to the Children's Mercy Emergency Room. Poor kid. At this point, he just wanted to go home.

Children's Mercy ER got us right back to start the vitals and questions all over again. They sent in a really nice Child Life Specialist (I didn't even know that was a thing?) who walked Caleb through every part of the stitching procedure and promised him he could keep the "squirt gun" that they were going to use to clean up his wound. She was really great with him! (And in the middle of all of this, the school called again to announce the all clear!)
After an unsuccessful attempt to stitch him up with only numbing cream, we finally had to partially sedate him to keep him from moving. It still took two nurses and myself holding him down while the doctor stitched and the Child Life Specialist held the tablet with the movie.
We got it done though!

In the interest of keeping his trauma to a minimum, we opted for two dissolvable stitches with 5-6 knots each vs. one regular stitch that would need to be removed a few days later. The doctor did a great job with that squirming/crying mass of a boy, and his lip was perfectly aligned. Even though he bit out two of the knots before we even left the hospital, the stitches stayed in and he has healed up nicely.

I really hope that's the last of the dramatic school episodes for the year. Stitches and a lockdown all in one day is quite enough for me.

Although, I found out after the fact that when the call went out from the school, two dads in our district went up to the school immediately and stood their ground directly in front of it to make sure nobody got in who didn't need to be there. It's good to know that there are people in our district who will go to bat for our staff and students if we can't be there...or if we are preoccupied with an emergency room run.

And now I *totally* get to look forward to an urgent care and an emergency room bill. Parenting is some kind of expensive.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.
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