Monday, October 28, 2013

What's Wrong With Henry?

After over a year of worrying, testing, and early interventions, we finally have an answer to that question. Henry's speech didn't develop correctly because he has a birth defect--a form of cleft palate. He couldn't make certain sounds because the roof of his mouth isn't formed correctly.

The good news is that surgery should fix the problem. I am torn between relief (that we know what is wrong and how to fix it) and frustration (that this problem wasn't detected sooner). A few weeks back, Henry's speech therapist asked her supervisor to come and give her advice, since my little boy still couldn't produce sounds like "b" and "p" that are typically mastered at around six months of age. Henry has made incredible progress, and is indeed speaking in sentences.

His speech, though, is unintelligible out of context or to those who don't know him. Well-meaning people have given me all kinds of advice. I've had friends and even family tell me things like, "Well, you know, Melissa, you have to talk to him. Have a conversation with him, even if he doesn't answer." I cried after hearing that.

I'm employed as a teacher of English. I talk to my children all the time. I'm well known as a rather verbal person who keeps a constant chatter going on at all times. I send home conversation starters with my ESL students to guide parental conversations. I read to my children daily, and from all kinds of sources. I spent the other day explaining the difference between cold-blooded and warm-blooded animals to Nick and Henry, and answering their weird questions. We sing educational songs, because they're stuck in my head from my teaching. Still, though, the mommy guilt gets to me.

I took the entire summer off, largely so that I could work with Henry and do all the exercises recommended by our speech therapist. Henry made great growth, but never did master tasks like blowing air through a straw to make cotton balls blow across the table. He also cannot blow a pinwheel unless I hold his nose closed. I suppose I should've seen that as a warning sign. We bought whistles and kazoos and party blowers--all to no avail. Henry just became frustrated.

It is surprising that none of the doctors who have seen Henry over the last few years have noticed this problem, since Henry also has something called a bifid uvula. Basically, the little ball thingie in the back of his throat is divided in two pieces. The ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist) Doctor diagnosed him with one glance into his mouth. It's easily visible, once you know what to look for. Without surgery, Henry never will be able to make certain sounds. I'm a little scared for my baby to have to go under the knife, but I'm also excited about getting to hear him talk after he's healed.

I can't wait to hear what he'll have to say to us. It's bound to be some pretty amazing stuff. Henry is a pretty amazing little boy.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Visit to Heap's Giant Pumpkin Farm

One of my favorite parts of fall is getting to visit pumpkin farms. I used one of my school holidays this month to take the boys to visit Heap's Giant Pumpkin Farm in Minooka, IL. We went last year, and had an amazing time. I liked the emphasis on the outdoor and fall-themed activities without all the rides and expensive extras. 


One of the highlights of this farm was the hayride out to the pumpkin patch. It was a bumpy ride, but an exciting one, thorough cornfields and such. 

I was very glad to have Grandma Toni along, since Greg had to work. The sun was out and the day was fairly warm for October. 

This was a real pumpkin patch, and the pumpkins were varied and interesting, with bumps and color variations. Walking through the path was great fun 

I did take some video of the pumpkin patch romping. 

The boys were able to compare the pumpkins, as in "This one is the largest," or " This one has the most pimples." They felt the vines and we tried to find the longest ones. We even looked at the leaves and talked about how the large leaves get enough sunlight to the plants to make the pumpkins grow big. 

This is the pumpkin Nick picked--not for carving, just for his personal pumpkin. He has carried it around for several days and been very possessive of it. Henry picked his own pumpkin, too.

After pumpkin time, we visited the petting zoo area. The animals were pretty docile, and some even wandered about the farm at will. 

Probably the boys' favorite area was the corn bins. I agree that they were very relaxing, and from a sensory point of view, we could've spent hours in there. 

I loved that corn bin In fact, I want one in my garage for when the boys get bored. \

I even went into the corn bin with the boys for awhile, and I found it quite relaxing. I could've taken a nap in there, even with all the little children crawling around me. 


Corn bins are awesome!

Henry wanted to stay forever.

There was more to see in the Barn o' Fun. Climbing hay bales sounds like exhausting work, but the kids really enjoyed themselves. 

Nick made it all the way to the top, but Henry just kept trying in vain and screaming in fury. 

I'm not sure there's much Henry could've done to get up there. He was sure determined, though. 

Henry sure gave it his all, though. 

I'd definitely visit Heap's again. For the price, I thought the attractions were great, and the lack of crowds or expensive rides made it a fun excursion that wasn't too far from home. We finished with a trip through the soybean maze (I wasn't risking getting lost in a corn maze again.) and then headed home, exhausted from our fun. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pumpkin Carving 2013

Tonight was pumpkin carving night, and boy, were the kids excited. I let each boy pick a design to carve (or have Daddy carve). Nick was proud of his choice.

Carving pumpkins was fun!

We let Nick use one of the little knives to help carve his pumpkin. He was pretty coordinated with the knife.


Nick liked the scooping of the goop, but he flung it all over the place during the process. We ended up with pumpkin goop on the walls and floor.

The kids remembered wearing the pumpkin tops as hats from last year, and insisted on trying them on again.

Henry was particularly pleased with his makeshift hat.

Man, did we ever make a mess!

Grandma Toni helped with the goop, the scooping, and the cleaning. She even wore her Halloween outfit for the occasion.

Nick liked the feel of the goop in his hands. He used it as a sort of sensory bowl. Hey, whatever keeps him busy, right. (Do you see the orange goop on the wall behind him?)

Nick was showing off his strength by picking up his pumpkin.

Shall we just say that everyone needed a bath after this experience?

Here is the final result. Henry picked out a crescent moon pumpkin design, with stars all around. Daddy did a great job of following the pattern.

Nick wanted a more traditional face, and he did help with the carving a bit, though by the end we decided no more knives for children. Nick kept peeking out of the loft window to check on his pumpkin on the porch.

That pumpkin grinned right back at him.   :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkins and Bouncy Houses and Zombie Shooting!

I try to hit a lot of the local pumpkin farms with my boys each fall, usually on Saturdays while Greg is working. I've been to a ton of different farms, and each one is a unique experience for the boys. A few weeks back, before it got so cold, I took the boys to Siegel's Cottonwood Farm, a new destination for us. We were joined by my friend Lynn and her son Aidan.

Like I said, we've been to many pumpkin farms, and every one has something different. This was the first spiderweb I've seen, and the boys got a kick out of climbing it and making spider noises. I don't know what spider noises are--to me, it sounded like they were growling. 

Like many pumpkin farms, this one had apple cider donuts. Not that I'm a connoisseur, but these seemed rather dry to me. Nick and Henry ate them all, though. 

A hayride was also a part of this farm, and Henry liked looking up at the tractor. Nick had fun, too, but refused to be in our picture. He's getting a little stubborn about things like that. 

Nick thinks that his friend Aidan (who is two years older) is about the coolest guy on Earth. Nick and Henry wanted to do everything that Aidan did, especially this "zombie-shooting" game. It involved paintball guns, which fascinated the kids.

I had to help with their aim, and we actually hit a few garbage can lids. I found those more satisfying to hit than the zombies, because of the "clunking" sound the paint balls made. 

There was also an obstacle course, and I was astounded at Henry's dexterity. For a two-year-old, I couldn't believe he ran the whole course three separate times. 

Nick did a great job, too, but he zoomed past too quickly for me to snap any pictures. Henry loved army-crawling up this squishy ladder. The attendant was cheering him on. 

After all the climbing and bouncing, we visited the little train. 

You can't go wrong with a kiddie train and some mildly scary Halloween decorations. 

This was a farm, and the boys had a chance to interact with some farm animals. Henry was a little unsure about the goats. I think the goats were equally cautious. 

Nick was understandably cautious about touching the animals once I read him the signs saying "I bite." 

Henry decided to pet some animals anyway. This little guy didn't seem to mind. 

My friend Lynn was very correct to suggest that we leave early. We'd known it was going to thunderstorm, but the forecasts were predicting a later storm. A light drizzle started coming down while we were at the pumpkins. Right after I snapped this picture, we had to run for the van. We got there only mildly wet, but it started pouring once we were all in the van. Just in time. 

My kids crack me up. This was our attempted group shot. Henry's got his tongue sticking out, I'm not sure what Nick was doing, and I was laughing at Nick. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Raking Leaves

Yesterday, the boys "helped" Grandma Toni rake the leaves. I'm not sure how helpful they were, but they sure had fun!

Did you notice Henry running full force at the pile of leaves? This is what he did next.

Nick did try to help with actual raking. He liked using Daddy's big rake.

Henry had been itching to get out into the leaves all day. When I came home from work, he started telling me, "Shoes on! I go outside!" Then, he'd point and stomp his feet, as if I didn't understand what he wanted. He wanted to jump and roll in the leaves.  :)

Henry tried to rake with the little rake. Not too shabby for a two-year-old.

I'm not really a cold weather person, but this year I am enjoying the fall, just because I get to see it through the eyes of my little guys. I was almost tempted to do a little rolling in the leaves myself. Almost.