My sweet David has had some things to overcome in his short little life. If you have followed this blog since the begining (you have no life) or know us in real life, you know David had a very serious speech disorder called apraxia of speech. Apraxia is a neurological disorder that presents similar to a stroke patient - David knew what he wanted to say but his brain couldn't tell his mouth. I knew from a very, very early age that something was wrong. He never babbled, he never tried to talk. He always clearly understood what we were trying to tell him, show him, et cetera, but he never vocalized anything beyond a grunt.
We had him evaluated by the state's early intervention program. They tested his hearing. It was fine. They tested his receptive communication, or what he was able to understand. It was fine. They tested his expressive communication. It was not fine. However, by the state's standards it was fine enough. Really? He was officially, purusant to the State of Tennessee, delayed. But not delayed enough. That seemed to be OK with his pediatrician. That wasn't OK with me.
We switched pediatricians. We had an evaluation done at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center. They tested his hearing. Still fine. They tested his receptive language. He was 18 months old when he was tested at Vanderbilt. His receptive language result was that of a 24 month old child. He was six months ahead. They tested his expressive language. His result? He had the expressive language of a six month old baby. I remember so clearly getting those results and looking at David, then looking at Henry in the stroller. Henry was six months old. My toddler and my newborn had the same ability to express themselves.
I remember initially feeling so helpless. How do you teach someone how to talk? How does a child who is a full year behind recover from that? Then I started to google. Google is not the friend of a parent with a child newly diagnosed with a serious neurological disorder. I learned about all of the challenges that children with apraxia face - learning difficulties, behavioral difficulties, social difficulties, and obviously the difficulties in learning how to talk. I learned that services for apraxia are often not covered by insurance. I learned that children with apraxia often need speech services and/or other therapies until they are 11 or 12 years old. That meant we were looking at 10 years of speech. Ten years. Think of everything you've done in ten years. That meant that dealing with apraxia would become a way of life for us.
I didn't want to face apraxia for ten years. I was determined to do whatever I could to help David. We went to speech therapy once a week. At first. Then it was twice a week. Then it was twice a week for individual therapy and once a week for group therapy. I would drive from our house to Nashville three times a week, with two babies, and drive home. Eat, sleep, repeat. We learned sign language. We made word boards. We did flash cards and puzzles and role playing and repetitive word sounds and played with educational toys. We enunciated our words like it was our jobs. We had his tongue clipped - because who knew the child was tongue tied? Not me. Shouldn't I have known that? I'm his mother for crying out loud. He kept going to Vanderbilt.
We ate snacks each week from the vending machine as a special treat. I pushed that big ass double stroller all over the halls of that hospital. We loved our therapist Ms. Bev. I also would have been happy to never see her again. The receptionist knew us by our first name. We stalked people in the parking garage that always seems to be under construction, because there was never any spot to park. We figured out which elevator was the fastest, and which trash cans were never emptied. David learned how to use the potty there, in the small potties. I potty trained my child in a freaking speech clinic. I spent more time playing with Henry behind an observation mirror while we watched David in therapy than I did at our house, it seemed.
We had his tonsils and adenoids removed. We kept going to therapy. I got so many statements from the insurance company that we kept them in a three-ring binder. We read books out loud, and magazines, and cereal boxes, and the newspaper. We pointed to everything we saw, saying the name of this or that. Look David! A chair! Look David! Toilet paper! Can you say "paper"?!" v I got really excited about inanimate objects.
And it worked. It worked! He was discharged from speech years before we ever thought it would happen. About 6 years before we thought it would happen. All of a sudden it worked. And once it worked he started doing this weird eye blinking thing. But sometimes that happens, they said. Sometimes when a child starts talking all of a sudden his little body can't keep up with the changes and something else gets wacky for a little while. We brought him to the best pediatric opthamologist in Nashville. His eyes were fine. The blinking? Totally freaking irritating. But it went away. And he could talk! And he was smart! No learning issues.
So we went on our way. We lived our lives. He went to preschool and made friends. No social issues. He didn't get in trouble. No behavior issues. He went to Kindergarten. He loves school. He learned how to read. And to write. And to add and subtract. And that he loves space and dinosaurs and doesn't really care too much for practicing his handwriting. And he made more friends, and rode the bus.
And then started doing another weird eye thing. When we asked him about it he said that "sometimes my seeing mechanism doesn't work too well so I have to do it." We had his eyes tested, and he needed glasses. Problem solved.
And then he started doing this weird shoulder shrugging thing. But don't all kids do weird things? Let's just ignore it and maybe it will go away. Maybe he's just being silly. And when he noticed us watching him sometimes he told us it was a "deskercise" he learned at school. I would remind him he's not at school. But he still did it. And I asked his teacher one day if he does it at school. Oh, he does? So I made a doctor's appointment. Maybe we should have it looked at, just to make me feel better. I'm sure it's nothing.
That appointment was Friday. And I don't feel better. In fact, I feel worse. Much, much worse. And I've been back on google, which we all know doesn't usually go well. And this time it's gone very, very bad. And this time we didn't get just one diagnosis, we got two. Well, at least that's what the doctor thinks it is. But let's go to someone else for another opinion. And I feel so bad feeling bad about it. . . none of this is life threatening. Life altering? You bet. But not life threatening. And I know we'll get through it. But damn. How much does this little boy need to beat? How much does he need to learn to adapt to? Three years should have been enough. And I know he'll be fine. And we'll figure it out and we'll deal with it. But for right now, in this moment, I'm going to be sad about it.
I'm so freaking excited. Next weekend we're going to Ikea. Last time we went to Ikea? Two years ago in Florida. When David wouldn't stay in the playroom and was obsessed with the Swedish version of the Snuggie.
I'm making my Ikea list. We actually (sort of) need things there now, as opposed to last time we went. Some items already on my list?
The Snoig wall lamp. Three of them. I want to hang these over the boys' beds for reading lamps.
The Expedit Bookcase for the playroom. But then I wonder if it will turn into a jungle gym? I'd love to paint it blue.
My husband and (two) children are some serious meat eaters. David? Notsomuch. Jack is a straight up carnivore. He sits and the table and, I kid you not, says, "I WANT MEAT!" A favorite winter recipe at our house is some slow cooker ribs. There really isn't a "recipe" for this. I buy a package of beef ribs, and a bottle of barbecue sauce. Dump them both in the slow cooker, set it to low, and you've got some dinner. We usually eat them with some rice, whatever frozen veggie we've got, and some cornbread. It's a big, easy favorite with pretty minimal clean up. And usually no leftovers!
I make cupcakes for everyone at work for their birthday. They get to request whatever kind they would like. My most recent request was for orange cupcakes. The same person requested banana last year, with chocolate icing. I think he feels like he's challenging me. Uh, no.
Not my actual cupcakes. Gorgeous though - no?
The recipe I used was a recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor. Have you used her cookbook? If not, use it. Just trust me. I bought her original cookbook from one of my employees at the Gap probably ten years ago, pretty much just to buy something so she would shut up. I cannot even count how many times I have used that book over the years. It's probably my favorite cookbook, other than the one my mom made with her recipes. Try these cupcakes (or as a cake). It's SO worth it. And don't be scared that it seems like a lot of work with the fresh oranges, etc. You could easily substitute the freshly squeezed juice with orange juice from the carton.
Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pans
Flour, for dusting the pans 1 large orange About 1 cup orange juice from a carton 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix ½ cup vegetable oil 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 3 large eggs Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist three 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pans aside.
2. Rinse the orange and pat it dry with paper towels. Grate enough zest to measure 2 to 3 teaspoons. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a small bowl; you will have about ½ cup of juice. Add enough orange juice from a carton to the fresh orange juice to measure 1 1/8 cups.
3. Place the cake mix, pudding mix, oil, vanilla, eggs, and orange juice and orange zest in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are moistened, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until well combined and smooth, about 1½ minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed. Divide the cake batter evenly among the 3 prepared cake pans, about 1¾ cups of batter per pan, smoothing the tops with the rubber spatula. Place the cake pans in the oven. If your oven is not large enough to hold 3 pans on one rack, place 2 pans on that rack and one in the center of the rack above.
4. Bake the cake layers until the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 18 to 20 minutes. The cake layer on the higher rack may bake faster so test it for doneness first. Transfer the cake pans to wire racks and let the cake layers cool for 5 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of each cake layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen the cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another wire rack so that the cakes are right side up. Let the layers cool to room temperature, 15 minutes longer. (To bake cupcakes, I usually start my timer at 15 minutes and test.)
5. Make the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.
6. To assemble the cake, transfer one layer, right side up, to a serving platter. Spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer of cake, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat this process with the third layer. Use the remaining frosting to frost the side of the cake, working with smooth, clean strokes. Arrange fresh orange slices around the base of the cake, or place candy gum drop orange slices on top of the cake.
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
*Note* I double this recipe.
Ingredients: 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 1 teaspoon grated orange zest 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh orange juice 3¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Place the butter and cream cheese in a medium-size bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the orange zest, 2 teaspoons of the orange juice, and the confectioners’ sugar, a bit at a time, beating with the mixer on low speed until the confectioners’ sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the frosting until fluffy, 1 minute longer. Add up to 1 teaspoon more orange juice if the frosting seems too stiff. Use the frosting at once.
Don't have one? Get one. I'm sure they're available at places other than Williams-Sonoma and probably for less than $14.95. Buy a good one, because it will last. You will use it a lot - zesting, freshly grated cheese, grated chocolate, etc. I use mine pretty much weekly. But use it with caution so you don't zest your fingers. It's razor sharp. Just trust me.
Just when we thought the paintbrushes were put away to dry. . .
I'm at it again. Next up? The downstairs hallway. And breakfast room. And entry. And playroom upstairs. And landing/computer area. What colors?
For the breakfast room, the downstairs hallway, the entry, and the landing/computer area I've picked Valspar Laura Ashley Taupe 4.
We're starting in the downstairs hallway, which is not large.
It's really more trim than walls.
I've also painted the backs of the built-in bookcase in that hallway blue.
I can't wait to see it all together.
In the breakfast room we're going to do beadboard on the bottom half of the walls and the taupe on the top.
We did this in our first kitchen and I loved it.
It's so easy to clean little fingerprints off of.
And it comes already painted, which is a huge time saver.
The stairway will be interesting.
Because it's roughly 20 feet tall, and I don't want to die painting, or have my husband die painting.
My solution? Leave that wall unpainted for now.
I'm going BOLD in the playroom.
I'm going to do Olympic Paint's Field Poppy.
I was inspired by playroom pictures in the Land of Nod.
The Land of Nod photos are Mythic Paint called "Have You Seen Tangerine?" I'm not ordering gallons of paint online, because that seems a bit foolish. I'm quite certain I can get it reasonably close at Lowes.
We're having an energy audit of our house done by the TVA. Why? Because we had an $839.76 electric bill. I know it's unebelievable. Shut your mouth. And yes, I'm serious. No, that's not exaggerated. Yes, that's more than our house payment. We have a heat/air unit for downstairs and one for upstairs. The upstairs doesn't have a heat issue, partially because (duh) the heat rises from downstairs. Downstairs is another issue. Well, another lot of issues. We have true hardwood floors - slats of wood on the floor joists. No subfloors here. The house *I'm sure* is not insulated well. You can pretty much feel the wind blowing through the floor. The audit costs $150 to have done, but there are lots of rebates, incentive monies, etc. available to have suggested repairs done in an attempt to make the house more energy efficient. I'm very curious to see what the audit says. . . and scared at the same time.
I'm on the great ottoman search. Why? Right now I have the coffee table of death. It started out as such a nice little table. I should have known better. Jack sliced his face open about 2 months after we got it. We need something round. And not sharp. Something like this. But not for $520.85. Because it will be jumped on. And likely chewed on a time or two (hopefully only by dogs, not children).
I like this seagrass style.
I also like this one from Pottery Barn.
More reasonably priced at $200, but considerably smaller.
This is cute too, but I would need two of this size to be the right scale for the room.
This is the story of our lives as The Simpson Six. I'm married to a good Southern Boy and working mama to three amazing little boys we got the old fashion way, and one incredible little girl we adopted from Russia. I'm a Yankee by birth but a Southern girl in my soul, living a chaotic, loud, fun life. Please join us on our adventures to remodel and redecorate our fabulous 100+ year old Victorian home and live our crazy lives, all without losing our minds.