Sunday, April 9, 2017

Flipping the Script

The last time I posted on here was about two and a half years ago - we were leaving Germany, and had announced that I was pregnant with Miles. I decided I would not update our blog anymore - just leave all the memories of Germany and our travels of Europe as we transitioned back to Florida, and back to our normal lives.

Except ... life has not been so normal. Miles was born in August 2015, and completed our little family. Two boys is what we wanted, and two boys is what we got! He fit right in like the last piece of the puzzle.

Around six weeks the colic started, and it really lasted until about six months. Miles never slept more than a few hours at a time, and woke up endlessly throughout the night. I chalked it up to just being a difficult baby. We took the pediatrician's advice and switched formula a couple times, but nothing really helped.

Around six months our pediatrician flagged Miles head for being in the 99th percentile and wanted a CT scan done to rule out fluid in his brain. I could not have rolled my eyes harder at this lady. Elliott had, and still has, a huge head - in the 99th percentile to be exact. We agreed to go and get this CT scan, and I was actually looking forward to my, "I told you so", moment. That moment never came, and I've always meant to go and personally thank this doctor for throwing into motion the events of the next year, but I have not got around to eating my words quite yet. I am very stubborn, if you don't know.

A few days before Christmas and a week after the CT scan - we received a call from that doctor. There was a large mass on Miles brain, and we needed to see a pediatric neurosurgeon as soon as possible. She could not answer any of my questions, but only could offer a list of neurosurgeons to be picked up at my convenience. I went that day, and the list consisted of a whopping two doctors. I researched both, and decided on a doctor within the Nemours network. I called and made an appointment and we were ready to roll the week after Christmas. In the meantime, I began to Google "pediatric brain masses" ... poor choice. I made myself sick doing this. I ruined my Christmas. I lost sleep for days. It's the brutal, horrifying, gut-wrenching stuff of nightmares. I didn't even bring Vic into this madness because I am not sure he could have handled that.

The visit with the neurosurgeon went great. He was patient and answered all of my questions. He was concerned about the location of the mass, but not overly concerned about the damage it was causing, or could cause. He did need an MRI though. The CT scan was showing the mass, but not in enough detail. So we got set-up for a little baby MRI. We've have been through several of these at this point - we have gotten better at the routine, but they still are not easy.. You have to do the whole fasting thing, and then put your grumpy baby in that cold room while they put him to sleep, and then Vic and I just wait around staring at each other and eating bad sushi in the cafeteria. Oddly enough, a part of me looks forward to these because it's a day with just Vic, Miles and I ... if we could just remove the whole medical procedure and brain talk - it would be perfect.

Anyway, the mass is an arachnoid cyst ... normally they don't cause much of an issue, but this one is sitting very close to his optic nerve and auditory nerve. Our fantastic neurosurgeon justs watches it ... every six months to be exact. It hasn't grown, or moved, or caused an issue ... and, really, it has turned out to be the least of our worries.

So the doctor flagged the big head, which led us to our neurosurgeon who we would have never met otherwise.  Fast forward six months during the one-year-brain-mass-MRI we brought up a couple other concerns to our neurosurgeon. Mainly regarding eye contact, speech, feeding, etc. The doctor agreed with our concerns and asked if he could pull in his neurologist that he works alongside.

Cue our life changing ... forever.

This neurologist is amazing, and kind, and patient, and we love her. She agreed with everything we were saying and scheduled us an advanced appointment in her otherwise booked calendar. We met with her a couple weeks later, and she did not want to make any assumptions about an autism diagnosis - as Miles was only a year old, but wrote referrals to therapists, and really got us on the right track with early intervention. She said she would schedule an evaluation at 18-months ... the earliest you could do such a thing. As the months have gone by - I have realized how lucky we have been in this regard. I know parents who have had their kids on this doctor's waiting list for a year, and this get scheduled out another amount of time just for the evaluation. I don't know why we got so lucky, but this all goes back to the big head flag and the CT scan that I almost refused - which landed the neuro team in our life.

Fast-forward to 18 months. We knew Miles was autistic. We knew he was autistic at the one-year appointment, but there's something different about watching your kid fail his assessment miserably and having to say, out loud, all the things he can not do yet. Then to hear it said, out loud, for someone other than us, that, yes, Miles has autism - it was a game changer.

Here's the thing though - we're lucky for some many reasons. We're lucky that we caught this early. We're lucky for that big head that threw everything into motion. Of course, without the big head flag, we would have had him evaluated at some point because we saw the issues ourselves, but we would have been thrown on that waiting list, and, likely, would not have seen a diagnosis for another year - if that. But what's the big deal about a diagnosis, you ask? Everything. You cannot receive services without that little piece of paper - even if you have the most textbook of autistic kids - like Miles. That diagnosis has led us to where we are today - Miles is about to start 40 hours of ABA therapy a week. We're excited, the doctors are excited, the therapists are foaming at the mouth ... I do not think they get a lot of students as young as Miles, and they know the potential of catching this early.

So I will use this blog to document our journey through ABA. I know it won't be pretty in the beginning, but I would love to look back at this and see how far Miles has come. We're not looking for a cure for Miles - we know that's not possible, but we are hopeful that we will see language develop and Miles will be able to transition into a classroom by first grade. We try not to think of the future, or make guesses as to Miles life - just take each day as it comes.

Right now Miles is completely non-verbal with the exception of a few sounds he can make - that don't really mean anything. He has fleeting eye contact, and shows little to no affection. He can reach his arms up if he wants you to pick him up, and he can sign "all done" ... which he mostly uses to signal that he's done with a certain situation - not so much a particular thing. He cannot feed himself, and lives on pureed and fork-mashed foods. He follows no commands, and does not respond to his own name. He does not point or wave. He does not show any active desire to engage with any of us - including Elliott.

Miles and I did not sleep for 18 months. No exaggeration. On a good night he would wake up eight times. Sometimes he would just go back to sleep, other times he would cry for an unspecified amount of time, and other times he would be awake for hours. A lack of sleep can drive you crazy ... and that's just what it did. We tried everything - routines, new beds, new blankets, pillows, no pillows, oils, baths, walks, music, lights ... nothing worked. At 18 months our wonderful neurologist recognized my battle and prescribed Miles to an anti-depressant. Medicating was not my dream, but we are all finally sleeping.

That's it ... that's Miles, in a nutshell. He is the cutest kid with a strange sense of humor who loves Mickey Mouse. Some days I think he's putting on a front with this whole autism thing. Other days are bad, and we're knocked on our asses, chewed up and spit out by autism. It's rough, and scary, and lonely, and overwhelming, but I know we have it easier than others. We have a two person team, and Vic is a wonderful support system. We have insurance that pays for everything. We have an amazing team of doctors, therapists, and interventionists who are so patient, informative and kind. Never in my life did I think I would seek out a neuro team for my child, but, boy, am I lucky for the one I have.

We're hoping for the absolute best with ABA, and we can't wait to get started.

Lastly, if you have any negative comments regarding ABA (yeah, yeah, I've read the "research") .... kindly shove it up your ass. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baby News!

I was going to wait until we got back to Anerica to drop our big news, but Elliott had a 'big brother' photo shoot, and I just couldn't resist any longer.

So, yay!! There's a new baby Rosario coming this summer! We are so excited, and while it seems like very poor timing on our part - I assure you, it's perfect timing in the teacher world!

Elliott is SO excited to be a big brother, and he has even named the baby, 'brother' ... so we're sure hoping for a boy if that name sticks ;) Last week we brought him along to our last doctor visit, and he was glued to the monitor. When the doctor showed him the baby, his eyes lit up, "that's the baby? Right there? In mommy's belly? Ooohhh this is amazing!" Haha, that's his new word ... everything is amazing ...

There is a world of change going on for this kid right now and he's really hanging in there. We have one more day in this empty house, and that's about all I can take. On Thursday we'll head to the hotel for two days, and it will be nice to have a comfy bed to sleep in ... with pillows ...

Luckily, E was able to see one last big snow before we head back to Florida. 

He loved it ... until the snow got in his new shoes.

This will probably be the end of our little blog adventure, and what a great way to end it. As much as I would love to continue it - I'm hoping to be too busy in Florida! I have loved updating this through the years, and I hope one day Elliott will sit down and read the whole thing :) 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Christmas 2014

Christmas was very different this year. The past two years our house has been over-flowing with decorations, and we have always gone way too far with presents. This year we just couldn't do it ... space, budget and timing only allowed for a few presents for E, and no decorations. Elliott could not have cared less ... he was more than ecstatic with the few things he received. I am just happy to have my little family together this year!

Thankfully, our friends, the Segura's, had us over for Christmas Eve - which included our yearly gift exchange, and some delicious food. Both the Segura's and the Lopera's spoiled Elliott with Spiderman toys - he was in heaven.

Such a ham ...

Vanessa just made a trip to Nove, Italy ... and brought me back a couple of great pieces!! Elliott wasn't the only one who was spoiled!

Vic got some workout gear ... you know he loved that!

Elliott got a fart gun ... hilarious.

We're are so lucky to have had these friends in our life during our time in Germany. I, honestly, don't know what I would have done without the Segura's during Vic's deployment. They were always there to help, and never made me feel bad about asking. One of my biggest fears when Vic was gone, albeit an irrational one, was that something would happen to me in the middle of the night, and nobody would know ... leaving Elliott to fend for himself for days. I know, completely crazy, but you can conjure up all kinds of things with too much time on your hands. Anyway, Vanessa would always check on me ... sometimes with a direct, "are you alive" message. Maybe she didn't always do it on purpose, but I felt better knowing that she was at least thinking about me and Elliott.

The Army-wife-life is one that not anyone can understand unless you have been a part of it. It is a crazy and weird little world ... filled with more drama than I could stand at times, but I am so lucky that I was able to find a couple normal friends along the way! Our little group has had more "family" dinners than I can count, and endless laughing to go along with it. We'll definitely catch-up with them at some point on the other side!

Later that night a couple more families came over. The boys tried to pretend they were young again, and play a drinking game ... which lasted about five minutes.

Elliott and Kiera opening their gifts ... their faces are priceless.

Elliott is currently obsessed with all things superhero ... mostly Spiderman though ...

The next morning E woke up with his few little presents under the tree. He got a couple coloring books, a few trucks, and a new pair of shoes (seriously, he had been asking for new shoes - what a kid). My mom also sent him a new tablet - which has been such a lifesaver the past week with all of the moving.

Roscoe and Lola got hog ears from our German dog boarder. They were so gross!!! Real hog ears with ear hair still in them ... blahhh, Lola wouldn't touch it, but Roscoe had the time of his life. It has since snowed quite a bit here ... ruining Roscoe's chances of anymore bone-chewing in the yard.

The holidays have come and gone, and our house is empty! The movers did a fantastic job, but let me hold my tongue until I see what shows up on the other side of the pond.

Everyday we, kind of, get our lives more and more together ... and I think we are as ready as we'll ever be for America!!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Spain - Tarifa and Seville ...

Our time is quickly winding down here, but we needed one more trip to our favorite country. I booked this trip for dirt cheap - our airfare was under $130 for all of us, round-trip through Ryanair. We had to fly out of Frankfurt Hahn, which is a bit of a drive, but worth it for the price. All of the hotels I booked were also under $150 all together - mostly due to the off-season. I also rented a car for $200 - which included gas. That put us right around $500 for five days in Spain ... we couldn't beat it. We flew into Malaga to pick-up our rental car and headed straight to Tarifa - which was a sleepy little beach town full of surfers, and cute little shops and restaurants. I'm sure it's a much busier during the summer season, but we enjoyed relaxing and walking the near empty streets. Our hotel was perfect - friendly staff, great location, and a view of the coast of Africa from our balcony. There was plenty to do in the city - including ferries to Africa, and whale and dolphin tours. We decided against both, and really just spent our time checking out the sights, relaxing on the beach, and eating. We spent two days there before we packed up and headed to, the much busier, Seville.

These pictures are slightly out of order, and I'm too lazy to fix them. Also, we forgot our camera, so the poor quality is due to our crappy cell phones ...

Standing on the southern-most point of continental Europe - pretty cool because we've also been to Key West - the southern-most point of the US!

The view from our balcony ... that's the coast of Africa.

Elliott loved the beach ... thank goodness, since we'll spend quite a bit of time there in Florida ...

I think this translated to ... no pooping on the beach ...

We stopped at a beachside cafe, and Elliott spent a good 45-minutes rolling down this embankment ...

Loving life ...

We toured a very old seaside fortress ... not the coolest fortress we've ever been to, but they are always cool to see ...

The food in Tarfia was amazing and so fresh ... this is our breakfast at a nearby coffee shop ...

See ... so fresh ...

More shots at the beach ...

Seville was such an awesome city, but driving there was a nightmare, an absolute nightmare. Thankfully Vic was driving because I probably would have gotten us all killed - or stuck in an alleyway. After 45 minutes of attempting to navigate the streets and find parking near our hotel - we called it quits and parked on the outskirts of the city and took a cab to our hotel. At least there we knew the car was safe, instead of leaving it on a cramped side street. We have rented many cars here in Europe and I never get the insurance - mainly because I always think it's a rip-off and our USAA coverage has a rental policy in case something happens. For some reason when I booked this car, I opted for the full-coverage insurance plan, and thank goodness I did - because we sure turned that car in with several scrapes, scratches and one dent. After our stay in Seville we were certain we would just pop right out of that parking garage and be on our merry way. Wrong. So wrong. One very wrong turn, down a one-way street, led us on another wild ride through the crazy streets of this town. At one point we had no choice but to tuck in our side mirrors, and make our way down this teeny-tiny alleyway. It was so tight we could hear the tires rubbing against the sides of the walls. I would have loved to grab a picture, but I'm sure Vic would have murdered me if I asked to get out of the car.

The night we got into Seville we just did a little bit of exploring, and grabbed some dinner. We didn't really have much of a plan, but a lady at our hotel was a huge help in mapping out some great destinations for us. Speaking of our hotel ... it was a hostel. Very quaint, with a lot of character, but full of backpacking college kids. The room was pretty noisy at night, and slightly drafty, but you get what you pay for, and we're always up for an adventure.

That night we headed to the Christmas market that was going on right by our hotel.

We found this bakery .... ohhh my goodness. She had doughnuts that tasted just like Krispy Kreme, I almost died.

Elliott and a very grumpy camel. We opted for a pony ride instead.

I'm not really as fat as this picture makes me look ... although I have packed on a few pounds ...

Elliott rode all of the kiddie rides, and this was his bravest feat ... a pirate ship. The people running the rides looked bored, so they let him go forever and ever ... they were also drinking beer - which I thought was hilarious, and a bit unsafe, but typically European.

He had so much fun ...

Once the place started to pick up we took this awesome train/trolley (you can see it behind the boys in the picture below). It took us several blocks away to another market in an awesome square.

This crazy waffle-type structure was quite the sight to been seen ...

At this point Elliott had had enough of the rides, and could barely keep his eyes open. He was asleep in the stroller by the time we got home.  

The next morning we got up early and started our day of exploring. Vic had a great route mapped out, and we were able to hit all the sights we wanted to see.

The streets of Seville were lined with orange trees - so cute, but the oranges were terrible!

Our master route planner checking the map against the castle walls ...

One the many tight alley ways that we had to drive down ...

Cathedral ... it was beautiful, and massive.

Entrance to the cathedral.

Plaza de toros! So neat ... we actually went on a guided tour - so we learned a great deal about bullfighting ...

Entrance to the ring ...

This stadium seats 12,000 fans.

Gate where the bulls come out.

Royal seats ...

We were able to tour the museum, so we saw tons of odd sculptures and paintings ...

Tiny little bullfighting costume ...

Chapel where the fighters pray they won't get gored with a bull horn ...

Where they keep the horses ...

Torre del Oro - "the Gold Tower" ... very pretty, and right along the water.

Not sure what this was ... maybe a parliament building?

We walked through an awesome park on our way to Plaza de Espana. Check out Elliott's bookbag - we bought that thing in Tarifa for 10euro, and it was the best purchase ever. Elliott loved it, and it entertained him for the whole trip. Since we've been home it has found it's way to the bottom of a toy box, but it served it's purpose. Thank you Sonic the Hedgehog.

Plaza de Espana. This place was so beautiful! I think I could have stayed here all day. The detail on the building was ceramic, and amazing - I wish we would have gotten a closer shot.

We visited a couple more spots, grabbed some lunch, and called it a day. We headed off to Malaga for the night and caught our flight back to Germany the next day.

This is a shot stolen off google, but the best representation of what we looked like driving through Seville - except we had a full-sized car, so we were even tighter.

Vic vetoed any further trips after this driving adventure, so that's it - we are officially done traveling in Europe!! We ended up doing 14 countries and more cities throughout Germany than we can count. Every single place was worth the cost, and stress, and we would do every city over again if we had the choice. Of course, there were several spots that we didn't get to, but we're already plotting a way to move back to Europe in 20 years :)

We are getting all packed up, and the movers come on Monday. We are beyond stressed, but I know things will work out and fall into place for us. We will keep everyone updated on happenings here, and say a little prayer for smooth travels for us, and our belongings!!