Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow...

My mom gave us some new Halloween decorations for our yard that just happened to correctly depict each member of my family...

Chris is a big, square-headed pumpkin sporting a happy but slightly alarming smile... Check.  

I look sleep deprived and anxious... Check.  

Lane looks quiet and shy...Check.  

Elise looks a little dazed with happiness mixed in... Check. 

And, Ty is quirky and ready to make us laugh... Check. 

Well done, GiGi, for randomly picking decorations that so accurately capture the essence of the Haden family.  

The following are pics of last Halloween.  We love homemade costumes for the boys, though I usually buy something for Elise.  Last Halloween, I posted pics from the past few years here, if you would like to check them out.  There are some good ones!

Lane went as the Monopoly Man.  I got the idea from a costume I saw at Target.  I figured I could create one of my own!  A $2 hat, hair spray paint, a fake mustache, a pillowcase, and some Monopoly cards.  It worked out well!

Ty went as Oscar the Grouch.  It was super simple (easy for me to say, since my husband made it!)   Yarn, a pail, green body paint, fake eyebrows.  That was it!  

He used the bottom of the pail that he cut off for the hat.  He glued a drawer handle on the top to make it look like a trash can top.  

Ty tolerated his costume all night. He wasn't "grouchy" at all! He was focused on the candy.

The boys with GiGi before hitting the streets.

Elise wore a leopard dress and ears.

She was exhausted by the end of the night!

This Year...

Ty started getting into it early in September by trying on masks wherever we went.  

OK, maybe it wasn’t just Ty...

2 Romneys and an Obama.  

 Halloween Fun... 

Since Ty is the youngest, he seems to be the most excited about Halloween. 

He decorated a pumpkin to take to Preschool this week.  Since he will be the Tin Man this year, we thought this was fitting!

Forget fairies, witches, and princesses… Elise is going as Betsy Ross this year in honor of the election!  OK, so this is obviously a benefit of having a little girl that can’t tell me no about this kind of stuff.  She'll look very patriotic...

Natural Costumes...

 Last year, right in time for Halloween, I ran into a door, (No need to call an abuse hotline.  I literally just ran into a door), and ended up looking like a monster for many, many weeks with stitches and deep bruising.  I will spare you the pics of the white of my eye filled with blood.  Gross. 

Speaking of gross, a few weeks ago, Lane managed to impale his thumb with a screwdriver. (No need to call CPS.  He was trying to pry open an old camera and his hand slipped).   

Now, that could have been part of a great costume! 

BTW - Lane is 10-years-old now, and has informed me that this will be his last year to dress up.  Fine… I still have many years to go with Ty and Elise!

 Miss Elise’s new Halloween shirt and socks to wear to school.  I wish she could enjoy these clothes as much as I do! 

Time To Carve!

Lane, Ty, and friend, Andrew, cleaning out the pumpkin.


 Elise relaxing in her swing on the back porch as her brothers prepared the pumpkin.

 Workin’ hard with Daddy...

Meanwhile... Ty’s Tree Progression

 “Look, Mama, I climbed the tree!”

“I just realized how high I am… GET ME DOWN!”

 “OK, you said if I could smile through my tears for one more picture, you would get me… Cheese… now help!”

Why spend a ton of money on Halloween decorations?  All we need is a spider web, a big spider, and our address in plain view.  Pretty scary, huh? 

Carmel Apples...

I took one of these last year, and remember it being just as difficult to get a good pic of all 3 kids.  Lately, all Elise wants to do it chew and suck on her hands, interfering with her cute clothes.  Oh well, this is the best I could get.  I love pics with all 3 of my kids in them.  We don’t have all that many.  

Everyone have a safe and Happy Halloween!!!

The finished product!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just a Swingin'


I can instantly conjure up a smile and a giggle at the thought of my husband and I “galloping” through the house with Elise as a newborn.  What?  You didn’t gallop like a horse with your 2 week old held tightly to your chest?  Well, neither did we... at least not with our other two healthy children.  Much of what we did with Elise, our middle child who was born with severe brain injury, was not to be found in parenting books or recommended by pediatricians.  These visions of the earliest days with Elise always make me laugh, because we were in the beginning stages of a long and drawn-out discovery of what was best for our child.  We tried many things that seemed silly at times, but did actually work for her most of the time.   She had a major injury to the part of her body that doctors know the least about.  Her brain.  This forced us, as her parents, to research and try out dozens of therapies, theories, and opinions of all things “brain injury”.  (I am excited about writing a post in the near future about many of our experiences with alternative therapies--some that were worth the effort, and others that were not.)

The galloping that we did with her through our house was started immediately after bringing her home.  Don’t picture her jolting around and experiencing a shaking sensation.  It was more of a light galloping motion, said to be useful in helping her body “organize” and to regulate her sensory system.  We were learning about how vestibular input is one of the core elements of sensory integration therapy, something that she desperately needed, and still does.  

If you’re not familiar with the vestibular system, it is the sensory system that provides the primary input about movement, balance, spatial awareness and positioning.  It helps us prepare our posture, maintain our balance, properly use our vision, calm ourselves and regulate our behavior.  

The vestibular system has strong neurological connections in the brain and is a major organizer of varied sensory input. This system is considered the most influential sensory system and has tremendous impact on one’s ability to function daily. Directly or indirectly, the vestibular system influences nearly everything we do. It is the unifying system in our brain that modifies and coordinates information received from other systems, and it functions like a traffic cop, telling each sensation where and when it should go or stop.  (

Not only is Elise deaf, blind, and not able to manipulate her body through space, (get up, walk around, use arms and legs for purposes), but she also suffered from a need to constantly stim, or create her own stimulation that is lacking because of her disabilities, as well as her sensory integration disorder.  (I will write more about her lovely stimming behavior soon...)

Elise craved movement from the very beginning, setting us on a path of figuring out ways to constantly and safely satisfy her hunger for movement.  One of the first “therapy” related activities that we learned about and tried out on Elise was simply the use of a swing.  

As a baby, the traditional infant swing didn't provide enough intensity for her.

She always enjoyed sitting in our laps while we would swing, but was never quite getting "enough" out of it.

We even tried to prop her up in an infant/toddler swing a few times with towels and supports, but it was a mess and did not work...though it made for a cute picture.  

So, we compromised.  My husband and I would simply hold her in our arms and swing her about.  Up, down, side to side - always with plenty vigor.  These were the times that we would get the most noises out of Elise.  Good noises.  Happy noises.  When our arms became too weak for her growing body, we would each hold one end of a large blanket, creating a “blanket swing”.  We would place Elise in the middle and give her a ride. 

In therapy sessions at the facility that we used for OT and PT, they would use a platform swing like this one.  Even when Elise was a little baby, they would sit me on the platform with her in my arms.  They would swing us around, and then wind us up and let us go.  She loved this, and would actually gain some improved head control during and after these sessions.

As she continued to grow larger and heavier, we eventually purchased a Jenn Swing for our home (with help from deaf/blind services in our area...those suckers are expensive!)  

Just to give you an idea, the support bar alone is $99.00.  You need one of these to put it in a doorway.  (If you can afford it, or can find help from organizations that serve children with disabilities...GET ONE OF THESE SWINGS!)

We started with the swing in the house.  There was only one doorway that would work, and it eventually became a pain, constantly blocking our way from the kitchen to the dining room.  So, my husband moved it outside with the use of a metal frame that it came with.  

(**Here begins a set of pictures that I had to resort to using, because I don't have any direct pictures of this swing in our backyard.  Let's play I Spy... Just look past whatever is going on in the foreground, and try and find the swing!**)

After moving the swing outside, we initially hung it from a big tree in our yard.

For more stability, we ended up putting it up on the frame that was purchased with it.  It worked well.  
(Pay no attention to the baby in the cowboy hat and his grinning mother!)

Again, ignore wet and crazy Lane, and see the full swing and frame in the background.

Once we moved into our current house, the swing and frame were used less and less.  Elise was beginning to intensely slam her head against the hard plastic in an attempt to self-stim.  She no longer felt comfortable in it, and we needed to find a better option for her. 

Enter the Net Swing!

The next swing we purchased was the net swing.  This would help out because she couldn't hurt herself in it by banging her head or arms against a hard surface.  Unfortunately, this is the most use we got out of it...

Lane obviously loved it, and made good use of it (although kind of dangerous when looking back...).  He would create acrobatic shows on it, pretending he was in Cirque du Soleil!

It proved hard to get Elise in and out of the swing because of her tone.  Her hands, feet, fingers, and toes would get caught up in the netting, and she always seemed to be fighting it while in it.  

Third Time's the Charm!

My mom gave this Algoma Hammock Chair and Stand to Elise for Christmas.  It is not meant for special needs kids, but has worked extremely well for Elise.  The frame always gave us trouble by lifting up off the floor each time we would push her in it.  So, Chris hung it from some overhanging beams over our patio in the back yard. 

Her legs would hand out, making it easier for her to fall out using her tone, so...

We just tuck her legs in like "criss cross applesauce", and it works perfectly!

This swing is super easy to put Elise in and out of, making it an activity everyone can do with her (not just strong Daddy!)  This is Ladawn, our helper/caretaker with Elise this summer.

Just Ask!

A few years ago, Elise's caregiver, Jackie, did something wonderful for her.  We were in the process of selling our house, so Elise was spending some time over at Jackie's house while ours was being shown during the day.  Jackie called the city and requested a special needs swing be put on the swing set in the park across from her house.  In a matter of days, it was there...waiting for Elise to swing!

This swing was put in several years ago.  Elise has grown so much, we may have to ask for the next size up.

Ladawn, our helper/caregiver we had this summer, surprised me when she called the city and asked for a special needs swing at our neighborhood park.  

Now, when we go to the park, instead of doing this... 

...while her brothers do this...

...she can NOW do this!

(I would have never thought we could have these wonderful swings put in these parks.  Turns out, all we had to do was ASK!)

A Mama Can Only Dream!

This awesome swing has been on my radar for many, many years now.  It is an automatic swing.  No need for pushing!  Just put her in and enjoy...

 This nifty little device takes the place of a busy mama's hand, and keeps the swing in motion.  You gotta love that!  

One day, Ashley, one day...

For kids like Elise, the swing, in various forms, is an essential part of strengthening their vestibular systems.   We have been exponentially blessed to use, own, and borrow swings that have added much pleasure and therapeutic quality to Elise's young life!