Tomorrow, I will take Elvie in for an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon, and we are hoping that she will be able to stop wearing the big, rigid brace she has been confined to for the past six weeks as she has been healing from surgery. It’s been an uncomfortable time for Elvie, and a time of increased work for me. It is much harder to care for a toddler in a brace than it is to keep up with my active girl when she is on the move. Everything from diaper changing to meal time has presented extra challenges, not to mention keeping her occupied and keeping her spirits up, and we will all be glad to have this time behind us. We are so grateful for all that has been done for Elvie in her surgeries, and we know that the brace is part of that, and we don’t take that lightly. Excellent medical care is a huge gift for our family. However, when the day to day grind gets frustrating, I find that what helps more than recognizing the big picture is thinking of the little, silly ways that having Elvie in a brace has benefited me personally. Here are my top five little reasons to smile about having the privilege of caring for a toddler in a body brace.
The holidays find our family out and about much more than usual. Whether it be shopping for gifts or attending a holiday gathering, we often end up eating away from home. At home, Elvie eats at the table with us, in her own high chair. We try to find middle ground with the cleanliness of her area of the table. We don’t do a full disinfection of the area between each and every meal, but we do wipe it down and keep it clean. At the same time, during meals, anything goes, and her place is often a big mess. It’s no big deal, really, because it’s our home, and we know that we will clean it up, and that we eat at a table that is kid friendly.
When we’re away from home, however, two different sticky situations often present themselves. First, we might be grabbing a quick bite at a restaurant, and we find that the table surface where Elvie is supposed to eat is less than clean. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes we find ourselves feeding Elvie on a table that clearly wasn’t designed with toddlers in mind. Luckily, there are Disney Baby Table Toppers — disposable placemats that can cover over someone else’s mess or keep Elvie’s from spreading. Just in time for the holiday rush, they’re on sale in-store at Babies”R”Us.
When I was a baby, my mom and my aunt began a holiday tradition that is now continuing into its second generation. It is a beautiful and simple tradition, but one that has decorated my own holiday tree, and thus my holidays, with special memories. Each year from my first Christmas onward, my mom and my aunt went to Hallmark and chose ornaments for each other’s children, and our two families would get together each year to unwrap them and find out what would be on our tree. My brother and I have an ornament from each year of our childhood, as do my cousins.
Taking the ornaments out of their storage boxes and hanging them on the tree each year is still one of my favorite holiday traditions, simply looking at each one as I place it on the tree, and remembering which year it was, and what I was doing then, and what I liked. There are quite a lot of Winnie the Pooh ornaments, as the Pooh stories have always had a special place in my heart. As I looked through the Hallmark ornament selection this year, I was delighted to see that there was a Baby’s First Christmas ornament featuring my favorite bear.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we cannot travel due to Elvie being in a brace post surgery, and so that meant that we were at home yesterday for Thanksgiving. We are so thankful to spend the day together that no matter what we do, we are bound to enjoy it. We had a lazy morning, a late breakfast, and then took a walk in Golden Gate Park before we came home for dinner. No one spent hours over a stove yesterday, and there was no turkey on our table. Because yesterday was not just Thanksgiving, it was also my birthday, and there was nothing I wanted more than for all of us to be able to relax and enjoy the day together. Because I am the only one in our little family who is capable of making a traditional Thanksgiving feast, we decided that we would order Chinese food instead so that I could enjoy my birthday with my family instead of spending most of it in the kitchen. It turned out to be a wonderful day together, and we were all happy with our unconventional feast. Here are photos of Elvie, enjoying the feast – and my birthday cake! – toddler style.
We knew when Elvie joined our family that typical timelines for development probably wouldn’t apply to her. In addition to her physical birth defect, she had a very hard start to life and was quite sick when we finally got to her in Ethiopia. We knew that she hadn’t been given the opportunity to develop a lot of the skills that other babies can develop in the first five months. Still, we could see a spark of who she was the whole time, and as she grew, her personality came out more and more. She has always been eager to try new things, unless she isn’t. It turns out that Elvie is a little bit stubborn, and she doesn’t care to be on anyone’s timeline but her own. So even things that I thought she might eventually catch up with, that wouldn’t be directly impacted by her birth defect, she has insisted on her own pace, her own way. Talking is one of those things.
Instead of talking, she wanted to focus on the challenges that people said she wouldn’t accomplish, like walking before her last surgery. Because she is so expressive, she hasn’t really needed to talk anyway, so why would she bother, when she could be spending her time getting faster at getting into things that are off limits? If she wants something, she just raises an eyebrow or points enthusiastically, and she gets the point across. However, now that she is healing from surgery in her brace, and thus her movement is a lot more confined, she has suddenly had a language explosion. I chuckle a little when I think of it, because it is such a surprise, and because I was just starting to worry ever so slightly that we’d have to add another evaluation and therapy to the list. She was just doing it her own way, as usual. Here are a dozen of her most used words and phrases. They are such magic to hear.