Saturday, April 27, 2013

Virginia Zoological Park

I've been looking into some of the fun kids things to do around Norfolk in preparation for the summer (and no school for Leah). There is a botanical garden with a children's garden complete with splash area (yes, we will be going there!), a great children's museum, and a zoo. I found out that the zoo gives free admission to people with disabilities and a companion. And Rebekah is free until she is 2, so we are able to go to the zoo as a family for the price of one adult admission. What a deal! We decided to check it out today, since it's such a beautiful day here. It's a great little zoo. Leah seemed to enjoy herself, and we are looking forward to Rebekah getting to be a little older so she will enjoy it more, too.
Leah and Daddy in front of the giraffe
Daddy and his girls (and an elephant)
Mommy and Rebekah

Leah's Leaps

We haven't done a Leah's Leaps entry in a while. Sometimes, I hesitate to report on Leah's gains, because she tends to make gains and then revert. It's hard to share something she has done knowing that she may not be doing it tomorrow. With that being said, Leah is making progress all the time. We are so proud of her and how she has flourished since being in Norfolk. We are grateful for God's faithfulness to us. He knew what He was doing when he provided this opportunity for us here! So, onto the leaps:

Leah gets into her carseat by herself (and climbs into the car by herself)! I had her start working on this before Rebekah was born so I didn't have to lift her up while pregnant. If you lead her to the door, she'll climb up and into her seat, she tries to get her arm straps around her and pulls the buckle out from under her for you to buckle her. She even says, "buckle". Recently, I forgot to buckle her, and she grabbed my hand and put it to the buckle. Not only smart, she's safe, too!

Leah walked holding hands with her cousin! It was truly a moment of hope fulfilled. Not necessarily that Leah would walk without an adult, but that Leah would walk with a friend. Even thinking about it now, it brings tears to my eyes. As a parent of a child with special needs you look at the "normal" moments in life differently. Making a friend and going for a walk are wonderful milestones in a typically developing child, but in a child with special needs, it is a monumental occasion. We have prayed for a moment like that. We have worried and fretted, wondering what things Leah would do in her life and have had to turn those fears over to the Lord. Praise God that He cares for us enough to take our fears and give us even the smallest of desires, like watching our child walk with another child.

Leah walked up the stairs to the front door by herself! I walked her to them, led her to the railing and she just started walking up the steps before I could even grab her hand to help her. So, I just let her go, and up she went (6 steps).

Leah is saying words and phrases! You can often hear her repeating things we have said, but she also has things that she frequently says: "Bekah", "Leah", "change your diaper", "up the stairs", "brush"(hairbrush), "buckle" (seatbelt), "bus", "strawberry", "more", "done", "go". I'm sure there are more, but those are all I can think of right now. Still no "Mama" or "Dada", but we are hopeful!

Leah helps put on and take off her clothes! She's good at taking off all of her clothes (with a little help starting) and shoes. She will put her arms through her sleeves and pull a shirt down.  She even tries to get her shoes on her feet and has been successful a time or two! We're still working on pulling pants up, but I think that will get easier when she starts standing independently.

Leah has started using utensils to feed herself! She will hold a fork or spoon (which was a big battle!) and is getting very good at finding her mouth without losing food! She needs help stabbing and scooping, but it is sure helpful to have her doing anything! She is also drinking from all straws now! For a very long time, she has been unwilling to drink from anything other than soft, rubbery straws. This means we have ALWAYS had to have a sippy cup for Leah, whether we are going to a friend's house or to a restaurant. Now, it's not the end of the world if we forget her sippy cup!

Leah has been using the potty! I bought a potty a few months ago, mostly as a stool for me to sit on during bath time while I was pregnant. When I got it, I tried having Leah sit on it, and she was not at all interested in even sitting on it, much less doing anything else. So, after her birthday, we decided to try it again. This time, when we tried, we made sure we had books and toys ready to distract her. She was much more willing to sit and even went. We got her a potty that plays music when it's used, and when we heard that music, we were all shocked! Leah jumped and Stephen and I got very excited! Since then, she has been very willing and will go almost every time we sit her on it (as long as we catch her before she goes in her diaper!).

We are so proud of our girl and can't believe all she is doing now! Leap Leah, Leap!

Leah is Four Years Old!

It's hard to believe Baby Leah is now Big Girl Leah - 4 years old! This child has been through more in her first 4 years of life than most people go through in their entire lives. And through it all, she is one of the happiest children I know. Her joy for life has made walking through all of the trials with her so much easier. We are so grateful to God for blessing us with this special little girl. Our Leah girl has made so much progress in the past 9 months since we moved to Norfolk. With every gain she makes, our hope is increased for her future. She is so much more "in the world" than she used to be. There are many Leah Leaps to share, but that will be in the next post! For now, I will share a little about Leah, the four year old. Leah loves to laugh and sing. She wakes up every morning with both. There are a few words and phrases she likes to say or hear said, that just make her giggle. Leah actually has at least 4 different laughs: she has a muppet laugh, a count chocula laugh, a squeal and cackle laugh, and a forced fake laugh that usually turns into real laughter because she just loves to laugh so much. Leah also knows the melody to 7 hymns now, as well as other praise songs and children's songs. All in all, I would say she knows close to 30 different songs. The interesting thing is, she doesn't just know the melody, she knows how many verses, too. For instance, if you ask her to sing Amazing Grace (and she is willing enough to do it), she will sing through the melody 4 times before stopping. She's pretty talented! She is still an extremely picky eater, which gives me endless amounts of worry over her health. She is definitely a salty snack lover, though. If she could, she would live off of crackers and chips. However, there is one sweet thing that she does love - Lucky Charms cereal. Only, she has to eat it dry, no milk. She eats it almost every single morning for breakfast. She also loves most fruit, so she is getting something healthy in her diet everyday! Leah loves to go to school. Not only does she love being there, she loves the going part. She has been riding the school bus since December and looks forward to it every morning. The weekends are hard for Leah, because she doesn't get to go. In addition to her therapists at school, Leah started working with a speech therapist and occupational therapist at the children's hospital in February and has already made so much progress with them. The last thing I will share about 4 year old Leah, is her new relationship with her sister. She is definitely aware of Rebekah, knows her name, and even says "Bekah" occasionally. She also likes to hold Rebekah's hand and tickle her toes. She still doesn't really like it when Rebekah touches her though. She wants to be the one to initiate contact. And we are just fine with that!
Happy BIRTHday!
Happy FIRST Birthday!
Happy SECOND Birthday!
Happy THIRD Birthday!
Happy FOURTH Birthday!
This year, for Leah's birthday, we decided to have a birthday party with a theme, and even invite a couple of friends (aside from some of her cousins). I had great plans for an outdoor party with a beach theme, but a rainy cold front decided to come through Friday night and Saturday morning, so it wasn't as elaborate as I had hoped. Oh well, maybe next year! We did have a few beach things, including: beach ball bowling in the hallway, a buried treasure dig in the sand and water table, leis for all the kids, life preservers and pool noodles (life savers and twizzlers) for snacks, and a beachy cookie cake. The kids seemed to have a good time, and Leah especially seemed to love her party. It was almost as if she knew that the party was for her. She even enjoyed opening presents. We decided to put all of her presents in gift bags and she did very good with reaching in and pulling items out. It's always so special to celebrate Leah's birthday, to think about the ways our lives have changed since she was born and how blessed we are to be the parents of Leah Rose Burgin.

Leah's special friend, June, came. Almost all of the kids had a great time digging in the colorful sand...
Except Leah, who was much happier sliding!
The cousins (And Rebekah) wanted to help blow out the candles. Leah was very happy to oblige!
The cookie cake decorated with M&Ms like the beach
Enjoying some cookie cake!
Opening presents
Skyping with Grandma and Grandpa Burgin from Costa Rica
Thank you to everyone who made Leah's birthday special. We only wish all of Leah's family could have been here with us. Maybe next year!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Burgin Family Fun

This past week we had both of Stephen's sisters and families come to our house to meet babies and celebrate Leah's birthday (more on that in the next post). Patty and her girls came on Tuesday and it was just a special girl time. Anna Kate (Patty's oldest, 3 years old) is a very special little girl, and I'm not just saying that because she is my niece. She is a very aware and thoughtful child and has a special place for Leah in her heart. She is very good about initiating interactions with Leah, talking to her and bringing her toys. This, of course, endears her to me all the more! It's hard for young children to understand Leah's disabilities (hey, it's hard for adults to understand!) and to know how to act around her, but Anna Kate is not put off by Leah's differences. She loves Leah as though she were no different. And that makes this Mama's heart full. One of the most special things happened with Leah and Anna Kate. They walked together. It was the first time Leah had ever walked without an adult.
Anna Kate was very good about talking to Leah about where they were going.
Making sure Leah doesn't walk off the step.
Anna Kate is not the only one who loves Leah. Caroline loves Leah, too, but Caroline really loves baby Rebekah! She kept checking on the baby and would push her in her swing. One time, Rebekah was crying and Caroline came to her and gave her her babydoll to make her feel better.
Caroline says, "I'll hug you Leah, but you cannot have my babydoll!"
Rebekah got lots of hugs and kisses from Caroline!
Late Thursday night, the Hanks family arrived. As a side note, one of the blessings of God placing us in Norfolk, Virginia, is that we are now closer to family. Not only that, but our house is big enough to accommodate pretty much the whole Burgin family. We are very grateful to be where we are! Friday the kids had fun playing in the backyard and the park. Though taking pictures of 7 children ages five and under is difficult, we tried our best and, I think, succeeded.
Sweet Wesley, playing with Leah on her perch!
They had a great time on the slide, but they made it hard to take a picture of all of them enjoying it!
All 7 Burgin Grandchildren: Wesley (5), Leah (4), Cooper (3), Anna Kate (3), Caroline (18 mos.), Rebekah (15 wks.), and Colton (7 wks.)

Rebekah didn't look big, until she was next to Colton! Look at those cheeks and thighs!!
Of course, one of the main reasons for the visit was for Aunt Patty's family to meet both Rebekah and Colton for the first time. With everyone leading such busy lives, it's hard to coordinate time when everyone is available. We are thankful that it worked out this weekend to have everyone here.
Aunt Patty with sleeping baby Colton
Aunt Patty with bright-eyed Rebekah
Smash Kisses! (Do Rebekah's feet look huge to anyone else?!)
Smash Kisses!
Smash Kisses!
We had a great time with everyone, but there was someone who was definitely missed. Friday morning, one of the first things Cooper asked Stephen and me, was "Where is Uncle Andrew?" Unfortunately, the big kid had to finish up finals at school and couldn't be here. We were so glad that everyone else could be here, though. Can't wait to do it again!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Happy Birthday Uncle Joe and Meeting Uncle Jonathan

While Stephen was in Puerto Rico at a conference, my mom flew to Norfolk to drive with me and the girls to Charlotte to visit with my family. At first, it was just going to be us going for Joe's birthday, but then my brother Jonathan heard about our trip and decided to come too. And my dad decided he didn't want to be left out, so he came as well. So it ended up being a special family reunion! It also was the first time my brother Jonathan got to meet Rebekah.

Meeting Uncle Jonathan and his girlfriend Amanda

Nana and Grandpa with the girls. Trying to get a picture of a still Leah is nearly impossible!
We had a great weekend just hanging out, playing games, and eating good food. My brothers and I can tease, mess with, and anger each other, like all siblings can. But the thing we do best is make each other laugh. We are pretty silly when we get together. My poor mother, bless her heart, just wanted to have a nice picture of 3 of her children taken together. That isn't so easy when it's the three of us. Sorry Mom, this is the most normal looking one (out of about 20) we got. Oh well!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

3 months old!

Rebekah turned 3 months old on Saturday, but we were in Charlotte visiting my brother (more about that in the next post!) for his birthday, so I didn't take pictures till yesterday and am just now posting (obviously). Stephen has been out of town on a conference (poor guy had to spend almost a week in Puerto Rico at a beachside resort) and asked me if Rebekah has changed in a week. She's at that stage where they change almost daily, so I told him yes! Rebekah has become more vocal just in the last week, mostly right after waking up. She just has so much to say after being apart for so long! She is also smiling and laughing more for her... Rebekah doesn't smile all that much. She's a very content baby, and all, but she seems to be constantly observing the world around her, just trying to take it all in and is pretty serious about her learning! She's also starting to respond more to games like Pat-A-Cake and This Little Piggy. And she is trying to sit up pretty much all the time. If she is even at the slightest angle, she thinks she's going to be able to "crunch" up to a sitting position. It's pretty cute to see the look of determination and the tongue sticking out as she strains to sit up. She seems to be starting to figure out how to turn over, getting her head turned and her leg pulled over. Once she figures out how to get her arm tucked under, she'll be rolling! It won't be long! I am loving the special time I have with her in the mornings while Leah is at school. It's still such a new experience to have our baby not only look at us, but desire our attention. She loves eye contact and to be talked to. It's so different from Leah, who is only too content to be left alone to play by herself. We love both our girls and are thankful for their individual personalities. We praise God because they are both fearfully and wonderfully made!