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Coming Home
June 18, 2005
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July 30, 2006  |  October 11, 2006  |  December 26, 2006  |  March 17, 2007  |  May 27, 2007  |  December 24, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

I've been putting this update off (obviously!) because it will be our last chapter in a very long and wonderful story, hosted by the amazing Joe and Jen. Sort of feels like the end of an era, I can't even remember NOT sending updates, documenting the changes in our precious Isabelle's life! But she has come so very far in the last 2 1/2 years and well, it's just time. Time to close the book on this chapter in her life. Be sure, though, you can keep tabs on my girl on our blog here. I should be posting there about our family for a long time to come :)

Isabelle continues to be a tale that unfolds at her discretion, not ours. She surprised us all when it was time to start school, the local primary school where Isabelle attends the special needs class in the mornings. She LOVES school. Loves her teacher (who happens to be nothing short of amazing) and has truly come out of her verbal 'shell' since the beginning of the school year. Her day starts at 7:30 when I wake her up (read: she is already up and ready to go, and is just waiting on mama to give the okay) and get her ready for school. The bus arrives at 8:00 (what can I say about the bus? She ADORES riding the bus!!) and she is off! At school her teacher, Mrs. Hall, and parapro, Mrs. Howard, spend the next 3 hours loving, teaching, feeding and motivating 5 little people in a way that leaves me speachless. Isabelle comes home with a folder detailing what she ate, who she played with, the stories they read and the songs they sang. It is a great tool for starting conversations about what she did during the day! During the first few weeks of school, I took her to and from class, to be sure she was comfortable before moving onto the bus. It also gave me an opportunity to talk with the teacher on a daily basis and to get an idea of what she felt like Isabelle's strengths and weaknesses were. Well, she is certain that Isabelle is not autistic, not even on the spectrum of PDDs. She feels like Isabelle is 'developmentally delayed' and that she will, most likely, be mainstreamed into regular school by the time she starts kindergarten! This is wonderful news, especially considering that it wasn't even a year ago that we were grieving an autism diagnosis by our local developmental pediatrician and a likely grim outlook for Isabelle's future. Only time will tell, of course, but we now have reason to be extremely hopeful for Isabelle and what she can accomplish.

Isabelle's speech has nothing short of exploded since she began school. What used to be babble is now actually sentences! We still struggle to understand some of her Isabelleisms, but for the most part, we can finally understand all she has to say! And more and more, she actually HAS something to say. "Why?" and "No!" are her very favorite words at the moment and we are amazed that she has actually found words that we DON'T want to hear ;) An example of a sentence that caught both her speech therapist and myself by surprise occurred not too long ago. We were leaving speech therapy and the therapist had forgotten to give Isabelle her usual lollipop. As Isabelle descended the stairs she said, "Hey, where's my pop?" We both smiled. Another time we were at Chris' work and he walked us to the car to say goodbye. From the back of the car she shouted, "Daddy, sit down!" She continues to struggle putting certain words together: "I want more juice, please", but other combinations come easily for her, "Shhh, mama! Baby Jude night night!" She has also recently learned to answer what most people would consider to be simple questions. But for a child who is delayed, the seemingly simple is hardly that! Now when we ask her, "What is your name?" she proudly replies, "MeiMei!" and when we ask her how old she is, she tries to hold up three fingers, exclaiming, "Three!" She can count to 12 now, accurately and has begun singing the ABC song, which she most recently sang in front of our entire extended family at Thanksgiving... this girl LOVES an audience!

Her receptive and expressive vocabulary continue to grow at an amazing rate and she can understand and complete almost any (within reason!) task we ask of her. She is down to one private speech therapy session a week and we suspect that since she sees a speech therapist three times a week at school, soon she will no longer need private speech therapy. In October, her OT surprised us and said that Isabelle was ready to 'graduate' from occupational therapy! The therapist said she felt like they really had nothing left to work on! She tested Isabelle right before we were released and she tested at or above age level on almost every test! We still need to work on Isabelle's grasp as she prefers to hold a pencil incorrectly, and she still occasionally gags at an unfamiliar substance, but other than that, her cutting, tracing, following directions, stacking, taking turns, role playing, and imitating have all improved tremendously. Her last OT session was spent decorating Halloween cookies and the OT and I both watched as she played in the icing with her fingers, something she would have never done six months previously.

She and Sophie continue to be the very best of friends. They play incredibly well together, probably due to the fact that they are almost complete opposites! Isabelle is such a dare devil, trend setter and risk taker that Sophie loves to follow along behind to see what kind of trouble they can get into next! Lately I have found them in their brothers room getting into all kinds of 3-year old mischief. Once they had a can of waterproofing spray and Isabelle was up on the bunkbed ladder, spraying her brother's sheets! Sophie was close by, eating a candy cane she had lifted off the kitchen counter... miscreants! Today I found Isabelle watching as Sophie was carefully pouring out my beloved Bath and Body Works Pomegranate lotion onto Dalton's sheets and rubbing it in! Needless to say, they won't be getting into their brothers room anymore, I'm tired of washing those sheets! Where Isabelle leads in the trouble making department, she follows in the game playing, imaginary play arena. Sophie loves to make up games and, usually, Isabelle is happy to follow. They make up all sorts of imaginary scenarios, playing baby, doctor, kitchen, and they do remarkably well at taking turns and thoroughly enjoy each other's company. Occasionally I'll hear Sophie exclaiming, "Isabelle! Isabelle! Mom! Isabelle won't talk to me!" After a certain amount of 'play', Isabelle just wants to be left alone to do her own thing. Of course, all the yelling in the world won't make Isabelle do anything she doesn't want to do, so eventually Sophie gives up and finds some other unsuspecting sibling to play with ;)

Isabelle is so much more aware of her surroundings and we are thrilled to see her taking an active interest in her environment. She now asks questions about the future or present, things she never expressed before. The other day we had to run out to do an errand and the girls had to come along for the ride. We were leaving the house and Isabelle asked, "Where my shoes?" It was music to our ears :) She often asks if she can go out and play outside or watch a 'show', her favorite being Max and Ruby. Of course, it's pretty hard to turn this little one down when she asks so beautifully! One thing we have realized since starting her in school is that we have erred on the side of overindulging our girl. I mean, the girl can WORK IT! She has this way of calling "Daddeeee!" and to say that Chris is putty in her hands would be fairly accurate ;) Additionally, we have always worried that she couldn't understand certain things, or that she was just too behind for us to expect a lot of her. Well, she had us figured OUT! She really understands just about everything, including how to get out of having to help out ;)

Isabelle waiting for her beloved BUS!

A rare, quiet moment with Isabelle

Celebrating her last day of OT!

Loving the rides at our local playplace

Isabelle and her classmates

"I'm a lion!"

Isabelle ~ ready for trick or treatin'

Hamming it up for the camera

All our little ones, ready for Christmas

Our precious Isabelle
At school they all have to help clean up before moving onto the next 'station'. Isabelle was on her best behavior for the first few months, but after she felt more comfortable at school, her true colors began to show. When cleanup time came, she would refuse. When the teachers insisted, she would fall on the floor, crying! It took a concerted effort on all of our parts to get the message across that we had a certain expectation of Isabelle's behavior and we weren't going to allow her to get away with feigning inability anymore. While not perfect, she regularly helps out, follows directions and sometimes does it without any protest at all! We have definitely moved past the fit-throwing and we are all breathing a collective sigh of relief. There is no doubt that Isabelle is loved by her teachers and we are so grateful for all the time and attention they give our girl. Her teachers tell me regularly how she did this or that, and how cute she is. She has good manners, but recently said to Mrs. Howard when given the toys she requested, "Thank you, honey!" What's not to love!?

When we consider how far Isabelle has come since we brought her home 2 1/2 years ago, we stand amazed. She has endured more loss and lack in her first year than most people do in their entire lives. And as her momma and daddy, we are committed to doing our best to making sure she never goes without again. But we are acutely aware of all we cannot replace. And yet, we know the One who can and our hope and prayer for her can be summed up by this: Our wish for you, precious Isabelle, is that you know and love your true Father, the One who created you for a purpose and the One who will never forsake or abandon you. We hope that you open your heart to the only love that can fill it completely, the love of Jesus Christ. And that your life would be a testimony to His healing grace and mercy.
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. " ~ Matthew 6:20-21

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