Thursday, June 26, 2014

Parker Progress Update (It's a long one!)

I realized the other day that I haven't done an update on Parker's progress lately.  So much has been happening lately (and over the last many months) that I may not remember it all.  I guess I will just jump in.

I don't think I ever mentioned that we saw a genetics specialist.  It is pretty standard practice to have genetic screenings after autism diagnoses these days.  Our first appointment was actually last November.  They took a pretty extensive family history and did a physical exam of Parker, neither of which were too exciting.  They ordered blood drawn for a chromosomal screening to check for any anomalies that may be indicative of autism.  That test revealed one small duplication and one small deletion of genetic material.  Both were small enough that it was extremely unlikely they had any influence on his diagnosis.  The next step was to have those anomalies compared against Jimmy and myself and it was discovered that each of us carried one of them.  This made it even less likely that they mean anything in regards to his autism.  The final step of this process was to meet with a medical genetics specialist.  She reviewed all the previous blood work and did a complete physical exam.  It was fun for me because I got to put Parker in a cute little hospital gown!
As with the other exams, she did not find anything to be concerned about at this time.  We will have a follow-up appointment in a couple years to see if anything has changed.  Much of the genetic testing being done is to aide in research for autism in the hope of bettering treatment and hopefully finding a cure.  Hopefully our participation can help the cause as well!

The other thing we have done in the last few weeks is related the MRI Parker had in December.  The initial results were normal, but we were told that his brain stem extended a little further down than normal, but that it was nothing to worry about.  Earlier this month we were at Parker's 30 month well-child visit and his primary doctor expressed concern about his MRI results.  She told us he had a Chiari 1 malformation, which is not as benign as the neurologist made it seem.  She referred us to a neurosurgeon because they specialize more in the physical aspect of the brain.  Chiari 1 develops as the brain and skull are growing so symptoms often are not present until later childhood and adulthood.  The malformation exists when part of the cerebellum extends lower than it should towards and into the upper spinal canal.  Below is an image from Parker's MRI that shows this malformation.  You can see the pointed part of the brain circled.
If the brain is squeezed too tightly it can cause many issues with balance, motor skills, vision problems and more.  You can learn more about this and other types of Chiari malformations HERE.  We answered a lot of questions regarding specific symptoms and then met with the neurosurgeon to talk about the specifics of Parker's scan and Chiari malformations in general.  (On a side note, he didn't look like Dr. McDreamy and that bummed be out a bit ;-)  He offered a lot a great information and really eased my worries!  Good news first, Parker does not seem to be having any symptoms at this time and his brain does not appear to be getting squeezed.  There is also room for spinal fluid to move on all sides.  More good news, 60-70% of people with type 1 never experience symptoms or complications!  We will have annual follow-ups with a neurosurgeon and another MRI in 2 years to see if anything changes as his head grows.  There isn't necessarily any bad news right now, just uncertainty (which we have gotten plenty used to this last year.)  Worst case scenario, if it gets worse he may need to have surgery someday.  I opted not to discuss all the possibilities with the surgeon since there are so many variables.  Best case, it remains the same or recedes and does not cause any issues.  Only time will tell.

We are continuing to truck along with therapy in between all the other stuff.  We still have four appointments each week, but are seeing so much progress!  His eye contact has become almost a non-issue.  He regularly looks all people, even strangers in the eye.  He is even starting to express shyness, which means he realizes people are noticing him!  Transitions are also becoming easier for the most part, but I do think he is starting to experience separation anxiety.  

His largest strides in recent weeks are in the area of communication.  He has been developing many word approximations (consonant and vowel sounds that associate with certain words like "ah da" for "all done.")  We have been working on sign language for a long time as well, but he has not used it spontaneously with any consistency until this week.  He has started using "please" on his own and in appropriate situations.  This was an exciting milestone because it the first time he has communicated a specific word to us!  We caught it on video this week and it is adorable.  The only issue now is saying "no" when he says "please."  He has also been consistently signing "my turn," but we don't use that one as much in every day play.
Lastly, while in speech therapy today, he said "more."  He didn't repeat it for me, but I trust he will soon!  There is so much talk about the language explosion and I feel like we are getting a little firecracker right now and I am just elated!  I am so proud to be Parker's mom, he works so hard and just keeps swimming!

I hope you enjoy your weekend and I hope we have more great news soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Minnesota History Center

My parents recently got a membership to the Minnesota History Center and we finally got around to getting there with them this weekend.  We headed out early Saturday morning to get there right when it opened.  It was a great choice because we pretty much had the place to ourselves and Parker could run around unhindered.

Our first stop was the current featured exhibit, Toys of the 50's, 60's and 70's.  My dad got pretty giddy over some of the toys since they are what he grew up with.  Grandpa helped Parker on the sit and spin.
 Parker was a bit confused when he couldn't touch the truck and the wheels...
Then he found a doll house with furniture he could actually touch!  I had a lot of that plastic furniture in my Barbie house as a kid (it may still be in my parents basement!)
I loved the 70's room, complete with vintage bean bag chairs!
There was also a small photo display and Parker LOVED the disco ball!
Then, Now, Wow was our next stop.  They have a lot of Dakota tribe displays including a modern tipi, which was his favorite.  He ran in and out for a good 10 minutes!
There was a simulated fire and smoke that kept him occupied as well.
You could open up this bison, take out its parts (bones and organs) and scan them to learn more about their uses.
Grainland is a fun area for kids!  You get to trace the journey of soy or corn from farm to town to elevator!  We climbed stairs to the top, then got to take a fun maze back down.
Made it to the bottom!

The membership allows access to all MN Historical Society sites so there will be many more adventures in the future!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Water Bug

We officially have a water bug on our hands!  I have always loved the water and still do, so I was hoping Parker would too!  It seems like it has been rainy and stormy for weeks so I was glad the sun decided to pop out yesterday.  We went to a local splash pad with our neighbors on Friday and had a blast (a big thanks to my neighbor for the super cute hand-me-down swim outfit!)

At first, he was mostly interested in the sewer drain nearby...
Then found a couple mud puddles to slosh around in...
It wasn't until I had to put him in the REAL water to wash him off that he realized how much fun the splash pad was!
We will definitely be coming back here again soon!

We also set up our new kiddie pool in the backyard and Parker is in LOVE!  I bought a larger one this year so the whole family could enjoy it.  The first night was pretty chilly, but we got used to it quickly.
It warmed up a lot today and we were able to spend a lot of time playing!
We went to the backyard after dinner tonight and he tried climbing in with all his clothes on, I guess that is a sure sign he loves it.  That may make it tough when we just want to hang out without swimming.  It should be a great summer for the Herrmann's!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Big Boy Bed!

We took a big step this week and converted Parker's crib to a toddler bed!  He is 2 1/2 now and he can't stay in a crib forever (even though Jimmy would probably approve!)  Tuesday night was his first night.

 Surprisingly, it went great!  He stayed in his bed and didn't get out in the morning until I came in.
 The bliss was short-lived...nap time on Wednesday did not go well.  I am fairly confident he is not ready to drop his nap so I was a bit bummed when he spent over an hour just goofing around.  Every time I came in he went running back to the bed, so he knew where he was supposed to be.  I took him out after a while, but he had a meltdown about 3:45 and I knew he was just too tired!
 Today's nap had a similar start, but we had speech therapy so he couldn't go down late.  Jimmy went all MacGyver on me and created a barricade.  Once he was no longer to escape he decided to actually sleep.
We'll have to see what method I choose to use tomorrow... I know that we are not reverting to the crib, not yet anyway.  Watching your children grow is so bittersweet.  We make a big deal about "firsts," but don't always know when the "lasts" will be.  The best we can do it try to make the most of each moment.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Praying for Pilger

Jimmy called me just after 5 tonight because he heard that a tornado had hit Pilger, NE.  That may not have grabbed the attention of you typical Minnesotan, but it certainly grabbed ours!  Pilger is a tiny town of less than 400 in rural northeast Nebraska.  Pilger is also where my mom was born and raised, and where I spent many summer afternoons swimming and playing with my cousins as a child.

I immediately headed to Twitter to see what what happening and I was shocked at what I found.  The town seemed gone.  Houses, buildings and the entire grain elevator were gone.  I watched videos in disbelief.  I've been to those places so many times and it was shocking to see it torn apart.  It also breaks my heart because I am not sure what will become of the town.  I hope that people rebuild, but I know that many won't be able to.

Two tornadoes ripped through the area at the same time, both likely EF3 to EF4 strength (130-200 mph.)  It is extremely rare to have tornadoes that strong so close together.  The video HERE is cut together to show both funnels developing.  They arrive in Pilger in the final scenes, that was very hard to watch.  The video below actually shows the tornado as it goes through town.
Here are some before and after comparisons based on Google Street view pictures.
You can also click HERE for more pictures that my cousin posted.

So far, I believe all my family members are ok, but I am certain that search and rescue efforts are not yet over.  I know that several family members houses have been completely destroyed and was told that an uncle and cousin clung to a chimney in the basement for protection.  There is at least one fatality, and while it may not be family, it will likely have a connection because of how small the community is.  I know the world will forget about this tomorrow, but I won't for a long time.  If you can take a moment to send some prayers their way I would greatly appreciate it. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Weekend

We had a pretty fun weekend over here!  In the spirit of the holiday, we tried to do some of Jimmy's favorite things this weekend.  We started with golf on Friday for date night!  It has been close to 2 years since we golfed, but did surprisingly well and Jimmy even got his first par.  We got dinner at Mort's Deli, one of Jimmy's favorite places!

Saturday was a dreary, rainy day so we headed to the Mall of America to let off some steam.  Parker enjoyed some pizza and people watching.
Next was a stop at JM Cremp's, a newer boy's adventure store!  Parker was immediately drawn to the peddle toys.  I told him Grandpa would have to buy him one of those!
 There were trucks and wheels EVERYWHERE!  Parker was especially intrigued by the one below.  He had his first "being dragged from a toy store" tantrum when we left here!
 MOA also has a LEGO play area with both standard bricks and the larger DUPLO blocks.  This was another fun place to let him out of the stroller.  I am pretty sure he could have played for hours!
 We woke up slowly on Sunday and gave Jimmy his gifts.  Thanks to Pinterest, I made the card below that was from Parker.
I have also had plans to make the shirt below for a while and figured Father's Day was as good as any day!
We headed to my parents after church to nap watch golf and have dinner.  Once Parker woke up from his nap we made sure to take the "Parker Tree" picture.  This was the 3rd year and both Parker and the tree are growing strong!
We also went for a ride on the twister, which Parker loves, especially when we go faster! (Don't worry, it's not really that fast and is very safe.)
It was a fun afternoon spent with some of my favorite dads!
I also have to give a shout out to my amazing father-in-law, who we celebrated last weekend.  He is such a wonderful Grandpa to Parker and we ca count on him for anything!  I hope you had a great day!
Thank you so much to all the awesome dads out there, especially my husband, Jimmy.  I don't always give him the credit he deserves, but he is incredible.  Both Parker and I are blessed to have him in our lives.  Thank you for being just what Parker and I need!
It has been so much fun watching you grow and play together and I am so excited for the future ahead!