Because we just can’t get enough therapy.

It’s official. Today, I scheduled Stella for weekly, ongoing vision therapy. I feel victorious! As in, “We’re going to the Super Bowl, baby!” (I probably need to get out more.) You see, our second opinion (the first being Seattle Children’s Hospital, where vision therapy was never mentioned, and the third being our current doctor) told us that Stella was far too young to do vision therapy. (How many times can I say “vision therapy?” Let’s see, shall we?*) Also, as I’ve said a million times lately, I just finished reading Fixing My Gaze, and it got me so pumped up about vision therapy that I felt physically uncomfortable with the knowledge that we weren’t pursuing vision therapy. And not only has Stella been taking off her glasses more, she’s been staring into space and rubbing her eyes frequently, too, as she did before getting glasses. Now I’ll have someone to gauge Stella’s vision regularly, someone I can grill in person and upon whom I can dump all my concerns on a weekly basis. Hooray for vision therapy!

So every Wednesday morning, we’ll be headed out for some mindblowingly fun “eye games” (aka “vision therapy”). That’s my brilliant branding for this new adventure. Wearing an eye patch is currently called, “the eye patch game.” I know, I know. My advertising background is coming through in its full luminescence here, I’m a genius and I put Don Draper to shame. Yes, yes and yes.

Upon confirming our slot, the vision therapy office emailed me a preparatory doc entitled, “VISION THERAPY: What you need to know.” Highlights include:

  • Vision therapy programs are individualized. “Each session consists of 45 minutes of one on one care combined with a program of daily home oriented therapy.”
  • We will be given “vision therapy handouts and supplies for home therapy use that will change periodically.”
  • “The majority of patients in a once a week program are in vision therapy for nine months to one year.”
  • Progress evaluations must be scheduled every three months regardless of the number of vision therapy sessions that have taken place during that time.

I am totally bringing chocolate chips, maybe even a baker’s dozen from Trophy Cupcakes, to each session. Whatever it takes to reward and encourage cooperation! Stella is 24 months old and is going to be asked to “focus” (in one way or another) for 45 minutes straight. I know she can do it. I’ve seen her concentrate intensely on an enormous ice cream cone for at least that long. I know we can make it work and I know this doctor knows what she’s doing and is fully aware that Stella just turned two. I know I know I know. But (shockingly) I’m a little nervous. Kind of like that time I bitched endlessly and fought like hell to get a promotion, then when it was finally handed to me, I freaked out and realized I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. “Idiots! What were they thinking giving me all these new responsibilities! I’m not ready for this! Oh wait…”

But seriously, it’s all coming together. Another bit of encouragement emerged on Monday evening at our PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) gathering. (PEPS is just a bunch of parents-to-be that get tossed into a group that starts meeting weekly once the babies are born, within a month or so of each other. Basically, for new parents, it’s a way of feeling less insane.) Turns out one of the mothers in our PEPS group had double vision as a child, mainly when tired–fatigue is also what triggers Stella’s eye crossing. She admitted that in an attempt to see clearly, she wound up walking around with one eye closed. Her mother got used to seeing this, and like most young kids she was very good at compensating for the vision problem. As a result, she said her mom pretty much let it go until a friend called her out on it. She was told to wear a patch, but her parents opted for vision therapy instead! My kind of people! She did vision therapy for a year at around age six and that did the proverbial (literal?) trick–it’s just amazing to me. She’s had control of her eyes, and no double vision, since. Her recollection is that the sessions were fun, with engaging activities, but that she felt very tired afterward. And, because apparently she can read minds and intuited my concern about Stella’s age, she mentioned that while she was school age during her vision therapy, kids of all ages could found in the waiting room. (Thank you, PEPS pal.)

This sort of discovery keeps happening! Stella’s glasses and patch have been the gateway to all kinds of stories about patching and eye crossing and visual whatnot from just about everyone we know, and even some we don’t. It’s news to us but apparently everyone has a sibling or close relative who faced the same type of vision issues in childhood. I should’ve known! In Fixing My Gaze, neurobiologist extraordinaire Susan Barry points out that about one in 25 children has strabismus or a binocular vision problem. That’s roughly one in every classroom. It’s become clear that Stella is in good company, and it all feels so normal now. Which blows my mind. Normal and I aren’t close but I’ve always wanted to get to know him. Some say he’s boring but I find him absolutely fascinating!

One other bit of insight I took away from that vision therapy handout: This shit is going to be expensive. Did I mention I’m looking for freelance writing gigs? Go ahead and picture me, out on the internet highway, holding a shabby virtual sign that reads, “WILL WRITE FOR VISION THERAPY.” See? Completely normal.

P.S. Found this at, a “World Health News Today” segment on vision therapy for children.

* Tally: 19 “vision therapy” mentions. 20 if you count that one. I can totally do better. Vision therapy! 21.

Stella’s weighty two-year check-up.

So Stella had her two-year check-up today. She received two shots, a delicious wooden tongue depressor, fabulous height and weight percentiles, and a small bit of forgivable misinformation. I’m not sure how I will broach the latter with the doctor, but I plan to do that soon.

To kick things off, he asked about Stella’s vision. I explained the high-level details about her glasses prescription, patching, and the plan to do vision therapy in order to get her eyes to work together. He nodded, remarked that his brother had ambylopia, and said that we’ll probably have to patch (and do vision therapy, I suppose) intensively for “a long time.” He said that the pressure is on and at the same time the road long because it’s an eight-year process. After age 8, he explained, there’s nothing you can do for the weak eye because the brain shuts down the associated neurons. Yet I just read in the extremely well-researched Fixing My Gaze that this is actually not the case for most “strabismics.” The idea of a critical early window for correction of ambylopia and other strabismus-related vision issues has been shot down by Dr. Susan Barry (author of Fixing My Gaze) and other experts. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not flipping out about this contrasting bit of medical advice. I know that treating eye issues early is an excellent idea that improves outcomes. I’m not at all upset with the well-meaning doctor but I want to offer him relevant resources so that he may betterĀ  guide and give hope to other patients.

Anyway… here are the numbers:

Stella weighs 27 pounds, which puts her between the 50th and 75th percentiles.

She’s 36 inches tall, which lands her at the 95th percentile.

I know it’s completely batshit insane, but both Cody and I got totally verklempt when we heard these numbers. I know. I know. They don’t even really matter. I know. And I also know you’re thinking, “Why? Why on earth would we still have such a reaction? What is WRONG with you people?”

Sigh. Actually, we’ve discovered a new diagnosis in our family and I will touch on that in a future post. It explains so much. But for now, I’ll expound upon our insanity regarding Stella’s weight. Worry lingered because many openly note how lean Stella is, and those comments can really come across the wrong way and reinforce old fears. Because sometimes she’s too busy to eat and we see that through a filter of our distant tube-feeding past rather than viewing it as the normal toddler behavior it is. Because she just went on a long trip to the east coast, started wearing an eye patch, had two pesky gastrointestinal bugs in the past four weeks, and has been known to throw eating pretty much out the window in the face of disruptions. Because despite our intellectual understanding that she has long been healthy and happily eating to fuel perfectly Stella-appropriate growth, we remained a little too vigilant.

To his immense credit, the doctor must have understood the essence of all this. He paused to celebrate her growth, acknowledged all we’d been through when she was an adorable but feeding-averse baby, and then he smiled at me and said, “It’s over.” Those words hit me like a truck. This is a new era. She’s two. She is three freaking feet tall! And she’s fine. Glasses, eye patch, temper, and all. I feel it in my bones now. Worry doesn’t ever go away when you’re a parent, but right now, for the first time perhaps since Stella was born, I know she is okay. We are okay. It’s all okay.

I get it. For real this time. Pinky swear!

Stella at FarFar's in Duxbury

Stella ate her weight (27 pounds) in deliciously high-butterfat ice cream at FarFar's Danish Ice Cream Shop in Duxbury, MA.

Stella is two.

Stella is two. She wishes she lived at the beach.

Stella is two. She wishes she lived at the beach.

Stella turned two years old last week, during our beach vacation. She’s still singing happy birthday to herself, talking about birthday cake, and reminiscing about blowing out candles and good times with her “Happy Birthday balloon with smiley faces.” The balloon was accidentally released into the sky, but the sight of it drifting to ever more impossible heights pleased everyone, including Stella, and somehow seemed appropriate and celebratory. I know what you’re thinking. “How nice!” and “Hopefully no sea animals were killed by the balloon remnants.”

So Stella’s two now. All of sudden, she talks in complete sentences, giving crucial information, and answering questions. (Yeah, she shouts commands, but mastered that long ago. I guess they’re just more specific now.) Though she can string words together like a champ, it’s the short one-liners I enjoy most. Must be the advertising copywriter in me. Some examples of dialogue:

Me, in response to her crying: “What’s wrong?”
Stella: “My belly hurts! And my knee.”


Me: “Where are your glasses?”
Stella (walks over to the table, where her specs sit): “Right there!”


Stella: “I’m running! I’m running down the street!”
Me: “Yes you are running! Running down the street!”


Stella (returning to room after leaving for 5 seconds): “I’m BACK!”

Now that Stella is two, she treats her glasses with more care. She usually takes them off with two hands and carefully folds them before handing them to me. We switched to using magic tape over her right lens, instead of a solid patch, at her ophthalmologist’s suggestion. That’s made patching harder, I think because her right eye is still getting input but it’s really bad input, instead of being totally blocked out. But overall, she’s patching like a champ. When she peeks over the top of the glasses, I say “No peeking,” and that usually stops it at least for a little while. I use screen time as the “patch game”… so if she peeks while watching say, “Here Comes Science” DVD, I say “No peeking,” and if she peeks again, I turn off the TV and say, “You’re peeking so the patch game is over.” It works pretty well! Stella’s doctor was very helpful in coming up with strategies like these.

Stella really likes to nap. She asks to nap often. I’ve heard patching causes strain that can make kids cranky and tired. Plus, we went on a long vacation that involved a three-hour time change. In any case, this kid knows when she’s tired, and I totally appreciate that.

Her raw/giant-carrot-chomping phase seems to have waned, but Stella is now eating lemons like they’re apples, waxy rind and all. Her current favorite foods are: chocolate ice cream, mac and cheese, vanilla ice cream, extra cheesy mac and cheese, sliced almonds, peaches, cheese in any form, ice cream, cottage cheese, bagels, and carrots. And ice cream and mac and cheese. We are so alike in some ways.

We gave her a really cute wooden play kitchen center thingee for her birthday. She loves it–washing dishes and putting lids on pots, turning stove knobs, and removing the faucet. I’ve been letting her play with dried beans and bowls and my large kitchen utensils for a while. She’s really kicking things up a notch now and pretending to cook. Though she hasn’t made anything but mac and cheese yet, I expect her to branch out soon, menu-wise.

Stella is completely, 110% obsessed with the aforementioned “Here Comes Science” DVD featuring music videos for science-centric songs by They Might Be Giants (TMBG). Against my idealistic intentions, I let her watch it every day, because it’s an effective way of launching the “eye patch game” (the game? wearing her patch). During vacation, she watched it two or three times a day. She watched more TV that week than the rest of her life combined. She was teething, jet-lagged, patching, and got a fever and gastro bug, so I just let her go nuts with it (though at times I really did just have to start cutting her off). It was all worth it because now I get to hear appropriately bespectacled Stella belt out scientific yet catchy gems such as:

“ROY G. BIV is a colorful man!”


“Meet the elemeeeeeents!”

She is fiery and fabulous and has me by the balls. She’s sweet and strong and fast as lightening. She’s a ruthless tyrant and cuddly snuggler. A monkey and a mastermind. She’ll read book after book after book until the cows come home, then happily “moo” right along with them. I may be diagnosed with severe OCD for admitting this, but I say, mostly in my head but sometimes out loud, at least hundred times a day in the exact same way, “I sure do love my Stelly girl.” I really, really, really do.


For your enjoyment, in celebration of Stella’s 2nd birthday, here are the “music videos” (do they still call them that?) corresponding with the lyrics above:




I’ll post a birthday pic