Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Top 5 Pet Peeves as a Mom of a Child on the Spectrum

Since plunging into the special needs world last fall, not having realized before then that I was actually a member of this particular parenting club and had been for a solid three years, I've discovered amazing support, advice and friendships.  I've also discovered that there are things that I never, ever could have imagined, things that people do and say have shocked me and made me feel sick to my stomach since joining this particular parenting "club."
In general, when it comes to questions about autism, I'm pretty hard to offend and tend to be an open book.  I think that genuine questions are great and I love answering them.

Part of spreading the type of autism awareness (and acceptance) that I'm on board with promoting involves answering questions and so far I can't think of any that I've been asked that I haven't been willing to take the time to answer.  

Still, I have to admit there are comments and statements that cause an instant, knee jerk, less than charitable response to come spilling out of my mouth (or keyboard) and today I felt especially inspired to write a post about them.  Here are my absolute pet peeves as a mom who loves a little girl who sees the world a little bit differently than everyone else, with all my heart. 

Pet Peeve #1- People who prey on vulnerable families to make a few bucks.  There's one thing that can get a comment deleted faster than just about anything else (okay, other than out and out profanity since that's so easy to spot).  It's linking to a site that promises to cure my child's autism in 5 easy steps (or whatever it is they're selling).  

These people have learned that there's money in taking advantage of parents who are often desperate enough to try just about anything to try to do something that they think will help they're child, and they're trying to ride that fear all the way to the bank, even if it means doing something like... oh, I don't know... encouraging parents to have their children drink bleach.  

It's easy to spot these sites.  They generally promise to "cure" or "resolve" your child's autism for the low, low price of $xxxx (generally not a low price at all... but come on, it's worth it, right?).  Just fork over the money (sorry, what they're selling isn't even evaluated by any medical body, so insurance won't help) and they'll give you back a shiny new neurotypical child.  

Think of it this way.  Autism is in the news a lot.  Actual progress in helping autistic people, and even not so helpful stuff, makes the news, a lot.  Do you think that if there really were a "cure" it would be on some obscure website begging to take your credit card to ship it to you in the mail (let's not even delve into what I think about the idea of a cure for a certain way or processing information, that is and has been it's very own post)?

Run, don't walk, if you come across these types of snake oil salespeople.  

Pet Peeve #2- Scare Tactics.  I know I've talked about this before, maybe a little too much, so I'll try to keep this short and sweet and not name names.  Any organization/person who tells you that your life or your marriage is over because on your children has gotten an autism diagnosis from a doctor is out of their mind.  Remember that they don't know you or your family.  

Every person in the world faces their own difficulties in life.  Some challenges are harder than others, but they're each our own and I don't find reading about how afraid I should be to be at all helpful.  It doesn't help me reach out to my daughter or communicate with her, in fact, it absolutely could hinder it if I embrace the notion that her way of communicating is somehow inferior to the ways in which the majority of people communicate.  

The first time I used a therapy technique I learned that involved imitating Mae's sounds and motions, her whole face lit up.  We couldn't even go on because she wouldn't stop hugging and kissing me, over and over again.  She was thrilled that I was attempting to communicate with her on her own terms.  And suddenly she was much, much more interested in trying to communicate in more typical ways, as if somehow I'd extended a hand and was helping her over the span of distance (in communicating) that stood between us, by showing my interest in her own favorite form of communicating.

If I'd embraced the fear and had reacted as if her way of communicating was wrong, I don't know if we ever could have reached the point we reached in that very first session.  

So I'm not a fan of any method that uses fear to spread "awareness."  Even if fear is a lucrative marketing tool.

Pet Peeve #3- Studies that Announce How Mom is to Blame This Week.  Nearly every week a study is released, and is quickly picked up by the major networks, claiming to have discovered the underlying cause for autism.  9 out of 10 times, it's something that the mother did at some point along the line.  

In the "olden days" (a few decades ago) doctors blamed refrigerator moms for "giving their kids autism by being too cold."  Things have changed, but not all that much.  Now if you ask people why they think the autism rates are "increasing" (I lean more towards the idea that doctors are more aware of the various signs of autism and how to identify it, so there are more accurate diagnosis' for kids who would have gone without help a decade ago) they'll often say something like:  "It's because moms eat too much junk food."  

Today I learned that Mae's autism was "caused" by the spinal that I had with my c-section.  Last week I'm pretty sure I read something that said that it was because I brushed my teeth with toothpaste that had fluoride in it.  I'm awaiting the day when there's a study that says something like: "All mother's of kids with autism have, at some point in their lives, imbibed water!  Water causes autism!"  

It's ridiculous.  

Pet Peeve # 4- There are people who actually say: I hate "autism moms."  Did you know that there are people who actually go around sharing that they feel this way?  It's a sentiment I've seen splashed across the internet. There are actually quite a few women out there who feel the need to share this every single time they hear the word autism.  

It's weird.  I mean, generally it's not socially acceptable to say "I hate (fill in the blank with a group of people you believe a stereotype about and just can't stand)."  It's just not.  But I'd say that while reading about autism I come across this at least once a week, if not more often.  

Generally, if someone decides to feed the troll by responding, they'll spout something about how they raise kids that are spoiled brats and don't expect anything from them.  

I'm sure there are probably autism parents that let their kids get away with a lot, just like there are parents of neurotypical kids that let their kids get away with just about anything... I've just never met any.  Most of the parents of kids on the spectrum that I know, are trying to help their kids be the best they can be and that absolutely involves consequences and discipline (something I know I should write about more!  It's just not something I've thought much about writing on, since I'm usually trying to think of the more positive aspects of our day to share).  

So these types of total blanket statements always have me shaking my head... and they have me wondering why so many people think it's an acceptable view to share with others!

Pet Peeve #5- Anyone who Talks About Autism and Eugenics in the Same Breath.  I'm not sure how much I can elaborate on this one without breaking off into a rant about how evil this is.  Because it is evil.  Can I tell you how incredibly, incredibly grateful I am that there isn't a prenatal test for autism?  I'm so, so grateful.  I don't even want to think what the "termination" rate would be for those poor babes that came back as potentially being autistic.  

If you doubt this is true, try reading articles about mom's who kill their autistic children.  Generally women who kill their children are vilified in our culture.  Unless that child was autistic, in which case both the media coverage and the public reaction to the media coverage involves a sudden understanding of why the mother did it, because our society is very, very quick to put those who are different from the norm into a category that is somehow less than human, and apparently less deserving of our protection than baby seals or endangered whales.  

I absolutely believe that this is in large part a result of people who indulge in the fear mongering I mentioned in Pet Peeve #2 and it's part of why I take that sort of tactic so very seriously.  Dehumanizing people is never an appropriate fundraising technique and it has far reaching consequences.  

And that is my list of things that drive me crazy about this zany world that we live in and it's approach to dealing with those on the spectrum!

Occupational Therapy and Our Sensory Seeking Whirlwind: A Mae Update

I look at this picture now and think:
This is what she wanted to wear all the time
when she was 18 months old.
Yup... I'm pretty sure the sensory processing
issues were already in full swing...
Yesterday was the in home Occupational Therapy evaluation for Maggie.

The focus as the moment, as we knew it would be, is on Mae's sensory processing problems.  As some of you may remember, when we first started this whole journey, before we had an autism diagnosis, I started reading about SPD (sensory processing disorder) and was stopped in my tracks.  "This is Mae."  I thought over and over again.

At the time I contacted the government website that I found while googling that is supposed to set up evaluations and was promised that I'd be contacted in two weeks for an evaluation, since she was still two at the time.  Instead the weeks slipped by, she turned three and Early On turned her over to the local school district who said they would contact me the following school year (September 2013).  I sometimes wonder if we'll ever hear from them, just out of curiosity not that we've found the resources on our own.  It's been 11 months since I filled out that form and was told we'd hear from them in two weeks and so far... nothing.  But I digress...  Back to yesterday.

Mae is autistic, and like the majority of kids with autism (the number I've heard quoted is 3/4, although that's totally unverified... it's just what I've seen thrown around) she has SPD.  Gina wrote a great post on SPD yesterday for anyone interested in learning more, that was timely since the subject has been on my mind as we've gone through Mae's OT evals.

Here's what I've learned about our girl, and sensory processing, in the past year.

Your child might have sensory issues
if... they like to hang out in the heating vents
because they feel like hugs...
or something...
Sensory processing problems can present in a lot of different ways.  Some kids have a very low threshold for sensory stimulation.  Sounds or lights or touch that wouldn't bother someone with normal sensory responses, might be unbearable for people on this end of the sensory scale.  Sadie actually likely falls on this end of the scale with her auditory processing (that's another post I've been meaning to write, but my mind is still so blown by everything I've learned in the past few weeks that it might take me a little while to process all the information).

There are also kids like Mae.  She's a sensory seeker.  That means that her threshold for feeling things is much, much higher than the normal person and she needs to have those sensory needs met before her body can really begin to function in the way that she wants it to.

On some of the scales Mae tested as a normal kid.  She has "normal" muscle tone and endurance (Okay, I could help but think "Normal?  Really?  Normal? By normal do you mean, super human?"). She scored in the normal range on emotional responses.

For many of the tests she tested as having a milder problems, like for things like visual processing, which for Mae includes liking low, dim lighting, but also liking to stare into scorching bright light sources.

Things get more dramatic when it comes to her vestibular dysfunction and especially proprioceptive dysfunction.  Her vestibular dysfunction basically means that she has a hard time processing her bodies movements, equilibrium and position.  Using my limited not-a-doctor understanding, I'll try my best to explain it as I understand it.

I think sometimes
when I say that Mae has
super hero strength
people don't
believe me.
So I show them
this picture.
She doesn't quite feel things the way most people do.  When she spins around, she doesn't get dizzy.  She can run and jump and go on roller coasters all day long and her body doesn't really register that she's been doing those things.  She craves them, but they don't really effect her, other than the immediate moment when she's in motion and thrilled to be spinning/jumping/flying through the air.  She loves to hang upside down and sleep hanging half off of her bed.

I imagine vestibular dysfunction is strongly related to all the things that break in this house (proprioceptive dysfunction, which I'll get to next, likely plays a huge role too!).

One of the highest scores for difficulties for our little bunny, came in the form of proprioceptive dysfunction.  This also involves her brain's processing of her position in space, but it also includes how her body processes input from her muscles about weight, pressure, stretching and movement.  Right now her body just doesn't process those things like everyone else's does.

Kids like Mae, with proprioceptive dysfunction, are often crashing into things.  They often love to be tightly wrapped up (like Mae does in her weighted vest), or when she burrows into blankets, and usually love roughhousing and jumping off of things.  Squeezing into the vent and trying to squish herself between the couch and the wall would also be part of her proprioceptive difficulties.

All of these actions are simply ways that her brain is trying to meet her bodies sensory needs, with an extremely high threshold.

Of course describing all the test results would take pages and pages and would range from what I've talked about here to loving things like spicy strong tasting foods and smells.

So what happens now?  Now with all the information that the therapists have come up with they begin formulating a special "sensory diet" for her, so that we can help her meet her body's needs over the course of the day so that she can complete the other "ordinary" tasks that are expected of her without her body causing her to have problems that she has difficulty controlling.  In other words, every couple hours I'll have activities that I need to be doing with her, to help her meet her sensory needs.

If only we had a room with
a climbing wall...
I'm trying not to think too hard about what this means for our schedule, which apart from what I'll be doing with her as part of her sensory diet, involves 7 therapy sessions each week at the moment, along with whatever doctor's appointments we have scheduled.  It'll work. It has to.

One of our main challenges at the moment is finding equipment that Mae's exuberant play won't destroy.  I explained how last year I used Mae's birthday money to set up her own little gym with special sensory equipment, with a indoor rice/bean sand box, an enclosed trampoline, and a sit and spin, and within months the screws had been ripped out of the sit and spin, the metal had come apart on the trampoline and the rice and bean box was making her sick since she wouldn't stop eating it (raw) and had to be moved outside.  So there are challenges coming up with equipment that is exceptionally sturdy for our daring whirlwind.

And that is the latest Mae update.

I'm not sure I could have imagined last summer all that I would learn in this past year... As I write this I almost feel like special needs parents get hands on degrees in a variety of fields based on their kids needs.  What a year it's been!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Choosing Joy in the Midst of Chaos.

Last night, as I sat on the middle of the bed scrubbing Paul's computer, backpack, the walls, the windows, the window sill, the silky curtains I made not that long ago, the quilts on our bed, the sheets and every area that Mae's little three year old hands had touched I found myself thinking about how I was feeling at that moment, and how I could have been feeling and how much of a choice I actually had in the matter.  As I replaced the sheets and went down to the basement to search out new sheets, the thoughts stayed with me.

I could have been upset.  It could have ruined the entire day.

Maggie had yet again proved that no baby gate can hold her when she broke down the five foot gate that blocks the door to her room and snuck into the master bedroom while Paul and Sadie and I were still downstairs cleaning up after Easter dinner.  She'd found Patch's special doctor ordered allergy ointment, a mixture of crisco and vaseline, mixed with cortisone, and had smeared it everywhere (she loves that stuff, which is why I had hidden it in our room... a room she seldom is allowed into).  By the time she was done not only was it covering one half of our room, but she had a couple inches of it smeared into her hair, just in time for today's OT meeting with her newest therapist.

Then she strolled downstairs to show us that she wasn't quite ready for bed yet.

Paul was doing the dishes and taking out the trash and had been talking about how glad he was to be getting out of the house so early with the first week of finals beginning in a few days and projects and papers still unfinished.  I was vacuuming up the egg that Patch had crushed into the carpet in the playroom and sweeping up the spinach that Mae had shredded and thrown on the floor (just before splashing olive oil in my dress at dinner time with a mischievous smile).  Sadie was headed upstairs to brush her teeth when she met her sister on the stairs and shrieked.

And thus the course of the evening was changed for the entire family.  Paul and I dropped everything.  He took a now shrieking, sobbing Mae into the bathroom to try to wash off as much of the ointment as he could (there are few things she hates like having her hair washed... and he's the only one who's strong enough to safely do it at this point), as I began the cleanup process.

By then it had been a long day.  We'd been up for a long time.  We'd missed receiving the Eucharist after a meltdown an hour into Mass.  Everyone was tired (well almost everyone...).  We're starting Sadie's first grade year today and I had a lot to do once everyone was tucked into bed.

Yet as I sat on the bed I found myself smiling.  There are many things that I can't really control in life, but one thing I can control is how I react to what's going on around me.  I can choose joy over anger and frustration (although I'll admit, as we left Mass I felt like frustration was winning... it's definitely a process, and I'm thankful for the grace that allows me to stumble along through it).

At that moment, I could hear Paul talking softly to Maggie in the other room, his voice somehow carrying through the hallways of our old house over the sound of the running water, explaining that she was a little bunny who'd gotten into something she wasn't supposed to have and that meant that we had to get her cleaned up.

As I scrapped the ointment off the sheets and tried to organize the cleanup process, I thought more about my choice.  I could get upset.  I could let my knee jerk reaction to scrapping a think oily ointment off everything from the satin curtains to the beautiful delicate Amish quilt that we received as a gift from my parents when we got married, ruin the night as quickly as the ointment had ruined the curtains.

Or I could think of how amazing the little three year old getting her hair washed in the next room actually is.  How she practically has super hero strength.  How determined she is. How daring she is.  How, when she sets her mind to something, she remains undeterred, despite our best attempts at diverting her.  I found myself smiling and even laughing as I thought of all the ways she'd surprised us over the past few years.

And the cleanup? It went much faster as I marveled at the number of baby gates we'd gone through (I've lost count) and as I thought that perhaps she has a future as a product tester.  She has scaled a sheer 6 foot gate.  She's broken the metal legs off a space heater.  She's yanked a huge bolt out of the wall to remove a heating vent screen.  We have a wooden table that she snapped into three pieces.

I could be upset at the path of destruction that has run across the house these past couple years.  Instead I'm choosing to be amazed.  Things are just things.  They can be replaced.  More often I realize we didn't really need (fill in the blank with something that has been broken) anyways.

And that amazing happy little girl who's always getting into things?  I can't imagine my house without her little chirping laughter filling every corner.

Watching her play with her brother and sister, watching her eyes light up as she sprinted around the yard picking up eggs and then carefully arranged them in her basket, watching her grow and learn and press her tomatoes into my hand at dinner last night while carefully saying "one, two, three, four..." those moments, wouldn't be the same if she wasn't exactly the person that she is, and that includes her amazing strength, both of will and of her little limbs.

If I focused on what has been broken, on the messes that I find myself cleaning up day after day, on the meltdowns, life would be pretty dark... but if I remind myself that those are simply some of the various colors that are being used to make the beautiful, original painting that is Mae's life, than the lows no longer seem all that low.

Determined, strong, independent: these are traits that will serve her well as she works through whatever challenges she faces in the future and while it may mean a little extra clean up for me, it is absolutely and completely worth it.  I may not be able to choose the challenges that we face as a family, I can certainly chose the attitude with which I will face them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter! Answers, Dresses and Easter Egg Hunting!

He is Risen!  Happy Easter to all of you!  I hope the Easter season is getting off to a joyful start!  The kids woke up bright and early and were ready to race downstairs and... ignore their baskets?  I was baffled.  At least Sadie rushed straight over.  Maggie and Patch ran into the playroom without giving them a second glance.  

I thought I'd share a few of the photos we snapped today, while participating in a couple of my favorite link ups! 

1. What did you and your family wear to Mass on Easter Sunday?

They were in fine form this morning... we made it through 60 minutes of Mass before the meltdown from a certain someone reaches such proportions that we had to leave (in the autism world a meltdown has some things in common with a normal meltdown... kind of like a hurricane has some things in common with a storm... and I'm learning more and more when it's time to say "well, we made it through an hour and the homily was just finished so... we're not going to be here for communion today...").  

I had brought the weighted lap pad, and it worked really well for about 45 minutes, but our time was up.

It was really, really hard to leave early on Easter... but there really wasn't any alternative.

A long time ago I bought the kids Easter clothes on Zulily and they loved them.  They'll be wearing them for Paul's graduation and then I'll finally cave and let them wear them every single day as dress up clothes... which is what they'd really like to do.  Until then I'm trying to keep them nice!

She found a picture of Jesus and sat and cuddled it and kept putting it down to fold her hands in prayer.
My heart pretty much melted.  Enough that I quickly snapped a picture because I want to remember this moment
forever and ever.

This was the best of the pictures with the kids.  As always, someone's not looking and someone's crying.  It's another holiday classic:

I just had to share these too.  See from the front, you can't really tell my waistline is rapidly expanding.  I actually made it all the way home thinking, "Wow, this dress really hides my bump!  You can't even tell that I'm pregnant."

And then I saw this second photo... I'm definitely still showing from the side, even with the full skirt:

(Linking up with FLAP for WIWS!  For more WIWS click here!)

2. Easter Bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?


We don't teach the kids that the Easter Bunny is real, just like we don't do Santa in that way, but they still think he's pretty funny, kind of like they thought Winnie the Pooh and Mickie Mouse at Disney World were pretty awesome, and they still got baskets and waited impatiently inside while I hid their eggs.

It's not really something we talk about a lot, just like I don't say "this isn't a real story" when we read a fairy tale, although sometimes Sadie does ask "Is this a real story?" and then happily accepts the answer whether it's a yes or a no.  

And when it was time to search they were thrilled to go out and track down the eggs. 

It was definitely the best egg hunt we've ever had.  All three kids searched for eggs and were putting eggs into their baskets.  Mae only picked up the candy eggs, but within minutes her basket was overflowing and she was carefully rearranging her eggs into the most space efficient arrangement.  Patch got the most real eggs.  He also saw Mae drop and egg and picked it up and chased after her and put it back in her basket:

3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or at someone else's house?

Our own house.  Definitely our own house.  After all, at someone else's house I'm going to do a lot of chasing Maggie down making sure she doesn't break anything.

At our house she's already broken everything that is even vaguely breakable (metal heaters, curtain rods... furniture...), so I don't have to be on my toes 24/7 making sure she hasn't found a new and inventive way to get into trouble.

I mean, even when people say "it's okay, we have kids, there's nothing she can break!" I'm like... "Um... you really haven't seen her in action... She can pretty much scale anything... She can snap metal in two...":
Besides.  I'm kind of a homebody.
4. What is your favorite kind of candy?

Anything chocolate.  Does chocolate count as candy?  Let's go with yes.

And that's why having basically all chocolate banned for the past year because of Patrick's allergies (and the fact that he was nursing) just about did me in.  I have definitely been enjoying having it again since he's been weaned.

But it is the one thing that makes me a little sad about our Easter Baskets.  Two out of three kids can't eat 99% of the chocolate that's out there.  I do have a chocolate bunny hidden for Sadie that I'm going to bring out tonight once they go to bed though!

5. Do you like video games?

Nope.  I knew too many people in high school and college that were complete consumed by them and pretty much stayed inside playing them all the time... and that made me not a fan... 

6. Do you speak another language?

Fluently?  No.  

I'd be okay though if I were scooped up and dumped in quite a few places.

I've taken college classes in Japanese (3 semesters) and isiXhosa (when I was at University of Cape Town and French and Spanish and German and I learned quite a bit of Mandarin (and a tiny bit of Cantonese) through my friends and employers in college (I'd probably say that when I was using them every day I knew more Spanish and Mandarin than any of the others), but after hardly using anything other than Mae's Spanish for the past half decade I'm pretty rusty.  

Although if Mae keeps on insisting that Spanish is her favorite way of communicating I guess I'll have to start picking it up again!

I'm kind of a language junky.  I can't wait until we start working on a second language in our little school.  

Now to get back to the little ruffians.  Mae was so exhausted from all the egg hunting and running around that she's fallen asleep on the living room floor and Patch and Sadie have been watching frozen for the 1,547th time (parenting fail:  When the priest said: "He is Risen."  Sadie responded with: "He is Frozen indeed." because she has Frozen on the brain.)

I hope you had a fantastic first day of Easter! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Prep: Baskets, Eggs and an Out of Control Cat

Last year I poured a lot of thought into the Easter Baskets... this year I went down to the basement and found a few gifts I'd collected over the past few months during really good sales and was just thankful that I could find an even amount for everyone.  Somewhere around here are some beautiful holy cards I wanted to add in to, but I just couldn't' find them tonight.  

Here are the finished baskets:

Sadie will find a My Little Pony, a magnetic story telling board, a small coloring book, and 1 stick of jelly candies.
Mae will find a My Little Pony, magnetic mermaid wooden dolls, a small coloring book, and a stick of jelly candies.
And Patch will find a electronic toy "book," a soft backpack with little play school supplies in it, a small coloring book, and a stick of jelly candies. 
 After I put the babies to bed, Sadie and I dyed the eggs for tomorrow's egg hunt in the backyard:

 Then it was off to bed for her so that Kittyfish and I could throw together the baskets:

As you can imagine, Kittyfish was a big help.  Until he completely lost his mind and started tearing around the room:

The sun is down and I imagine many of you are at the Vigil Mass now or on your way home from it!

Happy Easter!  I think I'm going to call it a night soon so that I can at least make an honest attempt at keeping up with the kids tomorrow!

Maggie tries out her weighted lap pad...

I've been planning the last few details for tomorrow, but before I posted anything about that I wanted to pause for a moment and share this picture.

I love it.

It was snapped as Maggie examined the weighted lap pad that I made for her for the first time.  

She did actually like it... as did her brother and sister.  I have a feeling I'm going to be making more of these in the near future:

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's the Small Things... A Story of a "Slumber Party"

Maggie on a non-slumber
party day, trying
not to get into her own bed!
All day today Sadie had one thing on her mind.  Bed time.  She couldn't wait for it.  From the moment she got up she could hardly speak of anything else.

Oh there were a few detours for Good Friday.  She knows what today is and each conversation about today was always followed by the word "and what does that mean the day after tomorrow is?", spoken in an excited tone.

Then she'd go back to bedtime.  "I have a surprise planned" she'd say.  "It's a secret."

As we packed in all the errands that I was finally getting to get done this afternoon while having a car and Paul around to help with the kids before the insanity of finals begins next week, she kept talking about her plan.  "How many hours until bedtime?" she asked.  "Four hours?  That's not too long.  It's a secret.  Maggie and I are having a party."

"It's a secret." Paul asked with a smile.

"It's a surprise."  Sadie replied, as he tried not to laugh.  "And we're going to get dresses out of the closet.  But you don't know what they look like.  Because it's going to be a secret for me and Maggie."

By that point Paul was laughing and joking that she obviously got her surprise keeping abilities from me.

"And there's a dress, and it's going to be pink and brown.  There are fairy dresses in there.  I can't remember what color Maggie's is."

"I hope you girls don't get too wild."  I told her over and over again throughout the day with a laugh, knowing they were going to.

"Maggie will probably get wild.  Wearing pink makes her wild."  Sadie would reply.

"Oh, is that what it is?  Wearing pink?"  I'd say, laughing.  And blue, and red, and yellow, and green and purple, apparently.

"Wearing pink makes Maggie wild."

This conversation went on all day long.  Sadie brought it up over and over again.  She could hardly wait until bedtime.

Finally it was time for bedtime.  I picked up Maggie's sleeper and she saw me and ran over excitedly.  Sadie had already put on a princess nightgown and was galloping around the room talking about how much fun it would be.  I was surprised Mae came over so quickly, she loves bedtime, but she's not usually a fan of changing her clothes.  She slipped into the pink sleeper with white polka dots and then quickly looked around the room.

Spying what she was searching for she ran over and picked up a pink princess dress with a tulle skirt and brought it to me and then stood while I put it on over her sleeper.

Mae pretty much never sleeps in a dress.  She's not a huge fan of change.  She's also not a fan of changing her clothing.  And here she was handing me a pink dress and excitedly putting it on after hearing her sister talk all day about how they were going to have a party wearing pink dresses.

A few minutes later Maggie and Sadie were having their "party" which involved jumping on their beds together in their pink dresses.  Twenty minutes later I peeked in when I heard Sadie say "no Maggie!" and saw that to her big sister's dismay, Mae was fast asleep wrapped in blankets on the floor.

The party had ended.

I'm still pretty excited though.  Maggie heard her sister talking about having a "sister party" all day long and how they would wear pink dresses and Maggie decided to change her regular routine and excitedly went to the "party."

I have a feeling that there's quite a few more slumber parties in our immediate future.

7 Quick Takes Friday

Kittyfish spent last night try to break down my door to force me to accept the mouse that he'd caught for me.

I'm beginning to suspect that he doubts my own mouse catching skills and thinks I would starve if he wasn't dropping mice on the floor next to my bed.

Well... at least it's the floor and not my pillow.  And at least that's one less mouse to scamper by and scare me at random times throughout the day.  He certainly is doing his job!

Sometimes when I read reports on what parents need to do to do what's "best" for their child, I kind of find myself shaking my head.  The latest study, which I ran across last night was about the evils of forward facing strollers.  It basically says that because children face forward in most strollers, parents don't talk to them as much, and because parents don't talk to them as much, it's changing brain development and is harmful to the child.

In the end something is thrown in saying it's about a baby needing comfort when they're overwhelmed, next to a picture of a baby that's pretty young to be sitting upright in a stroller, in an upright stroller, and I actually think they might have done better taking that direction (for very small babies), but since most of the article (and studies from what is mentioned) is about children facing forward and the possibility that it damages language development, I find the claim that forward facing strollers are damaging to kids to be kind of silly.

I should probably start by saying I can't really speak to how tiny babies experience sitting forward facing in a stroller.  None of the strollers we've had were supposed to be used with tiny babies.  Patch pretty much lived in a moby wrap for the first six months of his life, and when we go on walks I keep using the carrier quite about that first year, gradually increasing the amount of time in a stroller as they get bigger.  As the kids grow they're usually pretty excited to be in the stroller taking in their surroundings.  They're seeing people and animals and cars go by and are happy to be getting out and about.

And I just don't see that damaging their brain or language development.

I can't help but think that the pressure placed on parents to make sure their children's brains are stimulated every single second of those first formative years is kind of ridiculous.  You'd think that in past centuries mothers poured every moment of their days into paying attention to their children and did nothing else, when that simply wasn't the case.

I guess I just get tired of this whole push to spend every minute on worrying about how little brain's are developing, when the business of living, going out and about, playing inside and out, is exactly what those little brains need to be healthy.  Sometimes that means talking and sometimes that means watching the world pass by and noticing a bird chirping in a tree of a bicyclist flying down the street.

Last night I tucked the girls into bed and then walked into the other room and heard instant giggling.  I waited and listened and finally peeked in and found Sadie sitting on Mae's bed, explaining something to her in detail (not sure what it was, but it included something like "and then you turn around and...") while Mae lay smiling with her head next to her sisters lap, staring up at her.  This was followed by a solid hour of giggling and running and jumping before they both finally fell asleep exhausted.

I think that even if we had enough rooms for everyone to have their own, I would still have shared rooms, because watching them have "slumber parties" every night has been amazing.

Has anyone else found themselves so much more tempted by whatever they gave up for lent, this week?  I found my brain trying to justify why it would be okay to drink a soda because "it's holy week" a couple of days ago.  I resisted but... it was tough!

I don't think we're attempting going to the Good Friday service today... with the struggles we've been having at Mass lately and me getting faint and Mae desperate to go into the Church to praise God in her own little way, I think it would be too disastrous.

While taking a break from writing Quick Takes I checked in with the Today Show where I occasionally get a chance to watch a few clips to get my news for the morning.  The story of the sherpas who lost their life on Mt Everest in an avalanche came up and I began to listen and then I heard this:

"No, I couldn't tell you the name of any of the sherpas who are up there.  The biggest tragedy of this is that it's the very beginning of the season.  And to lose this number of people at the very beginning of the season may be the end of the season here."

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 I'm actually pretty that this being the possible "end to the season" and that some very wealthy adventure seekers may not be able to live out their dreams of climbing Everest this year, isn't the biggest tragedy occurring here.

And I totally missed that Quick Takes had been canceled for the day, but, since I already wrote them, I might as well hit post!

That Ad on the "World's Toughest Job"

Have you seen the new, controversial Mother's Day add where the greeting card people set up fake interviews for the "toughest job in the world.]?"  At the end of it you find out that this horribly impossible job that they've been describing is actually being a mom and then everybody gets all mushy and starts thanking their moms for everything they've done.

I'll start by saying that my first thought while watching it was that I really hoped those people were actors and not actual job seekers.  Maybe it's remembering Paul applying for jobs in 2008 when the recession was at it's height, but I just find it cruel to get people's hopes up about a job that doesn't actually exist, if that's what they're actually doing.  But I'll try to put that aside and move on to the part that's causing the most controversy... what they actually say moms do.

I find myself somewhere in the middle when hearing the claims made about how true or false the add is.  On the one hand I really dislike how impossible and miserable the description makes motherhood out to be.  I love my "job."  Good days and not so good days, I wouldn't trade it for any other in the world.

And I don't think it's the hardest job in the world.  Soldiers on the front lines, people working down in mines... I'm sure we could come up with quite a list of impossibly hard jobs.

Still, I've also seen claims of "motherhood really isn't that hard" and "moms don't really do that" and I find myself thinking... I do a lot of those things... and this definitely is the most difficult job I've ever had.  So I thought I'd talk about what I found true and false and what I found completely missed the mark about the greeting card ad.

I do find myself on my feet most of the days.  Even when we're out it's not like I can sit down and watch Mae play at the park.  She's taking off every 15 seconds and I'm taking off after her.  I've managed to sit a little more lately, while in the midst of the first trimester exhaustion, but that was mostly by saying things like "we're having cereal for dinner" and letting the kitchen fall into complete disarray (I finally had the energy to wrangle it back under control yesterday), so it definitely isn't something that's practical to let happen all the time.

There aren't many breaks, at least not while Paul's in law school. But there are some.  After all, I'm typing this right now.  But at this point in parenthood for us... date nights that involve leaving the house happen less than once a year... So that sort of break doesn't come along all that often, mostly because of the age of our kids and where we are at life at the moment.

I do sleep though and my lack of sleep on certain days has more to do with how many orders I need to make and less to do with my kids' sleeping habits since for the most part they're pretty good sleepers.

I can eat just about whenever I want.  In fact, at least when Paul is gone, I think I usually end up eating before they do, simply because I grab a snack while making their meals.  Sometimes I'm too tired to eat, but I think that has more to do with early pregnancy being exhausting and less to do with being a mom.  

And I don't really find the no pay part to be true because by staying home I've found many, many ways to help my family spend less, likely more than I'd make with my not-very-lucrative liberal arts degree in my part of the country, in today's market, if I were to factor in child care and all the other costs that would go along with being outside the home.

Expertise in finance and cooking and medicine would be valuable, but degrees certainly aren't necessary.  The real world experience of being a parent will fill in the gaps pretty quickly (and if you have a special needs child you'll find yourself learning more about certain subjects than you could ever have imagined before).

The most problematic part of the entire thing for me is the tone that motherhood is impossibly difficult, and that it would even be cruel to suggest someone to undertake such a task.  That misses the mark, leaving out the immeasurable beauty and blessings that come along with helping children grow and learn.  

Motherhood is different for different people.  It varies wildly depending on your kids and their temperaments, how much family support you have, and even your own personality (not to mention many other factors).

Sure it can be difficult, but most of what is worth having in life isn't easy to attain or achieve.  And in my limited experience as a mom, having this "job" has offered me far, far more in so many ways which are immeasurable than it has cost me.  If I could go back I'd pick this path again in a heartbeat!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mae's Super Cat

Okay, I'm may be the only one in the world who found Patch and Maggie playing with their stuffed cats funny, but I just had to post these pictures I snapped yesterday.

As you can probably imagine, since Kitty Fish arrived in our house, Kitty stuffed animals have become pretty popular.  

In fact, as a side story, that just may make this post worth reading, two nights ago Maggie was having a really, really rough time.  It was 5 pm and she was already over tired and melting down.  Usually she runs up to her room on her own and is excited at bedtime, but we'd missed the boat on that point in the night (because it came so early) and it had turned into a complete meltdown.  

Paul was at school, and would be for many hours, and so I scooped her up (something I've been avoiding since the ultrasound but... it's really impossible to avoid it altogether, or even for an entire day, around here) and carried her up to bed.  

Usually going into her room calms her down instantly, but instead she was still crying as if her little heart was broken.  Then Kitty walked into the room.

Now to understand Kitty and Mae's relationship, you'd have to understand that it doesn't really exist at all.  Kitty spends his whole life making sure he doesn't go anywhere near Mae or Patch.  During the day he either stays upstairs or in the basement. He lives to keep a baby gate between himself and the little kids.  And it works well for him.  He's totally stayed clear of grabby little toddler and preschooler hands, the entire time he's lived here.

Earlier this week though, he showed that he's more than just a mouser, when he strolled into the room when he heard her crying and let her pet him, not once, but twice.  She immediately stopped crying.  Her whole face was transformed and she lay on her side, staring into his face, glowing at him.  Then he turned and walked out of the room and she lay there, still smiling, cuddling her bear while I tucked her in.  

A few minutes later when I brought Patch up to bed she was already fast asleep.  

Yes, these two kitties are definitely the toys of the moment in our house... but don't think that any old kitty is okay for Mae to cuddle with.  The orange kitty is definitely "her kitty."  

And in totally unrelated news, last night after I finished my work for the night I quickly sewed this for Mae's therapy (or any other time she wants to use it). It's weighted with plastic pellets and I have a feeling she's going to love it, since she loves all things weighted.  

Now to make a weighted blanket!