Sunday, September 23, 2012

I'm Grateful

I'm grateful for this beautiful fall day,
and for my children who laugh and play.

I'm grateful for this house that I designed,
this roof, this building, the things I call mine.

I'm grateful for my dad who cooks me dinner,
but need to stop worrying about being thinner.

I'm grateful for all the skills Mom taught me,
they help me to be all I that I can be.

I'm grateful for my friends who make me laugh and smile,
and are always there for me, going that extra mile.

I'm grateful for every laugh, every giggle,
even the ones that make my belly jiggle.

I'm grateful that I get to be someone's wife,
as it has given purpose to my life.

I'm grateful for my husband, who is my best friend,
and will share each day with me until THE END.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Time for Gingerbread!

With gale force winds whipping outside, and the mention of frost and snow, you think this post is going to be about the wintertime cookie, right?

Nope.  It's not even about gingerbread lattes, which are completely and totally wonderful in and of themselves and a reason to celebrate fall.

This story is about what happens when you don't follow the rules.  While Jake has presented with and continues to present many challenges in parenting him, one of the easiest things about him is his NEED to follow rules. So, if you tell him that something is a 'rule,' expect him to follow it.

But, then, there's Sophia.  I often say (and really, really mean) that it's a good think they look alike, otherwise we'd be convinced that one of them got switched at the hospital.  Because they are nothing, and I mean nothing alike.  Pretty much polar opposites.

So, to Sophia, a rule is not a hard and fast thing.  It's flexible and malleable, and made to not necessarily be broken, but to see how far it can be bent (we see a career in politics in her future).  She's awfully creative, and frankly, so humorous about it that she often gets away with murder because we admire her skill.

So, yesterday, I got to visit Sophia's kindergarten classroom as mystery reader.  While there, the teacher (who happens to be a good friend of mine as well) introduces to the class this paper gingerbread man who is about the size of an average kindergartner.  She tells the class that the gingerbread man is magic and explores the school after everyone has left for the day, and that they'll have to hunt for the gingerbread man every day when they get to school.

So my kid, of course, pipes up "That doesn't really happen," leaving the teacher to defend this story.  She used the phrase "have I ever lied to you?" which was totally ironic, because she WAS lying to them.  But she told them that the gingerbread man is so ticklish that you cannot touch him.  My time at school was about up, and as I left, I noticed that Sophia and one of her best buds (who is cut from very similar cloth) with their heads together near the gingerbread man.

When Sophia got home from school, she informed me that she TOUCHED the gingerbread man, but her finger didn't turn brown.  Huh?  Upon further questioning, she explained to me that if you touch the gingerbread man, he can cast a spell on you and you start to turn brown because you're turning into gingerbread.  And once you're all gingerbread, you have to go live in Candyland.   Sophia was very relieved that she and her friend had not started to turn brown, even though they BOTH touched the gingerbread man, despite being told not to.

Fast forward to the evening.  Sophia is soaking in the tub.  Suddenly, she starts yelling for me.  I go in, and she tells me, "This is the worst thing that's ever happened to me."  What?  A bath?  Surely it cannot be that bad.  She points to her knee.  On her knee is a brown spot, about the size of a dime.  Now, to the lay person, it's just a bruise.  But, Sophia was convinced she was starting to turn into a gingerbread man.  I played along (thinking that she can't REALLY believe this.  After all, she was the one who didn't buy the whole story to begin with.)  I tell her we'll just have to wait until morning to see if she continues to turn brown.

(Now, in the back of my mind, I'm envisioning sneaking into her room after she falls asleep and coloring her hands brown with a marker.  How funny would that be!)

Sophia starts to panic a little.  She asks me to soap up her leg and see if the spot comes off.  It doesn't. I get her out of the tub, and she's on the verge of tears.  By the time she's dressed, she's crying.  Her father is holding her.  We're trying not to laugh.  She is in a full on panic.  Sophia really thinks she's turning into a gingerbread man.  She asks to wear pants to school so no one can see that she's turning brown.  She wonders if her friend is turning brown too. The tears are really flowing.

I call her teacher to ask if there is a way to "reverse" the magic.  There is a pause on the line.  The teacher never told the girls such a thing.  She told them not to touch it, but that was all.  Apparently Sophia and her friend came up with the idea that touching the gingerbread man can make them turn into gingerbread.  I repeat all this to Sophia, along with the message that the gingerbread man doesn't have THAT kind of magic, to turn kids into gingerbread man.

Sophia finally buys it.  She says, "I think it's just a bruise, right?"  We assure her.  We also remind her that if she had followed the rules this would not have happened.

I resisted the temptation to color her hands in at night.  Today, she is still checking for brown, and is relieved that her spot has not gotten bigger.

I'm not sure she'll ever eat gingerbread again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


As a school physical therapist, a large part of my job is about adapting the environment so that a child can access his or her education.  This includes things like stair climbing ability (or access to elevators), using more supportive chairs with arms, modifying the desk by using a slant board.  I "come up" with these adaptations to bridge the gaps where we cannot help a child adapt to his or her environment.  For example, a child with CP who is non-ambulatory and will never be ambulatory needs seating and access adaptations made.  We do our best to help the child gain the skills necessary, but sometimes we rely on external rather than internal adaptations.  I think it is a job I'm fairly decent at.  I think I do well with the out of the box thinking that it requires.

I've been having the discussion lately with many people about whether it is best to adapt to the environment or have the environment adapt to you.  For example, it has come up when discussing food allergies.  Some parents are (with good reason) hyper-vigilant about what food is served and where.  I get it.  I understand that ingesting or inhaling allergens can be fatal.  This issue came up last year at a Cub Scout cookie event (each family was asked to bring a batch of cookies/dessert to share).  There were a few boys in the pack with nut allergies.  It was decided that if food was made, packaging should be brought so parents could inspect it, and "nut-free" foods would be kept separate from "non-nut-free" foods.  Sounds like a reasonable solution, right?  Of course not.  Some parents (not necessarily even the parents of the boys with allergies) were up in arms that people would even dare bring foods that may contain nuts.  The event was taking place in the school cafeteria where all the boys eat everyday, and where peanut butter sandwiches are served everyday.  The school nut-free table was being utilized to avoid cross contamination.  I still can not figure out what the big hub-bub was all about.  Those children with allergies were being accommodated by any families willing (one would think their own would be willing to donate).  Other families made treats that were nut-free as well, so additional choices were available.  But some people were not satisfied that these boys could not pick from ALL the cookies.

In life, there is no nut-free table.  Sometimes, due to health issues, physical disabilities, mental limitations, etc., we will all be limited.  I believe the saying goes, "Be all you CAN be."  It does not say "Be all that you WANT to be."  We all have constraints upon us for one reason or another.  We need to learn to live within those boundaries instead of always chafing at the bit.  It is nice to push the boundaries to grow.  It is not nice to always be running into a brick wall.  It is why we say that everyone has their niche.  I think we all recognize this.  We all see someone doing a job that we know, in theory, we are capable of doing, but would NEVER want to do it.  We all know there are things we are just not cut out for.  Most of us accept this and carry on, finding other things to do that make us happy and productive members of society.

For example, I have very short thumbs (frankly, they look like toes).  As a result, even though I liked to play the piano, I have difficulty reaching an octave.  I really can't do it--I can only reach 7 keys.  It limited what I was able to play, and while it didn't cause me to give up playing, it certainly contributed it.  I did not bemoan this.  It simply was.  There was nothing I could do about it.  I would like to have continued and been a better player than I am, but, c'est la vie.

But there's this new generation out there.  This whole group of kids, being raised by parents who want to be friends with their kids.  Who want all kids to get a trophy.  Who don't want to say no.  By doing that, we're hurting our kids.  We're telling them that they are so unique that THEY cannot be changed.  That THEY cannot adapt.  That the environment MUST adapt to them.   These are the kids who were not given grades so that the kids who were failing did not feel badly about themselves.  These are the kids who got an award for showing up, rather than for performing.  By doing this, we are not teaching our children to adapt or evolve.

But we need adaptation and evolution.  We need to grow.  We need to accept that we ALL have limitations in one way or another.  We need to teach our children that.  We need to encourage growth and development, and not put a damper on creativity.  But, we need to be realistic, and remember that the world does not revolve around us.  For all the kids out there with peanut allergies, there are also kids who are not able to eat/digest/tolerate a variety of foods and need to get the excellent nutritional value out of that peanut butter.  Making the world nut-free comes at an expense to others.

We need realistic goals in how far the world can be adapted.  Expecting a person with only one functional arm to have a career in carpentry and wood-working may not be the most wise thing to do.  Maybe that person's talents would be better (and more safely) expressed in the design aspect, rather than the wood-carving aspect.

Here is the issue I am currently personally struggling with:  for a child with attention issues, how much stimulation can you take away?  I am working to create organized spaces that are task specific (a small desk against a bare wall for homework).  But dinner time at the counter (where we normally eat) is always a chore, as there are always more interesting things on the counter than on the dinner plate.  We can try eating at the dinner table, which is much bigger, but could (in theory) be free of extraneous objects.  But in life, tables always have things on them--salt and pepper, menus, other people's lunchboxes, etc.  Is it better to learn how to eat while stuff is there, since I cannot de-clutter the world for my child?  (Heck, I can't even de-clutter the counter at this point!)  Do I remove all the toys from the bedroom, since they are distracting when getting ready for school in the AM?  Or, do we figure something else out so I don't end up losing it every morning screaming to get dressed for the seventh time?  (I'm trying plan B right now)

I am caught in an emotional and professional conundrum.  My job is to adapt the environment, which I generally believe in for the kids I work with.  For my own kids, I really want them to learn how to adapt.  I feel it is a better life skill.  I feel that, when applicable, the choice that leads to the highest level of functioning should be the option picked.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Birds and the Bees

Last spring, we got two male kittens. Some point during July, I (with the kids in tow, of course) had to take them to the vets for shots, etc, and to find out when they can be neutered.  I had prepped the kids that the kittens would be having surgery so they cannot become dads.  On the way to the vet, Sophia told Jake that they were having surgery so they can't have babies.

Jake, being precise as always, had to correct her that they cannot have babies because they are boys.  Sophia agreed and said, "Well, they are having an operation so they can't become dads."

After a momentary pause, Jake asked, "Mom, what part helps them become dads?"

Ok, quick thinking here.  What do I say?  If I mention penis, Sophia will say penis to everyone she meets, everywhere.  Ok, think quick.  How can I say it so Jake gets it, but she doesn't?

"Umm, their franks and beans."

Silence from the back.  Crisis averted, kudos to me.

The silence was processing time.  Jake again, "How exactly does that work?"

Hell, no.  I am NOT having this discussion with an 8 1/2 year old and a 4 year old, holding two kittens while driving 5 minutes to the vet.

"I don't really want to talk about that now.  Sophia is too young."

Jake:  "Is it disgusting?"

Me: "No, Sophia's just too young to talk about it right now."

Sophia:  "Will you tell us when we're 16?"

Excellent solution.  Let's put it off for eight more years.  Crisis averted.  Innocence maintained. Phew.

For about two months...
While finishing up dinner (the kids were slowly finishing their meals, I had already moved onto ice cream and Pat had slunk out to watch Cramer), I was again attacked.  Why does this only seem to happen to me?

Sophia has just finished Day One of Kindergarten.  She, apparently, has decided that since she is all grown up now, we need more babies in the house.  While on vacation this summer, she bombarded me relentlessly with the question, "Did you have an operation so you can't have any more babies?"  I thought I dodged the bullet and never really answered her.  Here she is, a month later, bringing it up again.

Never say never (because I don't want to jinx myself here), but we're done with having kids.  The youngest is in kindergarten.  They're getting self-sufficient.  Sometimes, we can even sleep through the night.  But more importantly, and I told the kids this, that when Sophia was born, I felt like our family was complete.  And it's not because we have a boy and a girl.  We have two kids--we can still play man-to-man defense.  I admit that I am limited.  I don't think I'm cut out to parent via zone defense.  Our kids are healthy and I appreciate that--so much can go wrong that I get nervous about the idea of chancing it again.

So I tell the kids about how I felt our family was complete the first time I held both of them in my arms.  I really did.  I also tell them that if we had a baby, they wouldn't be able to have drum lessons and dance lessons and trips to Disney World, because we'd have to pay for and take care of the baby and I wouldn't be able to work as much.

Sophia moved onto barraging her father with questions and riding her horse "Sexy" around.  (Need you ask why she is the youngest?)  Again, crisis averted.

Jake, God love him, was still pondering the conundrum, came up with a suggestion. (For those of you not aware, Jake, in addition to a near photographic memory, has some significant pragmatic speech difficulties.  That means he has a tremendous vocabulary, but the way he puts words together is sometimes difficult to understand.  I end up translating for him a lot.)  He says, "I have a solution that can solve both your problems (meaning Sophia's want of a younger sister, and my not wanting to have another baby).  You know the teacher Mr. Floyd?"  I nodded.  Jake continued, "He works for a place that rents kids.  You know, for like a week or a month, or just a little while.  You could rent a kid from him."

That took me a minute to figure out.  "You mean foster care?"  He nodded.  He then told me of a schoolmate whose parents had had foster kids.  Ok, good for them.  I told him that I was sure that there were kids out there who needed good homes, and that maybe Pat and I would consider it in the future, but it was not right for us right now.  I told him that with caring for him and his sister, working and taking care of the house, I was full-up and could not take much more on.

His response....

"Well, you could just read 50 Shades of Grey and get pregnant."