Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy to Accommodate

Today's post on Ask Moxie was meant to be a support-fest for parents of kids with special needs. Unfortunately, it got seriously sidetracked into a sort of debate about whether or not the accommodations required for kids with food allergies is too much to ask of parents of "normal" kids. I suspect a lot of things got misinterpreted on both sides, but it is always sad when the discussion on the Moxie site, which is normally so supportive, gets ugly.

I can sort of see both sides of this. I am firmly in favor of making any accommodations necessary to keep a child with a genuine food allergy safe. Pumpkin is a ridiculously picky eater, but even so, if someone in her class had an allergy that meant it wasn't safe for her to have milk (for instance) at day care, we'd adjust. However, I have run across parents who say their kid has a food allergy when really the kid has a food intolerance. An allergy involves the immune system and can cause anaphylaxis, even, in some rare cases, when the child picks up trace amounts of the allergen from his or her environment. I don't think the mechanism of most intolerances is known, but they cannot lead to anaphylaxis. Both are horrible for the kid involved, but an intolerance generally doesn't require that surrounding children avoid the offending food, too. As long as the child with the intolerance doesn't eat the food, he or she will be fine. I suppose that if I suspected the child whose "allergy" was causing me to do snack time contortions was actually suffering from an intolerance, I'd be a little cranky about it. But I hope that I would always give the parents the benefit of the doubt- having any sort of serious issues with the food you feed your child must be so draining. I find it hard to figure out what to feed Pumpkin, and we don't have any foods that we must avoid, just foods that she won't eat.

Anyway, somewhere on the second page of comments, Julie posted a wonderful comment that included a reminder that working to make the accommodations needed to be inclusive in our public schools is worth the effort, and that all kids benefit, not just the "mainstreamed" kids. I really think this is true. Back when I was in kindergarten, there were two "mainstreamed" kids in my class. All these years later, I remember those kids- and not because of any accommodations that were made or issues we had. I don't remember any of those (the adults involved must have done a good job). I just remember the kids. Most of us rarely interact with people of different abilities and with different needs in our day to day lives. I have to think that if we get that chance as children, and it is handled well by the adults around us, we really learn that everyone has something to contribute and that we should not assume that someone who looks different from us will contribute less.

I think I will end this post with a reminder that I finally posted my review of the Baby Signing Time DVDs that I was sent. If the Signing Time story isn't the perfect example of how making "accommodations" for kids with "special needs" can benefit everyone, I don't know what is. A project that started as a way to teach friends and family of one deaf little girl how to communicate with her has grown into something that has helped scores of of kids of all sorts communicate better. I am glad that Rachel decided to try to help the rest of us "accommodate" her daughter. We will almost certainly never meet her daughter, but we have definitely benefited from the DVDs.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Zenbit: Tiny Banana

Location: Botanical Gardens, Singapore
January 28, 2006

Review: Baby Signing Time Volumes 3 and 4

As I mentioned earlier, the nice folks at Two Little Hands Productions left me a comment asking if I'd like to review a couple of the new Baby Signing TIme DVDs. Since Pumpkin watches her Signing Time DVDs with something akin to religious fervor, I of course said yes.

The screening DVD arrived about two weeks ago. I put it in the DVD player almost immediately, because Pumpkin usually gets to watch a Singing Time DVD when we get home (it gives me time to put away our stuff and start dinner). The two episodes on the DVD are "A New Day" and "Let's Be Friends". My immediate impression was that I liked the "regular" Signing Time series better- and I still think that they are a bit easier on the adults who are watching with the baby. The Baby Signing Time series consists mainly of songs, with "pauses" in the songs to introduce new signs. Most of the songs seem simpler than those in the original series , which I suppose makes sense given the younger target audience. Also, since Alex and Leah are much older than babies now, they are represented as cartoons. There are still plenty of other cute babies signing, though. And one of my favorite parts of any of the DVDs is during the song that ends Baby Signing Time volume 3. The song is about how quickly babies grow up, and they show Alex and Leah signing "baby" in the original series, followed by them signing "baby" now. That scene made me want to go hug Pumpkin! In general, I like the songs in the original series better, but this song ("Tiny Hands") is sweet, and the "Everyone Crawl Like a Bug" song is a lot of fun.

Regardless of what I though, Pumpkin was hooked right away. She now asks for "Bay-bee ee-ee!" ("Baby T.V.") and sometimes loudly says "Noooo!" and signs "baby" when I put one of the original DVDs on for her. It may be that she had just gotten bored with the original series, which she has watched many times over. Or it maybe that the higher ratio of singing time to non-signing time and the babies sitting in front of simple, boldly colored backgrounds appeals to her.

I was a bit disappointed that most of the signs in these two episodes are already covered in the episodes of the regular Signing Time that I have (I have volumes 1-4 and 6). However, there are still some useful new signs (like "again", although Pumpkin usually just signs "more" if she wants to do something again). Also, I think the repetition of signs in a new setting might help Pumpkin learn them- I am fairly certain that she learned "rain" from the Baby Signing Time DVDs, and not the original series. Of course, since we live in San Diego, she is unlikely to need to use that sign anytime soon. This is a shame, because she enjoys signing "rain" almost as much as she enjoyed signing "cold" in the early days.

Bottom line: these DVDs are good. So are the DVDs in the original series. I am so glad that a friend gave me the original DVDs and got us started on this. The number of tantrums Pumpkin threw went down sharply once she learned to sign "cracker" (her favorite food, but a word she doesn't even try to say yet- I think the hard C sounds are still too hard for her). Pumpkin is not a particularly early or good talker, but she is a great communicator. Before we started signing with her, she'd point and nod, trying to get us to understand what she wanted. Now she signs and talks, sometimes using both the sign and the word, sometimes only using the sign, sometimes only using the word. I think she has learned spoken words as well as signs from these DVDs.

When I mention that we are signing with Pumpkin to a parent of a younger baby, the other parent often says "oh, we're too lazy to do that" or "oh, that is too hard" in reply. That's what we originally thought, so we didn't start signing until Pumpkin was almost 14 months old. We only started because they were using some basic signs in day care, which she started using at home. We wanted to know what she was saying to us. But now I know that it is so much easier to sign than not to. We just put a DVD in and let her watch it. The signs are repeated so much that we learn them quickly, even if we don't always have the time to sit down and watch the DVD with her. Really, the hardest part was getting over the guilt about letting Pumpkin watch something on TV. (I'm completely over that now, thanks.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

So Clean!

I came home to an eerily clean house yesterday. It was wonderful, and that was only slightly offset by the annoyance of having to bustle around the night before picking up toys and books and clothes and other random things that might prevent something from being cleaned.

Hubby and I finally settled on getting the cleaning service to come once a month, and yesterday was the first cleaning. I had a training class that started early, so I took Pumpkin to day care and Hubby stayed at home to meet the cleaners. This meant that I left a dirty house and came home to a sparkling clean house, and never even saw the people who cleaned it. This is how it will mostly be, because I leave before 8 a.m. most mornings, and they will be coming at 8 a.m. every fourth Wednesday. It is sort of like having cleaning elves. Except we pay them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What a Waste

One of the annoying things about parenthood that never occurred to me before I became a parent is the sheer amount of waste that comes with a baby. I'm not talking about diapers- that had occurred to me. I am talking about food. Every day, I throw out perfectly good strawberries that have been squashed rather than eaten, apples that have been nibbled on and then tossed to the floor so many times that they are too bruised to eat, milk that was requested but not drunk... as you probably know too well, the list goes on and on.

I am not particularly squeamish about eating after Pumpkin (unless she is showing signs of being ill), but I cannot keep up with what she discards. I have to keep offering a wide variety of foods, because that is the only way to increase her still quite limited palette. But one aspect of the "you may have to introduce a new food as many as 15 times" doctrine that none of the advice books address is how bad you'll feel about all that food you will throw away on the 14 unsuccessful tries!

At least we have a compost heap, so some of that wasted food gets recycled.

I will be writing my review of the Baby Signing Time volumes that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago soon. Pumpkin's sleep has been pretty bad lately, and she has been insisting that I get her down for the night. Hubby is trying to break that pattern right now, and I think I will go to bed early. I may waste a lot of food, but I try not to waste an opportunity to get some extra sleep!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Future Rugby Commentator

Pumpkin is having major issues with bedtime all of the sudden- Hubby isn't allowed to get her down, I have to nurse her (this is after her post-walk nurse and her post-bath snack)... It is too depressing to write about, actually.

So, instead I'll give you some vignettes from Pumpkin's viewing of last weekend's final Tri-Nations Rugby match between New Zealand and Australia. (It was a really good game, by the way, but that is not actually important here.)

As the All Blacks performed their haka, she slapped her hands on her arms, almost mimicking the moves the players were doing. However, although Hubby has been trying to teach her to stick out her tongue, she didn't join in that part of the haka. (You can find video on YouTube if you've never seen the haka and are curious.)

Whenever a ruck formed, she said "uh oh!", presumably because there was a pile of players on the ground. And what would they be doing there if they hadn't fallen over?

Anytime anyone lined up a penalty kick or a conversion she announced "BALL!!!"

And my favorite... at one point, a bit of a scuffle broke out after a lineout. Rodney So'oialo came running up to join in, and shoved one of the Aussie players. Pumpkin shook her finger at the screen, and said "no, no!" I suspect the referee said something similar.

We decided that she was about as eloquent as the usual commentator, and wondered if we should offer her services to Sky Sports.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Tale of Two Issues

I had a nice, upbeat post about how much better Pumpkin is eating planned. She's tried several new foods this week. And actually eaten some of them!

However, the sleep thing isn't going nearly so well. We've decided that we need to work more on having her fall asleep on her own, in her crib. She already won't let Hubby hold her while she goes to sleep, so this seems like a good time to work on this. But tonight, I tried to get her down without prolonged rocking or snuggling... and it didn't go so well. She whined and whimpered, and I comforted from a far. But when she really, really cried, I couldn't stand it and picked her up. At which point she said "Boppy!"

So I nursed her, and she fell asleep in my arms. I'm going to go to bed now in preparation for a rough night. I'm trying to remember that the food thing has gotten better, and the sleep thing will, too, eventually. The only problem is that it was pretty easy to figure out how to handle the eating issue, and it is far from easy to figure out how to handle the sleep issue. Some people say cosleep. Some people say let her cry herself to sleep. Other people say just about everything in between. I wish I could figure out what Pumpkin would say!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Zenbit: Ancient Outlines

Location: Tahai, Easter Island
Date: December 15, 2005

Friday, September 12, 2008

Week in Review

It has been a very busy week! I had one all day and two half-day training sessions at work, so was extra busy during other times trying to catch up on the work I wasn't doing while I was being trained. I suspect next week will be a bit busy, too, since I didn't really succeed in catching up.

Earlier this week, I posted about some of our recent struggles. I got lots of concerned emails and calls from people who know me in real life, and several nice comments, so I thought I would update you all on how things are going. In a word: better.

Pumpkin had an up and down week at day care. She had a couple of really bad days, which involved several biting incidents and a lot of crying. But she also had a couple of really good days, which included lots of happiness and "nice touches". Today was one of the good days. She bit once, but the teacher said she was sorely provoked. She said a little boy was bothering Pumpkin. Pumpkin apparently tried to "use her words" first, but the little boy didn't listen, and before one of the teachers could intervene, he got bitten. As someone who once hit a boy with a lunch box in a similar sort of situation (I was in the first grade), I can't really hold that against her!

Pumpkin also had a couple of decent nights of sleep. These coincided with the good days at day care, so Hubby and I are thinking about what we might do to encourage more good nights of sleep. Of course, if we knew how to do this, we would have done it already. But we feel like we should try to do something, since Pumpkin is suffering the ill effects from the bad sleep nights, too. When it was just Hubby and me suffering, it was easy to be lazy and not try to improve things.

Pumpkin slept well last night (she was up only once, although it took a couple of tries to get her to stay down after that wake up). However, getting her to sleep in the first place was unusually challenging. She wanted to play in her crib, or walk around her room, or do anything but settle into my arms to rock to sleep. Then, once she did decide to snuggle in and relax, she didn't want to be put down. I got up once to turn the music down, before I was going to try to put her in her crib, and she cried out "noooo!" and wrapped her little arms around me like I was threatening to drop her. She eventually went to sleep, but it took a couple of tries to get her into her crib, and in the end she was more asleep than I usually like her to be when I put her down. I can hear her in her room now, putting Hubby through the same sort of trouble tonight.

Pumpkin took a bath on her own tonight, so the bath freak-out was short-lived. She was in the big tub instead of her little plastic tub, but there were no bubbles and she went in with no fuss and splashed up a storm. She also insisted on several rounds of "This Little Piggy". She hold out a foot, rubs her chest, and says "wee, wee, wee" to indicate that we need to play this game.

The fruit eating continues, which is making my fruit-loving Hubby very happy. In addition to the apples and bananas that must be consumed whole, Pumpkin will eat bits of strawberries and pineapples. She still hasn't show any interest in cantaloupe or grapes, except to squish them.

Hubby and I went out on Wednesday night, to see Tim Finn in concert at a very nice dinner venue downtown. The concert was good, as was the dinner, but boy- that was a pricey evening! I couldn't help but think of the house cleaning that we could have had instead. But I didn't complain, because we have settled on getting the house cleaned once a month, and the only thing delaying the start of this plan is my lack of time to set up the appointment.

It was interesting to watch the crowd at the concert. Tim Finn (with his brother Neil) was a founding member of Split Enz, and was also in Crowded House for awhile. He played songs from both of these bands as well as his solo work. Women may age and a little younger sang along to the Crowded House songs. Women about 5 years older than me sang along to the Split Enz songs. Most men didn't sing. At one point, several women decided to get up and dance (Six Months in a Leaky Boat is the song that sparked this). They eventually have about 20 women up dancing, but only two men. I almost felt like I should get up and dance, like maybe I'd missed some sort of underground female signal. But I was too tired- by this point it was 9:30, which is when I'm usually heading to bed! He played "Stuff and Nonsense", which is one of my favorite Split Enz songs. It is a great truthful love song- it wasn't until I had a baby that I could comprehend a love that you knew would last forever. You get married in the hope that you can make the love last forever, but you never really know. (Incidentally, some of my favorite lyrics about marriage are also from the Finns, in Won't Give In: " What does it mean when you promise someone/ That no matter how hard or whatever may come/ It means that I won't give in... " I've posted about this song before, at the bottom of another very long post.)

The other interesting news this week is that I got my first invitation to get some mommy-blogging swag. The folks who produce the Singing Time videos have offered to send me a review screener of a couple of their new Baby Signing Time volumes (check out the comments on Wednesday's post for the details, or go to the Signing Time competition page to see how you can get in on a competition to win the Baby Signing Time gift set. I agreed to do the review- we've been very happy with how signing has helped Pumpkin communicate and I've been curious about the Baby Signing Time series. We only have DVDs from the "regular" signing time series. Hubby asked me if I had any ethical concerns, and I told him to shut up. He's just unhappy that he won't be able to hassle me about the amount of time I spend blogging now!

Oh, and the thing I thought would be a big deal this week, which was that I stopped pumping, was no big deal at all. Either I was too busy to think about it, or I really was ready to be done. We're still nursing whenever Pumpkin wants. She announces "Boppy!" when it is time to nurse, and gets very excited as I put the Boppy around my waist and get ready to nurse. I still enjoy the nursing, but the mixed feelings I thought I'd have about the end of pumping have turned out not to be so mixed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Much Better Day

Pumpkin's day care report today said that she was "Happy, Adventurous, Chatty, and Busy". And she had a "SUPER DAY!!!!" (that is a direct quote- and yes, I counted the exclamation points). She "used her words", and most importantly, didn't bite anyone. The day care teachers said she gave lots of hugs and "nice touches" today. As we were leaving, one of the other little girls toddled over to wave good-bye. Pumpkin motioned that she wanted down, so I put her down. Pumpkin gave the other little girl a big hug, and then said "bye-bye!" and waved at the entire yard full of kids and teachers.

Pumpkin and this little girl often hug goodbye, and Hubby says she and this little girl also gave each other big hugs this morning when he dropped Pumpkin off. Clearly, Pumpkin's made her first best friend and we need to set up a playdate!

She also slept really well last night- only up once, at about 2 a.m. I suspect this is related to the better day she had today. Of course, noting this connection may not be much help in our ant-biting campaign. If I could figure out how to make sure she always slept well, I would do it even if it made no difference to Pumpkin's day- it makes a huge difference in my day!

Hubby and I are going out tonight. Tim Finn, one of the guys from Split Enz, and a Kiwi superstar, is in town. Since it is well past his American heyday, he's playing at a nice, intimate venue. Hubby would have moped for weeks if I hadn't agreed to go. I'm hoping for another good night of sleep, so that I don't suffer too much tomorrow for the night out tonight.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

At Least She's Cute

Thank you for all the ideas and commiseration yesterday!

We got Pumpkin back into the bath tonight. With a lot of bubbles on our noses and patience, she eventually agreed to sit on my lap in the tub, and from there I eased her into the water. By the end, she was splashing like she used to and saying "noooo...." when asked if she was ready to get out.

Pumpkin's still biting, so we still have to work on that. (And I wouldn't be surprised if the bath thing continues to be harder than it used to be for awhile.)

It was a hard night last night. Pumpkin woke up a lot, and was hard to console. We suspect she is having trouble with the four(!) teeth (canines or incisors- I can't keep them straight) that are coming in now. At 3:30, I finally kicked Hubby out of bed and sent him to the sofa so that Pumpkin could come to bed with me. She slept, but tossed and turned for about 30-45 minutes before she really settled in and let me sleep. Even then, she wanted to be right up against me, with her little face smashed into mine and her hands wrapped in my hair. So I didn't get the best sleep (this is why we don't make more use of cosleeping- Pumpkin is not the best bed partner). I had an all day leadership training session today at work, which was something I would rather not have done on so little sleep. So, to cheer myself up, tonight I'd rather not think about the hard stuff, and want to focus on some of the cute and wonderful things about Pumpkin:

1. Once, about three weeks ago, the dog next door was whining because its owners had gone away and left it outside. Pumpkin was concerned, so I told her the dog was crying, and did the sign for crying (tracing tears on my cheeks). Now, anytime Pumpkin hears a dog whine, many times when she hears a dog bark, and sometimes for no reason we can discern, she looks earnestly at me, says "woof, woof", and does the sign for crying. This is one of the reasons I don't think the random biting incidents mean that she's completely lacking in empathy.

2. Hubby was outside cutting some branches off of bushes in our backyard this evening. He had previously taken the recycling out (what a good Hubby!) and the indoor recycling bins, which are just plastic trash cans, were still outside. Pumpkin dragged one over to Hubby and put it at his feet, clearly intending that he put the branches in it, much like she uses one of her buckets to gather leaves.

3. Pumpkin can say "Boppy" very clearly. She occasionally goes to her room, announces "Boppy!", picks it up, and drags it to the living room so that I can nurse her. She has also started saying "Boppy, Boppy, Boppy!" in the middle of the night when she wakes up and wants to nurse. This is a mixture of cute and annoying.

4. Pumpkin likes to play "Ring around the Rosies". Anyone in the backyard has to play with her. This includes her baby doll. I suspect some of our guests are surprised to find themselves playing Ring around the Rosies at all, let alone while holding one hand of a tiny stuffed doll.

So there are your gratuitously cute toddler stories for the day. And I'll close with a gratuitously cute toddler picture that explains why we are so anxious to get the bath thing sorted out quickly:

Monday, September 08, 2008

No One Said It Would Be Easy

This parenting thing is kicking my butt right now. Pumpkin is still biting at day care, and I'm feeling more and more like we're "that family"- you know, the one the teachers all complain about in the break room. Since Pumpkin doesn't really bite at home, we have been trying a Playful Parenting based approach to see if we can get the idea in her head that she should use her words to protest things, not her teeth. I've been having Pumpkin's bear and bunny play with toys and steal them from each other- but Pumpkin is still biting, although she now apparently says "No, no!" after she bites. She is also prone to turn to her bear and shake her finger and say "No, no!" This is very cute, but that wasn't the goal of the exercise.

When I picked Pumpkin up from day care today and found the note indicating that she'd bitten two other kids, the teacher suggested we try modeling the behavior we want (i.e., Pumpkin should say "No, no!" when someone steals her toy, but not bite them first). I thought I had conveyed this plan to Hubby, but when I stole the car keys from him, he came at me with play hitting, which was not the idea at all. So I guess we'll know the technique works if Pumpkin starts hitting instead of biting. We'll have to try again tomorrow, after Hubby has had a chance to rehearse his lines.

Pumpkin has also suddenly gone from a child who screams when she is taken out of the bath to a child who screams when we try to put her in the bath. We don't really have any idea what might have caused this change, and nothing we've tried has convinced her to allow us to wash her without her screaming. She loves bubbles, so I bought some bubble bath. Nope. She likes to play with the water from the hose outside, so we tried a shower with the hand held shower we have in our master bathroom. Nope. Tonight, I tried running a bath in the big bath tub (instead of her little plastic tub) and getting in it first. Nope. I'm out of ideas, so I think we'll just keep trying the bath with Mommy idea for a few days. We seemed to be making progress tonight- she was standing next to the bath tub without her diaper on. And then she peed on the floor and got very upset by that, and wouldn't stop screaming until I got out of the bath and gave her a big hug.

We do have some good news in one area, though- Pumpkin will now eat apples and bananas. The only catch is that they have to be in the whole, unadulterated form. Here is what an apple looks like when Pumpkin is done with it:

We gave her a whole apple at one point, because she kept pointing at the fruit bowl and saying "ball". Now she can say "apple" (well, it sounds a bit like "baa-pple"), and occasionally insists on having one. My fruit consumption has gone way up, since I have to finish the nibbled on apples and bananas. Maybe that will counter-balance the stress I'm feeling about all the biting....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Zenbit: Wildflowers

Location: Cuyamacas, San Diego County, California
June 22, 2003

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Best Laid Plans (II)

Pumpkin came down with a stomach bug this weekend. Some consequences are:

1. I took my pump to work today. Why cut off the breastmilk when she's sick?

2. Hubby had to come home sick today.

3. My Mom is here watching Pumpkin during the day, since Pumpkin can't go to day care.

4. I now know that cleaning baby vomit off of a car seat falls somewhere below "getting multiple cavities filled" on my list of things I'd like to do on any given day.

5. Posting may be erratic until things return to normal... whatever that is.