Saturday, August 30, 2008

favorite kids' books

As I was reading to Danny and Charlotte before their naps this afternoon, I thought about my favorite kids' books. Many of the books the kids like start to really grate on me after the 99th reading. You know, like the Arthur books or Clifford the Big Red Dog. Even Curious George and Dr. Seuss start to get to me after a while. I guess after that many readings, any book would become irritating. But there are a few books I have discovered that have yet to drive me nuts. I thought I would share a few here in the hopes that you will also share with me the best books for kids that you have discovered. We could really use some new ones to throw in the mix, just to save my sanity a bit.

Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson
I have never been a fan of Disney's Cinderella. She is too sickeningly sweet and very passive. Plus, the romance is really hard to buy. I mean, how can a man fall in love in a couple of hours and fail to ask the woman's name? Did the Prince even talk to her while they danced? Anyway, my sister and I have issues with princess stories because they typically revolve solely around the princess' beauty, not her intelligence or sparkling personality. Here is the antidote to that. Cinder Edna pokes fun at the traditional Cinderella story and teaches some good morals (like self-reliance). It is witty and just refreshingly clever. I especially like that Cinder Edna's love interest is really into recycling and that Edna took the bus to the ball. And it is not just for girls. Danny has loved this book for a while now.

I love almost anything by Kevin Henkes. He peppers his books with little jokes for parents to smile over, while also telling fun stories with fanciful characters. His books also always teach a good lesson for kids in a very accessible way. Julius is about Lilly (from Lilly and the Purple Plastic Purse, another favorite of ours) who is about to have a baby brother. The book chronicles her feelings while she adjusts to the new baby which range from total detestation to acceptance and love. The book is really funny.

Sector 7 by David Wiesner
I discovered David Wiesner in grad school, years before I ever had kids. In one of my education classes, my professor regularly brought in great books that he wanted to share with us. Sector 7 is a Caldecott winner and is a very unique book. There are no words, it is purely a picture book. The pictures are amazingly rich with detail and you can tell the entire story by studying them. Wiesner tells the story of a young boy on a field trip to the Empire State Building, who meets a cloud. The cloud takes him to Sector 7, which happens to be a sort of cloud factory. Since the boy is an artist, the clouds decide he would be the perfect one to redesign their images. They are apparently tired to death of the boring cloud shapes they always take. They really shake things up when they take on the forms that the boy designs. One of the great things about this book, besides the beautiful pictures, is that Danny can tell the story himself. It really trains kids to look for details and use their imaginations. I am constantly noticing new things in the illustrations.

Tuesday by David Wiesner
This is another great one by David Wiesner. (Really, you can't go wrong by him!) Like Sector 7 this has few words to it, actually the only words are those that tell you the day and time. In Tuesday for some unknown reason, frogs miraculously become able to fly one Tuesday night. The book shows all that happens that fateful night and it is really delightful, full of adventure and danger. Again, it is full of funny details.
Well, these are just a few books that I love. I know there are plenty more great ones out there. Please share with me any that you love and let me know if you check any of these out. I'd love to hear what you think of them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

never underestimate the power of treats

For the first time this week, Danny was happy when I picked him up from school. Previous days he was happy to be going home, but communicated in some way that he was unhappy I had left him there that morning. Not so today. The reason? Every Friday if the kids have been good throughout the week they get to pick a treat from the goody box in Miss Angie's class. Danny pulled his out (Lick-em sticks) as soon as he entered the car. He made a big production of showing it to me and Charlotte.

It actually comforted me to know that my son's affection can be bought by treats. At the very least, they can make him excited about school. Also, Danny must have been pretty well-behaved this week if he earned a treat. I wasn't totally worried about his behavior, but when he gets overstimulated, he can get a bit hyper.

So, it seems the tide is turning due, in no small part, to colored sugar and candy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

school update

I want to thank everyone who wrote such heartfelt, supportive comments and/or emails. I really appreciated them and felt so much better and less alone after reading them. Thank you!


The week has been a bit of a roller coaster with regards to Danny and school. Tuesday, he went into school all by himself with just a bit of a sniffle and downcast look on his face. As we pulled up, I asked him if he could go in by himself and he said "yes." I was really pleased that he seemed to be making progress.


Wednesday was another story. I realize in hindsight that I didn't ask him whether he felt like he could go in by himself. I just pulled up and he started crying, actually more like sobbing, saying over and over again that he wanted me to go to school with him, that he wanted to stay with me, etc. I walked him in again, but it was a lot harder to get him to enter his classroom. Class had already begun (it had taken a bit of coaxing to get him to quiet down) and I didn't feel like I should go into the class; it would have disrupted everything. His teacher did tell me that every day he has calmed down pretty quickly, so that was a comfort.


Today, I took some precautions. I had noticed that yesterday he hadn't brought his blanket in the car with him, so I brought it today. I have no idea if that made a difference or not, but I thought it might help. He chews on his blanket when he is tired, stressed or upset and it always calms him down. I also remembered to ask him if he could go in by himself, and he said yes. He not only got out of the car willingly, but he told me he loved me before he left. He wasn't running gleefully into school like I am hoping he will someday, but he is definitely making progress. This comforts me, because if there were something in school that really scared or upset him, I don't think he would ever go in by himself willingly. Also, it isn't so much that he doesn't want to go to school, it is actually that he wants me to go with him, so I think it is a matter of security for him.


I still wish I could stay with him all day, but it is getting easier for me too, though it really breaks my heart to see his sad little face scrunched up and trying not to cry. I hate that he is scared and that I can't be there for him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

nobody told me it would be like this....

Yesterday was Danny's first day of school. He got ready for school and seemed pretty excited. He kept talking about playing with the kitchen set, which is what he did during the open house. I was happy; I thought he must be really used to the idea of school and that maybe this year would be the year where he didn't have a hard first week.

This is his third year in preschool; though he turned 5 a month ago, we decided to hold him back one year because of his speech delays. Also, the previous two years of school, he has been in a special ed. class specifically designed for kids with sensory problems. The class was small, with a couple aides; they actually sound proofed the room and the teacher filled it with a treasure trove of sensory toys: a mini-trampoline, a teepee for when they need a break, a sensory table filled with different items, like leaves in the fall, rice, etc. Well, this year we all decided Danny was ready to join a mainstream class, which means instead of 10 kids, there are 20. And he has a different teacher. No more wonderful Miss Sally who had gotten to know Danny so well over the last two years, and who really did love him; they had a special bond and I will miss her so much.

So, all went well until we had almost gotten to the school and Danny mentioned that he expected me to go to school with him. So, that was why he wasn't scared: he thought I was accompanying him to school. I pull up in the parent drop-off line and he starts breathing really heavily and fighting back tears. I give him a hug and tell him I love him. Then, a well-meaning, but misguided aide comes to the car and starts helping Danny out. Well, as I informed the aide, Danny does not like to be touched by strangers, especially when he is upset (I mean, really, people, who does?) If she had just left him alone, I think he would have been fine. I tell her I will pull over and bring him in myself, but she tells me no, it is better this way. Then, seeing the commotion, a couple more aides walk up (and as luck would have it, none of them were aides that Danny knew) and they start to practically drag him into school.

At this point, not only is Danny totally crying, but he is also getting really upset about being yanked around. I keep repeating he doesn't want to be touched and finally I just pull over and take Danny away from the aides. I know they think I am just some overprotective mother who can't cut the apron strings, but they honestly had no idea what they were doing to him. Even if they had somehow managed to strong arm him into the school (which is very unlikely) I don't think anyone would have been able to calm him down for hours. And really, I cannot think of a more frightening way to begin the school year than to be physically DRAGGED into school by a bunch of strangers. What were they thinking?????? How can that be in any way better than just letting me take him in?

I ignored the aides and took Danny's hand, and he willingly accompanied me into school. He looked immensely relieved and calmed down instantly. He was still unhappy about having to enter the school, but at least he was doing it. I got him to his class and helped him put his stuff away and then I left. Yes, he did cry and I think the teacher may have been annoyed with me (she didn't say anything, I am probably just being sensitive) but it was so much better than the alternative, I think.

Then, I sobbed the entire way home. I felt so bad that Danny was scared to go to school. I distinctly remember that feeling the summer my mother made me go to day camp. It was horrible and I hated every minute of it. I didn't ever want my kids to feel abadoned and scared. I know he will be fine, and I know school is really good for him. His speech has improved immensely since he started preschool. Still, it is just heart wrenching to have to leave him like that.

When I picked him up after school, the first words out of Danny's mouth were, "Mom, I did NOT have a good day today." I questioned him and after a bit he started to cheer up. He was excited that he got to go to recess with a friend from church and then he shared that he liked his teacher. I heard from an aide that he had quit crying within 30 minutes of getting to school, so I know he was fine.

But still.

I just don't know if I am cut out for this mothering thing. I think it takes a much tougher person than I. I used to think I was somewhat tough: I grew up on the south side of Chicago and was a total tomboy. Someday I will share the story of me defending my twin brother against a kid 2 years older than us. It is quite a famous story in the Porch family. But, mothering is a whole different story. I feel like my heart is broken over and over and over again until it doesn't seem possible that there is any strength left.

I know this sounds like I am exaggerating, and perhaps I am, but still. There is something to it. Those of you who are mothers must know what I mean. Doesn't it just break your heart every time your kid is picked on or left out or just really struggles with something that comes easily for every other kid? Wasn't it so hard to watch them trudge off on their first days of school? Didn't it kill you the first time you left the baby with a babysitter?

I don't know. Maybe I am just a wimp. In fact, I am pretty sure I am. I just had no idea it would be this hard for these reasons. I knew it would be boring sometimes and aggravating others. But I didn't understand how bittersweet and scary it would be to bring a child into the world and set him or her loose on it. Does anyone out there know what I am saying?

Well, this morning things went much more smoothly, and though Danny wasn't overjoyed to enter school alone, there was just a tiny sniffle. No crying or struggling. He plodded to the door and didn't look back, but I could tell he was a bit sad. And though it went better this morning, I still cried on the way home.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

unexpected blessings

We first started noticing Danny was different around 18 months. He didn't talk at all--well, I take that back. He babbled incessantly, but didn't communicate or use any real words. He also really disliked being touched most of the time. He especially hated it when strangers touched him, but unfortunately those close to him were not exempt from his displeasure. It was unbearable. There were so many times when he got hurt or woke up in the middle of the night, crying and inconsolable. My first instinct was to hold and kiss him, which inevitably made things much worse. I remember one night just sobbing on the couch wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn't make my poor little boy feel better, that my very touch made his skin crawl. And I wondered what was wrong with him.

Of course, autism was on everyone's lips, whispered little questions posed by teachers, therapists, family members. I couldn't ignore the signs, though they were very confusing, not at all clear cut. And if you have read my blog in the last year, you will know that I was overcome with worry for him and his future.

The relief was palpable when I was told he was not autistic, but I must admit, there were times when I doubted the diagnosis. I worried the doctor had made a mistake. I don't worry about that anymore. There is no question anymore in my mind that Danny is not autistic.

Just 5 minutes ago, he spontaneously came up and said, "I love you, mom!" with a big grin on his face.

Occasionally, he will actually hug and kiss me with no prompting whatsoever. It doesn't bother him when his little friends give him hugs, though he does still bridle when a strange adult touches him (which is a problem I have as well....) He will even snuggle with me or Bil on occasion.

He actually interacts with others now. He has real conversations, though they sometimes are still peppered with quotes from videos, they make sense and are becoming more and more original communication.

He is also engaging in so much more imaginative play, which he hadn't done much of before.

There are still so many issues we struggle with. Danny still has lots of sensory issues, some of which we still haven't completely figured out. But, I cannot tell you what joy it brings when he grabs my face with his two hands and plants a kiss on my lips. Or when he pretends to tuck me in and read a story. I can tell he loves me, loves his sister and father and friends. He shows emotion and engages with people. I know these are regular things most kids do, but for a while there, they are things I didn't think Danny would ever do. I am so grateful.

Kringle, the food of the gods!


A girl at church has won a cheerleading competition and is now eligible to compete in London. She has to raise almost $3,000 so she and her mother have been coming up with fundraisers. One of the fundraisers was a bake sale today at Wal-Mart. Annette, the mother, asked all her friends at church to contribute baked goods if they could. I baked up a whole slew of cookies and brownies and muffins. And Kringle, which is by far the yummiest treat I can think of!!!

Kringle is a buttery Danish pastry that is usually filled with nuts or fruit of some sort, topped by a sugary glaze. I was first introduced to this delicacy after college when I worked at the legal publishing company in Deerfield, IL. Kringle is popular in Wisconsin and with many of my coworkers living just across the border in Kenosha, I was provided with many opportunities to savor the Kringle.

Later I stumbled across a Kringle recipe in a Penzeys catalog and I was thrilled; I have been making it ever since. This recipe is so good that I never come home with leftovers when I have brought it to a brunch or party. People request it all the time and it even sold for $15 a plate at a church fundraising auction. I am not bragging, because it has nothing at all to do with me. It is all the recipe, which is very forgiving and which I share below, because everyone should have some Kringle in their life!



Don't be intimidated; it is really pretty easy. First off, though it calls for yeast, you do not rise the dough. Just mix it and throw it in the fridge overnight. Next, don't be discouraged if you don't like rolling out dough. Mine never looks good, but it doesn't matter. After you roll it out and fill it, you just roll it all back up, so no one will ever know if your dough had ragged edges. Also, it makes 2 Kringles, so it is perfect when you need something to feed a lot of people. The only negative thing I can say about this is it is seriously addictive and very hard to stop at one piece. Try it about 15 minutes after pulling it out of the oven and you will think you are in Heaven. Let me know if you try it!


Kringle

Dough:
4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup butter, slightly softened
2 TB. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
1 Cup milk

Filling:
4 TB butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
½ Cup sugar
2 tsp. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT
1 Cup chopped pecans

Glaze:
2 2/3 Cup powdered sugar
2 TB. butter, softened
4 TB. hot water
1 TB. milk
1-2 tsp. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT


Put the flour, butter, sugar and salt into a bowl. Using a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands, blend together until the mixture is crumbly. If you don't mind a little mess your hands work much better. In a separate bowl mix the dry yeast, beaten eggs, and the milk. Don't worry that the yeast remains cold, that's the beauty of this recipe, no rising! Add milk mixture to dry ingredients. Mix well with a fork until all ingredients are blended, it will pull away from the sides and form a ball. You may have to work the final flour into the dough with your hands. Divide it into two pieces, flatten into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and put them into the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll out each piece of dough into a rectangle, 1/8 inch thick, about the length of your cookie sheet and as wide as 1/8 inch will allow. Spread half of the butter, sugar and pecans on the dough. Rolling from the short ends roll each side to the center. Pinch the center together and roll the ends under. Place each kringle on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes changing racks halfway through the baking time (top to bottom, bottom to top). Remove kringles from cookie sheets to a cooling rack and let cool about 10 minutes before glazing. Mix glaze ingredients together and whisk until smooth. Top the kringles with the glaze. Tastes great warm, so slice and serve right after glazing if desired.Prep. time: 15 minutes for dough, 15 minutes for assemblyBaking time: 25 minutesServes: 8-10 (makes 2)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

haircuts and pop tarts

I just deleted a post that was really pretty negative. I realized that I myself have been pretty negative lately and I want to remedy this. I don't believe in just ignoring negative things or pretending that they don't happen, Pollyanna-style, but on the other hand, focusing on the negative at the exclusion of all the blessings and good things in life can be pretty miserable. Just ask my husband. He can attest that I have been a major crab lately, though he probably wouldn't because he is much too gentlemanly. I do not deserve him.


My kids helped me to pay attention to the beauty in life this morning. When I woke up, I went to the couch and read a bit while the kids slept in. I heard Danny get up and go into Char's room and then they both came looking for me. When they found me, they joined me on the couch and both the kids snuggled with me without fighting over who would sit in my lap. It was wonderful.


We also had a couple of breakthroughs with Danny in the last 24 hours. Last night, we decided to give Danny his much-needed haircut. While we discussed the haircut with Danny, he actually said to us, "I don't want a haircut. I don't like the noise!" This was the first time he had ever actually told us why he hated haircuts so much. I pretty much figured it was the noise of the hair clippers, but it was so great to have him tell us. Then, I gave him the option of us using scissors. He wasn't totally on board with that; he would have much preferred no haircut at all, but it was definitely the least of the two evils for him.

So, with much coaxing and a few bribes, Danny sat down in front of a video and let me cut his hair. It was the best haircut, in terms of Danny's cooperation, that we have ever given him. In terms of how the hair looked, that is another story. I don't know anything at all about hair cuttery (is that a word?), so I am sure if a professional examined his hair, they would be horrified. But, at least we can see his ears again and he no longer has a tail. I will be soon investing in hair cutting scissors (my scrapbooking/sewing scissors were way too big) and checking out a book on hair cutting from the library. I am so thrilled that we have found an alternative to the hair clippers that Danny seems able to live with, albeit a bit begrudgingly. At least there was virtually no screaming during the haircut. A bit of moaning and whining, but no screaming. Major breakthrough.

The second exciting piece of news is that Danny actually tried a whole grain Pop-Tart this morning. This is the first time I have ever bought Pop-Tarts. I think they are just one step short of a donut or cinnamon roll and not nearly as yummy. But, I thought I would try them for a quick breakfast for Charlotte. They were ok; we definitely won't be buying them often--I think the "whole grain" thing was a bit of a misnomer, but that's beside the point. What surprised me was that Danny ate half of one. He actually tried something new and ate it without a struggle! You may think this not much of an accomplishment seeing as how Pop-Tarts are so sugary; how can any kid refuse. But, you don't know Danny. He won't eat pudding or ice cream with chunks. He will only eat certain kinds of cookies and refuses many types of cakes, especially if they have Cool Whip on them. He is really picky, even with his desserts. So, I was quite pleased that he tried it. That is our goal right now: get him to TRY foods. If he doesn't like them, fine, but if he could at least try the stuff, I am sure we would stumble upon something he would like.

Monday, August 18, 2008

more substitutes for band-aids

So, I think I may have mentioned before that my son likes band-aids. A lot. So much so that his wooden caterpillar was sporting a band-aid on one of his antennae for weeks. The band-aids seem to have become his latest ploy to extend his bedtime. Soon after we have put him to bed, he will come out of his room (this happens a couple times a week) telling us he needs a band-aid. Sometimes it is for an actual cut or scrape, sometimes for a mosquito bite, and other times for what I can only assume is an imaginary "owie."

Most times, Danny just goes and gets one himself and applies it and returns to bed. He's gotten quite dexterous with the whole opening the wrapper and applying the band-aid; I have been impressed. Lately, however, he has had a bit of trouble finding band-aids since we were running low and the box had gotten crushed weeks ago and subsequently thrown out. So, he has had to dig through my little bathroom drawer which is strewn with all kinds of miscellany: tiny bottles of lotion, used emory boards, old makeup, even a few kids' toys.


Last night Danny insisted he needed yet another band-aid, but we were all out. We didn't even have any more nasal strips. I promised him I would buy some more band-aids the next day, but he would not be swayed in his quest for a bandage. At this point it was past 10:00. The kids had gone to bed quite late last night and I was exhausted and desperate for them to get to sleep. So, I went to the bathroom hoping to scrounge up some rogue band-aid that had yet gone undetected. Alas, no band-aid was to be found. But I did find something that in a burst of resourcefulness, totally worked. A panty-liner. I wrapped the panty-liner around Danny's forefinger and he was quite content with the results. Bil just shook his head and laughed, but hey, the kid went to bed, and I was finally able to sit down and relax. Win-win.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I've been tagged

Well, my new and cool friend, Elizabeth at ThreeChannels has tagged me with this cool meme. I hope I can think of 6 quirks as funny as hers.


Here are the Rules:
1. Link the person who tagged you.

2. Mention the rules on your blog.

3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks you possess.

4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.

5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.




1. OK, this first one isn't really a quirk, but more of a way to share some fun news. My blog has been highlighted on Mommytalk in Susan's Snippets. (I was going to link you to it, but you have to be a registered member and when I tried to register, something went wrong. I'll have to go back later.) Anyway, I feel almost like a celebrity having my blog be picked as a favorite of an editor on mommytalk, but I suppose I should confess that Susan (the editor) is my cousin....nepotism rocks, huh?


2. I never put on makeup, especially lipstick, until I have brushed my teeth. I have no idea why.


3. Instead of swearing (well, ok, I do occasionally let a real swear word slip out) I complain in Cantonese. Usually I will say something like "Gaau cho a?" which means roughly "you have got to be kidding me!" or "give me a break." I also regularly use the word "maahfaahn" which means "pain in the neck" or "trouble." I lived in Hong Kong for almost 2 years, and though it was a long time ago, these words (and others) have stuck with me. There just doesn't seem to be an English equivalent that really sounds as good or means quite the same thing.


4. I am constantly in search of a new hairstyle almost as obsessively as those who search for the Holy Grail or Fountain of Youth. Deep down, I think I harbor this hope that if I ever find THE perfect hairstyle for me, all will then be well with the universe. Or at least I will look like a model. Yes, this perfect hairstyle will make me taller, thinner and just much more gorgeous. Sigh. Ironically, according to my husband, whenever I am in search of the style, I almost always find a great style in a magazine that is almost identical to the one I already have. Then, I am always disappointed when I look the same.


5. I have to have the windows rolled down when I drive. I HATE to be stuffy. I almost don't even like air conditioning because I hate stale air. Of course, 90 degree weather is even more unendurable, so I deal with the A.C. when I have to. Unfortunately, my husband really dislikes having the wind blow through his hair. I think this dates back to when, as a teenager and young adult, he had really, really long hair--like down to the middle of his back. If you have ever seen my husband, this will probably surprise you, because a more straightlaced, conservative engineer you could not find. Yet, there is another rock-and-roll-band side of him that you will find if you dig long enough.


Wait, the quirk about my husband was way more interesting than the one about me. Oh well, I am not ashamed to ride on his coat tails.


6. I used to have this really cool teapot collection. It kind of got out of hand when my mom and sister and other friends kept buying me pots for special occasions. I had mentioned that I liked teapots, and all of a sudden, I had me a collection. I had probably more than 2 dozen pots and cups and saucers. It was an eclectic collection, some beautiful, some whimsical, some even a bit strange. I had a Boston tea party teapot my brother got me on a vacation. I had a pyramid shaped pot that I painted myself, a pot that had teddy bears on it (I never really did like this one...), etc. You may wonder why I am writing in the past tense. That would be because just yesterday, my entire collection (but three) was decimated when the shelf they rested on somehow came free from the wall and came crashing down onto the kitchen floor. I was sad as I swept up the remains, but at least the most sentimental ones somehow survived. The teapot my grandmother gave me and the one my husband gave me as a wedding present are still miraculously intact. And, look on the bright side, I now have many fewer doo-dads to collect dust. And thank goodness no one got hurt!


Now it's your turn:

My Shore

There's a Salamander in My Slipper

Lil' Mom That Could

Colette's Family Circus

Spinning Yellow

Chanelle and Tristan

Have fun!

back to school haircut

So, I finally bought all of Danny's school supplies, which luckily was a much more pleasant experience than registering him was. In preparation for school, I have been making a list of what I need to do. There isn't too much left, besides dig out his backpack, get a new thermos, and give Danny a haircut. This last one is the one I dread. Danny has always hated haircuts. He doesn't even like his hair combed, let alone cut.

We have developed a routine over the years; I am not sure if it is the best, but it is the only one I can think of. First off, we always cut his hair at home. We started when he was really young and I knew taking him to a salon was out of the question. I still don't know how he would react to a stranger cutting his hair, so we stick to home cuts. Then, because he will not let me near him with a pair of scissors, we use the clippers. They seem safer to me, because with that little shield on them, there is virtually no way we can cut him, unlike with scissors.

The problem with the clippers, though, is the noise and the vibrations. He absolutely hates those clippers. As soon as he sees Bil pull them out of the linen closet, he starts to whimper and runs away. I have to hold him in my lap while Bil cuts his hair and it almost always makes me cry the way Danny reacts. He has gotten better; he has evolved from screaming as if we were cutting his scalp and trying frantically to escape my lap, to clinging to me while crying the whole time. It just breaks my heart. This is another reason why we use the clippers: we cut his hair as short as possible so we only have to live through this ordeal every 3 or 4 months.

The only thing that comforts me is that he recovers quite quickly, as long as he didn't get any hair in his mouth (because that can cause a cataclysmic meltdown). We typically offer a nice big treat, usually in the form of some candy or popsicle and while he eats his treat, he relaxes quite a bit. We also make quite a show of putting the clippers away so he knows for sure it is all over. I wish there was a better way. Do any of you have any problems in this area? What do you do? Any ideas of how to make this less traumatic? Please share, because Danny is getting really shaggy!

Friday, August 8, 2008

We Are The Care Bears, la, la, la, la, la!!!

Yes, I have completely lost it. The kids are totally addicted to the new Care Bears and I cannot get that obnoxious song out of my head. For any of you who have not seen a recent Care Bears video, things have changed since the 80s. They have gotten hipper, more politically correct. There is now an Amigo Bear who speaks Spanglish, there's an Ooopsy Bear, who is really clumsy. My favorite is still Grumpy Bear, but that's just me.

Because I have nothing more intellectually stimulating to think about, I have been thinking of new Care Bears to add to the list. Here are some of my ideas. Tell me what you think.

** Hormonal Bear. It would definitely be female and on her tummy I think there would have to be some chocolate and a frowning face that is crying....

** Road Rage Bear. This one carries a steering wheel and has a car and expletive signs all over his belly, like this: *&%$#.

** Compulsive Eater Bear. Defintely has some kind of food on her stomach, ice cream cone, perhaps?
** Stinky Bear. This one is most assuredly male! On his belly badge I think there would be a bar of soap (or stick of deoderant) that is crossed out. Yeah, that sounds good.

Well, these are turning out to sound even more cynical than I had anticipated. I do not mean to besmirch the name of Care Bear. Not at all. I have high regard for those bears who care. They have been keeping my kids entertained for months now. Even when the kiddos are not watching the shows, they are acting them out. Just today, Charlotte said she was Grumpy Bear and when I said I was Funshine, Danny said no, actually I am Grizzle, the really bad, meany pants villain. So that is where I stand in my house.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I survived and Danny is registered!

OK, after getting a babysitter all lined up, I went to the school and was all done in seriously 20 minutes!!! I actually went grocery shopping just so getting a babysitter would have been worth it. I have learned my lesson: I am never, ever going to registration in the morning, because that is apparently when the whole town goes. What a relief!

my version of hell on earth

OK, that may be an exaggeration, but not a huge one. Today I had to go to the high school to register Danny for school. In my town, everyone congregates at the high school to register regardless of what age the kid is. So, basically every single kid in town (besides the ones who are homeschooled or those who go to the Catholic school) registers in the high school cafetorium.

Well, I have been dreading this day for some time. In the past, I have always managed to secure a babysitter for the kids so I could wait in interminably long lines in peace. Unfortunately, all the girls I usually employ are at girls' camp and most of my friends are also there as chaperones. I called a neighbor girl and a boy from church, but to no avail. It looked like I was stuck bringing the kids with me.

As soon as I entered the school this morning, I realized that I had made a grave error in bringing the kids. There were hundreds of people swarming the school and I seriously almost started hyperventilating as I tried to figure out where I needed to go. I was overwhelmed immediately, so you can just imagine how Danny and Charlotte were feeling. Char wanted out of her stroller, but I didn't dare let her for fear of losing her in the throngs.

It didn't go too badly until I had to stand in line where you give personal info and pay activities fees. I stood in that line with the kids for at least 45 minutes. By this point, I felt like I was on the verge of an anxiety attack (or at least what I imagine one to feel like). People were in my face and bumping into me on all sides, my line did not appear to be moving and the kids were mutinying. Danny kept pulling on my hand saying he wanted to leave and Charlotte whined to be released from the stroller. Add to that the fact that I don't feel well today and you can just imagine how I was feeling. It was finally my turn to sit and fill out personal info and the woman informed me that I couldn't do it because they hadn't given me a pink slip at the last station.

I seriously almost went postal on the lady. Instead of bringing on aggravated assault charges, though, I just left. I know that doesn't sound all that mature, but I just couldn't handle any more. I got to the car with the kids and totally and completely LOST it. I cried the entire way home. I am sure it is partly hormonal, but most of it is just me and my inability to handle life sometimes. Often I feel like I have such a tenuous grasp on my patience and sanity and situations like these, which are so trying for most kids, let alone those with sensory issues, are almost unendurable for me. I know that sounds melodramatic, but that is how I felt today. I was also reminded of where Danny gets many of his sensory issues: directly from me. I cannot stand large crowds; they make me jittery and nervous and my strongest instinct is to get out as fast as possible. Also, noise drives me crazy, so I feel like I was dealing with my own SPD while also trying to help Danny with his. It didn't go well, obviously.

When I got home and calmed down, I said a prayer, which ended up being more like a rant that went something like, "Why can't You help me?!?!?!?! Why do You give me situations like this to deal with when You know I can't handle it?" etc. Finally, I quit yelling at God and decided to try one more time to get a babysitter. It occurred to me that Collin, a boy from church who lives down the block, might be available. He isn't quite 12 yet, but will be in a month or so and I figured the kids would be safer with him than with me in that cafetorium. So, I am going back to the school at 3 to register Danny. I think the crowds may have thinned by then, since registration ends at 4 today, and if not, it will still be so much easier without the kids. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

retraction/miscellany

I just wanted to apologize for the shrewish post about unsolicited advice. I didn't mean to be so whiny. I actually don't normally have a problem with advice. I regularly seek it out from friends and family members (and even strangers on the internet). My problem with it is when it a) comes from someone who knows almost nothing about me or my situation, which is what had happened on Sunday, b) it is such obvious advice that it seems insulting to me to even suggest I hadn't previously thought of it (which was also the case on Sunday), and c) the advisor is adamant that he/she knows way more about the situation than me or any expert I may have consulted.

So, please do not think I don't want any advice from you. That's not the case. To be honest, I am pretty defensive and insecure about myself as a mother (which, if you know me at all, you have already picked up on) so that is actually probably why I get so huffy when well-meaning people spout off all their advice. Please excuse me. I am going to work on that!

In other news, I thought I'd share some funny comments being made in our house lately...

Danny has said the following multiple times:

"What in CARNATION are you doing, mom?" or "What in CARNATION is going on?" etc.
"You'll hang for this!"
"Mommy, I have to take you to jail!"
AND
He keeps demanding that I pay my taxes.
He has watched just a bit too much of Robin Hood lately apparently.

Charlotte, after handing me some object whether it is a toy or a scrap of paper, will say, "Here you go. No charge." I have no idea where she picked this up, but she says it repeatedly and it cracks me up every time.

Monday, August 4, 2008

unsolicited advice

As I was leaving church yesterday afternoon, I got sidetracked by some small talk with an acquaintance. It was a pretty mundane and surfacy kind of conversation, mostly about the kids going back to school, which was when I made the mistake of getting slightly personal. I mentioned I was nervous about Danny being in a regular classroom, since he had been in a class with less than 10 kids for the last two years. The special ed. class he has been attending was focused on kids with sensory problems, where the one he will be in this year is not. I next mentioned Danny's speech delays, which brought on the advice.

She informed me in no uncertain terms that I need to make sure Danny has plenty of opportunities for social interaction, which should take care of his speech delays in no time. I found myself cataloging for her the many, many ways I surround Danny with other kids. Then, I stopped and thought, "What am I doing?!?!? Why am I justifying myself to someone who knows nothing about me or my kid?" For some reason, this just rankled me. Does she really think that it never occurred to me in all of Danny's 5 years of life that he needs social interaction? It is almost amusing to think about. I see this scenario: now that I have been elightened by M. I start taking Danny to play groups and all of a sudden, oh my goodness, Danny can talk! It's a miracle!

I have been seeing therapists and doctors for Danny and his SPD and speech delays for three years. I feel like a bit of an expert on him myself and it just annoys me when someone who has never even spoken to my child (and has no training in any kind of field that would be remotely helpful) thinks they are an expert. Why do people think they can solve all my problems after only hearing about them for 1.5 minutes?

What is it about certain people who think that no matter what the topic, they know more than anyone? I cannot tell you the number of times I have received unsolicited advice like this. Just the other week when I mentioned that I had been to the doctor for my foot and that it was all better, an acquaintance launched into a flurry of advice. Apparently, her mother has foot pain (which, by the way, has never been treated or diagnosed by a doctor) so the woman had to pass on all the ways her mother has self-treated the pain. Does she think her mother actually knows more about my foot pain than my orthopedic doctor who has not only x-rayed my feet, but did an ultrasound, as well?

I know I need to take all this advice with a grain of salt and just say something benign like, "There's an idea," because I am sure more often than not, the advice is well-intended (if misguided). It does make me wonder how often I launch into advice when none was asked for. I think I will pay attention to this and try to shut my mouth and listen instead. Isn't that what most people are really looking for, a listening ear? I mean, really most of the time we probably already know what needs to be done, but we just want to be heard and validated, right?