Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sick Days

After an excellent start to Sweet Girl's school days, a nasty (it would have to call Janet "Ms. Jackson", trust me) virus has put her out of commission.  She got sick Saturday and we haven't been back to school since.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow will be the day!  But because I've been up to my eyeballs in the Four Pillars of Bodily Fluids; pee, poop, puke, and psnot (yes, I know phlegm would have worked for that alliteration but I like "psnot" and since I'm the one cleaning/wiping/wearing it I get to call it what I want), Sweet Girl and Little Man have had a relatively adventureless week. 

So I got out my camera.  Ladies and Germs, I give you Mr. Two Teeth and Snots McGee in their pajamas at three o'clock!  Mother of the Year here I come!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

You take the good, you take the bad (and if you aren't singing the theme song to the Facts of Life right now, you're a better person than I.)

I meant to post earlier in the week, but life and other matters involving laundry got in the way.  Sean is still out of state on what sounds like a fun party getaway, so it's just me, Sweet Girl, Little Man, and Oreo holding down the fort.  We've had a full week and there's so much I'd like to say but my time (and I'm sure your patience) is limited, so we here at The Adventures of Sweet Girl and Little Man would like to offer you the David Letterman version of our week.  Here's the Top Ten Things We Have Learned/Revisited This Week! I expect to get a call from his legal department momentarily.

1.  Sweet Girl is amazing.
Already knew that.  But I was reminded once again, as she surpassed my highest, most secret, hopes and expectations at school.  The first morning was rough after I left (not when I left mind you, which made leaving all the easier for me) for about two and a half hours.  But Mrs. Sarah, bless her, said it was "pretty typical for ASD and her age." What's even better is that during those two hours of transitional stress they were keeping her on task, which is what was causing the temper to flare, but they worked through it in those two hours and didn't allow her to shut down.  Wow! Even more amazing, she had two "great days" at school after that.  She nearly pushed me out of the room Thursday, and Friday she lead the rest of her class into the room on the rope (a truly hilarious sight by the way).  She is amazing and getting amazinger :) all the time.

2. Prayer is powerful.
There is no way I would have been able to leave Sweet Girl at school if I hadn't been praying - HARD - for a very long time about it.  And I know there were others praying for her, and me, as well.  Thank you for that.  I wasn't really that nervous dropping her off and I know it's because I laid down my proverbial sword and gave it over to someone much tougher than I.  I'm still praying about it and probably will all year long.  It's good for my blood pressure.

3. Be careful what you wish for (see #2).
So I drop Sweet Girl off at school, grab a coffee and head home with Little Man.  I walk through the door to no barking.  Odd.  Oreo is usually at the door when his supernatural sense of smell tells him (at about a two mile radius) someone has been through a drive thru somewhere.  Little Man and I find Oreo under the desk.  Odd.  And he won't come out even for a treat.  Scary.  A little over a year ago Oreo broke his back and had emergency surgery to try to repair the damage.  After a couple of months of rest, rehab, and a ridiculous amount of money, Oreo was back to being a nuisance just a little wobblier.  I believe Aunt Carrie likes to say he has "drunk butt".  On this day Oreo had drunk body.  He was shaking and only through the power of bacon could I convince him to come to the living room.  I called the vet and made an appointment for him and tried not to cry.  So I prayed.  One crazy visit to the vet  - I thought taking SG and LM to the doctor was nuts, add in a dog that has to be carried and you've got yourself a bona fide circus of epic proportions - an injection of steriods, and a couple of days of oral steriods later, I'd like to revise my prayer request.  Dear Lord, Please help the vet know how to make Oreo feel better.   me find the patience not to undo all the good work the vet has done.  Seriously dog, calm down.

4.  Little Man likes the nightlife, or early morning life depending how you look at it.
Teething bites. Little Man is sporting a tooth and by all indicators is working hard on its mate.  I wish it quick passage.  Mostly because I miss my bed.  Oh, and I'd hate for Little Man to be in more pain than necessary.  Maybe I should have said that first?

5.  Full size backpacks are comical when placed on toddler size bodies.
This doesn't really need an explanation, but it is a comedy routine all its own getting Sweet Girl in the school with her backpack on.  I fully expect to find her on the sidewalk one day like a turtle on its shell.  Backpack on the ground with her arms and legs akimbo in the air.  I'll have to work hard to remember to ask her if she's ok BEFORE I snicker.

6.  Packing gfcf mre is going to give me gd hb.
Sweet Girl's pre-school program has time alotted for breakfast, lunch and snack every day.  The school wouldn't know how to do gfcf and she would have to have immediate physical allergic reactions to require the school to look in to it.  I didn't expect them to do her meals, but I also forgot how daunting filling a lunch box with portable gfcf items can be.  She doesn't mind getting the same thing everyday for lunch, and that's good.  If anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them.  I'll just keep trying to expand her food horizons and find ways to package some of her favorite meals.

7.  Pet insurance is a good idea (see #3).
Also doesn't need an explanation for anyone who has ever had a pet.  Let me just say that urgent care and IV steroids are not cheap. The amount of money we have invested in our mutt is the only thing that keeps me from throwing Oreo out at times.  I've invested more in him (monetarily) than Little Man at this point.

8.  Do not do something with a toddler two days in a row unless you want to continue that thing indefinitely.
Wednesday after school I told Sweet Girl we could get a treat for her completing her first day of school.  So before we pulled our traveling circus up to the vet's office, we stopped at Sonic for a cup of ice.  The vet looks at me as if I forgot something when she sees what's in (or rather not in)Sweet Girl's cup, but Sweet Girl is happy.  The next day I pick Sweet Girl up from school and she sees Sonic on our way home and says "I want more ice cubes." In our constant attempt to impart the notion that spoken words are powerful, we often find ourselves giving in to some requests other parents would put off.  Sweet Girl put together a five word sentence and so ice cubes she gets.  Friday afternoon as I buckle Sweet Girl in to her car seat she gives me a smile so bright the sun was envious and says, ever hopefully, "Ice cubes, Mommy?"  If you ever need me after three o'clock on a school day you can find me at Sonic.

9.  Nobody does ice cubes like Sonic (see #8).
Before you think I'm; a. incredibly cheap, b. terribly mean and won't let her have anything else at Sonic, c. both, let me just say this is Sweet Girl's favorite thing there. She loves to eat ice cubes and chewing ice is actually an excellent sensory exercise.  I don't think that's why my Dad does it, but it does provide a good deal of sensory feedback.  And the ice cubes at Sonic are little pellets which make for some excellent crunching. Also, I am pretty cheap.  A cup of ice at Sonic during happy hour is 10 cents.  It is the cheapest gfcf thing ever.

10. Pandora had it right; let everything else go but keep hope.
I do realize that Pandora actually let alot of bad things out to wreak havoc on Man.  I did manage to pass Classic Civ.  But I'd like to think that whatever bad that is in us; doubt, worry, loathing, self-pity, whatever, we can let go of without putting it on someone else.  I was feeling a large amount of dark emotions when I thought about Sweet Girl starting school (Just Another Manic Mom-Day made that pretty clear).  So I prayed and tried to let that go.  I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to let all of it go, but I keep trying to.  Because what was left after some of the darkness cleared, was hope.  Hope that Sweet Girl would love school.  Hope that she would open up to some other adults.  Hope that she would maybe even make a friend.  Hope that I would be strong enough let her do all those things, or at least try all those things, on her own without me.  Even if school hadn't gone as well as it did this week (thanks be to God and Ms. Sarah - and Sweet Girl, of course), I couldn't let myself get bogged down in the dark stuff.  I would keep hoping that it would get better.  I'm writing this after a long and bad day in the world of Sweet Girl and Little Man.  There was little sleep for anyone, a Sick Girl, a Cranky Man, an accident by O'roid'o, and a migraine for me.  I'm hoping that tomorrow is a better day, because hoping is better than whining.  After the mess is cleaned up, hope is what is left.

So that's our Top Ten.  The phone's ringing.  I bet I'm in trouble.   

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Great McWait and a Long Trip to the Doctor

As anyone who has ever had to play zone defense against a hyper toddler and infant knows, the waiting truly is the hardest part.  Normally, I prefer man-to-man defense in the case of child rearing, but Sean's at a training exercise out of state and so I'm currently outnumbered.  And let me tell you, Sweet Girl and Little Man can do a mean double team.  In general I try to avoid situations that require alot of waiting.  Sweet Girl has a tendency to roam (away and quickly) and it can be difficult to keep up with an eighteen pounder strapped in the front carrier (Little Man may have to have a new name soon at this rate).  Unfortunately, the universe doesn't always cooperate and I've found myself waiting, waiting, waiting with Sweet Girl and Little Man in tow.

Even when there is nowhere to run, Sweet Girl and Little Man can make waiting less than desirable.  This past weekend I decided to make Sweet Girl's day and get her a happy meal for lunch.  I am not proud of the fact that my daughter's favorite thing to eat (and I am by no means exaggerating) is a "hamburger, french fry?" from McDonald's.  She would gladly trade Little Man for that stupid bag with a paper-thin patty and deep fried potatoes in it. And I'm a sucker for making her happy so I pull in to the parking lot and get in to the long line at the drive-thru. Sweet Girl perks up immediately with a "Hey! Hamburger, french fry?" from the backseat.  "Yep, we'll get a hamburger and french fries and have lunch at home." I was thinking that, though the line was long, this is McDonald's so it can't take that long. Twenty-five minutes, one Little Man fit, and approximately 50,000 repetitions of the following conversation: "Hamburger, french fry?" "Yes, we have to wait our turn." later, we have Sweet Girl's McD fix and we're on our way home. 

The particularly frustrating part of this excursion (apart from having to repeat myself, uh, repeatedly) is that there was no apparent reason for the wait.  The parking lot was not full, none of the vehicles in front of me buckled under the weight of their orders, and this is not gourmet-on-the-go.  It's McDonald's.  This is not a start-up fast food restaurant.  They've been around awhile, they should have this down to a science by now.  If we had been inside the restaurant and waited that long, I'm pretty sure I would have been beating on the counter a la Shirley McClain in "Terms of Endearment"; "Give my daughter her happy meal! I told her to wait til noon!  It is now 12:25! Give her her happy meal!"  Yeah, it's best that we not go in.

McDonald's isn't the only place that has seen the best of Sweet Girl and Little Man's waiting ability this week.  This morning Little Man had a well baby check-up.  This being the first time we would meet our new pediatrician, I was hoping to make a good impression as a competent and somewhat "together" mother of two wonderful children.  I had filled out all the forms ahead of time, made sure everyone was washed and combed, arrived 7 minutes early (enough time to check-in with the paper work but not too much time sitting in the waiting room playing zone defense - it's a delicate balance), and had a diaper bag full of distractions.  One hour 45 minutes, three smallish meltdowns, one spilled baggie of cereal, two conversations about how one's finger does not belong in one's nose, one peed on nurse, and three conversations about not rolling across the exam room floor on the doctor's chair later, we were done.  I'm sure we made an impression. I'm sure it wasn't the one I was hoping for.  At the very least they now know that we are NOT the family to keep waiting.  All this waiting makes me tired.  It really is the hardest part.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Another Manic Mom-Day

I've been known to get a little manic about certain things, my kids in particular.  And today we picked up the information to enroll Sweet Girl in pre-school.  I could cry.  I nearly did.  I'm sure I will.  So many emotions, so many images running through my head, so many school supplies to buy (a toothbrush!); the mania has set in.  How are we going to do this, Sweet Girl?

This is big.  Sweet Girl has never gone to day care, she's received all her therapies in our home with either me or Sean right next to her.  Now she'll be in a classroom all day-five days a week! Little Man and I will have 27.5 hours of quality time together each week while Sweet Girl starts her formal education. I could cry.  It's not that I don't look forward to spending time with Little Man, or shopping with just one kid instead of two, or even (gasp!) having a couple of hours at home that resemble quiet. I do.  But I'm not sure I'll know how to function without Sweet Girl running around here like a zephyr hopped up on chocolate coated sugar cubes. (Incidentally, if she were ever to be adopted by a Native American tribe, I'm pretty sure her new name would be Runs Like Wind With Much Sugar. Or maybe even Dances With Much Hair Tossing....but I digress.)  All of this adds to my mania, but it's not what has me verklempt.

It's the thought of handing Sweet Girl over to someone else who hasn't spent the last three years getting to know her.  Sweet Girl lives in a hybrid of her own world and the world where the rest of us live.  She isn't your typical three year old, and it's taken a whole lot of work on her part to start communicating.  So how is this teacher (in whom I actually have every confidence, but rational thoughts aren't prevalent in my mind right now) going to know what to do with my Sweet Girl?  Will she know what she likes to do and what scares her? Will she know that "I got it. I got it." followed by grunting sounds is Sweet Girl's way of getting someone to hand her something she can't reach? Will she know that Sweet Girl works twice as hard as other kids to say half as much?  Will she know what to do when Sweet Girl goes looking for Pooh's lost rumbly (he shouldn't have had all those honey pies Kanga baked him in one sitting!)? Will she love my Sweet Girl like I do?  The answer to all these questions is no.  I could cry.  Actually, I am.

But "no" is the point.  If Sweet Girl isn't pushed to communicate with other people, people who haven't watched a thousand episodes of My Friends Tigger and Pooh with her, then she may never do it.  She has to learn how to ask for something out of her reach in a way others can understand, not to mention in a manner that won't make people think she has to go to the bathroom.  Sweet Girl needs to start venturing outside her world a little more.  I need to let her.  So, "no" is actually what the answer should be. 

And no one could love her the way I do; crazy fierce and soft and fuzzy, but I know her teacher will love Sweet Girl in her own way.  I just need to temper my mania and see this for what it is, a giant step in the right direction.  So it's not as windy around here during the week?  Little Man and I can live with that, and Sweet Girl will be back before we can get all those sugar cubes covered with chocolate.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Other (Right) Shoe Dropped

Everyone has their good days and their bad days.  In that regard, Sweet Girl is definitely within the norm.  The only difference is that she seems to swing a little higher and a little lower, but she's always had a flair for the dramatic so that's not surprising.  So after a really good couple of days some not-so-good days have followed.  Sinuses flared, her nose bled, and crankiness ensued.  And to exacerbate the situation we had to get her new shoes.

New shoes may not seem like cause for concern but the process of shoe-shopping is anxiety-ridden for Sweet Girl.  If her feet would stay the same size and that size wasn't hard to find, I'd buy her shoes at Target while she was hanging with her dad.  Alas, she has a wide foot (you're welcome Sweet Girl) and she keeps growing up despite my wish that she stay my little girl forever.  Then there's the issue of the stench.  Any sandal of Sweet Girl's is going to have a rather adventurous life.  It will meet mud puddles, dirt piles, probably some Oreo offerings, and will take enough steps to wear out the tread on most Goodyears.  This particular pair of sandals was well loved and therefore well worn, and oh they had the smell to prove it.  We could smell Sweet Girl's shoes before we could see them.  I was worried disposing of them would require cooperation from HAZMAT.  It was definitely time for new sandals.  To Stride Rite we go! 

What Sweet Girl doesn't like about the shoe-shopping experience isn't the actual new shoes (though she used to limp around the house like her feet were asleep when introduced to new shoes - not any more much to my [somewhat inappropriate] disappointment), it's the measuring.  A stranger is about to get in her space, touch her, and bodily move her parts.  Not cool.  And on this particular trip, to the one Stride Rite currently open in middle Tennessee, the store was busting at the seams with kids, strollers, parents, and grandparents grabbing shoes tax free and buy one get one half off.  Sensory overload to say the least.  Sean and Little Man scan our options while I gave Sweet Girl a pep talk; it's not going to hurt, it will only take a second, no one is going to hurt you, you don't have to be scared.  She bravely sits on the bench but as the store employee comes over, the tears start to roll down her cheeks.  I reiterate the pep talk adding the always popular "Mommy's right here.  Don't worry." But she wants to be held and it's clear the employee is not digging the tax free madness and isn't willing to be creative.  So Sweet Girl cries the whole time, all the while repeating "Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry sweetie." (clearly I say this more than I thought), and I feel terrible about shoes of all things. 

It is, of course, over in about two minutes.  Sweet Girl was not the only child crying or melting down in the store at that time.  She gave me a "big ole hug" and a "Hurray! We did it!" when it was over.  But I still feel terrible that I couldn't make her more comfortable and that we will have to buy shoes again someday.  My sister-in-law, who feels my pain on this, and I will someday open a shoe store/hair salon/portrait studio for people with sensory issues.  Low lighting, appointments can be made for individual attention, games, movies, wide open spaces, whatever it takes to make these necessary and important things easier for those who need a little time and space and especially for their parents who feel their stress and anxiety a million times over. But until that day (here's to a good walnut crop!) we keep working on it.  Sweet Girl gets braver and my house smells better with the old sandals gone. She's a sweet girl but she has stinky feet.

Side note: When we got home (about 50 miles from the craziness) we realized that there were two right shoes in the box.  Dad to the rescue! He and Little Man returned them the next day and got Sweet Girl a shoe for each foot. He's a good dad.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Little Man Down and Sweet Girl Goes A-Visitin'

So Little Man's been having a rough go of it.  He just wasn't himself yesterday and today.  He seemed to need constant attention to be happy, well not happy more like appeased.  Ugh, babies, they're so self-centered.  My best guess is that he's teething as he's chewing everything and leaves a trail of drool wherever he goes.  Of course, that's just par for the course with Little Man.  Aunt Carrie has called him "moist" before.  And she's right.

Because Little Man's been onerous, he and I stayed home while Sean and Sweet Girl had dinner with some friends.  It's always a little nerve-wracking when entering a new environment and social situation with Sweet Girl.  You never really know how she will react.  So I try to prepare as much as possible and hope for the best.  Tonight she was going to a new house where she would be around several heretofore unknown adults and two other kids.  This has the potential for serious anxiety.  So I said a little prayer, made a "real" dessert for everyone and some gfcf cupcakes for Sweet Girl (unfortunately no vegetables-I'll do better next time), and sent them on their way.  Three hours later the reports of the evening were positive.  Sean says there were a few moments of mild anxiety, and she didn't want to sit for dinner at first (sitting still AND dealing with strangers in close proximity is not a strong point) but she played with the other kids without a problem and there were no meltdowns.  Yay, Sweet Girl!

I'm sure this doesn't sound like a huge success to some people, but a year ago this would not have been possible.  Sweet Girl has come a long way from not being able to handle sitting in a shopping cart and going in stores.  Anxiety levels are waaay down, still elevated for a "typical" three year old but much better.  This is due mostly to God's grace and a plan beyond my comprehension, but the best thing we, as parents, have done for her is the diet.  I know there is serious debate within the autism community (a whole other post believe you me) and among the medical professionals as to whether gfcf is a valid treatment.  And, well, I don't care any more.  It has worked for Sweet Girl.  She is my proof that she needed it. 

I could write a novel on this subject, so I'll keep it short tonight.  I read just about everything I could find on the diet, recognized in Sweet Girl some things described by other parents, weighed the cons (expensive, restrictive, liable to induce tantrums at every meal for a time), and ultimately came to the decision that it was going to be painful but it wouldn't hurt her.  I was willing to give it three months, but I had my answer in the first three weeks.  Sweet Girl stopped compulsively climbing everything, started making more eye contact, lost some of her food obsessions, and went back to sleeping through the night.  That was enough to convince me.  It's amazing what a good night's sleep will do to one's perspective on the world.  It was hard, there were tears on both sides of the high chair, but it was not any harder than watching my daughter withdraw further and further away from me.  We have a long road to travel, but I'm not dragging her along kicking and screaming any more.  Now she's walking beside me holding my hand. I could walk around the world like that.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Trojan Hamburger

Sweet Girl is not a vegetable eater.  At about the age of 10 months she started turning her nose up at anything green.  Then 3 months later she gave up orange vegetables as well.  I tried.  Really I did.  But she can be somewhat stubborn, not to mention volatile on occassion.  But a year in to the gluten and casein free diet, she's getting a bit more adventurous.  She'll try just about any piece of fruit on a toothpick in the grocery store, she loves "yettuce" (mostly as a salad dressing delivery device but I'll take what I can get), and she's recently fallen head over heels for hamburgers.  Alas we're still greatly lacking in the vegetable department.

There are too many good nutrients in vegetables to give up on getting her to eat them though.  I don't want to have to give her a million supplements for the rest of her life, so I've decided to try to alternate methods. A couple of different cookbooks have been published detailing ways to hide vegetables in kid-friendly foods.  Sounded too good to be true.  Let's not forget that gfcf substitutions would have to be made.  Not sure if baked goods can be gfcf AND full of hidden vegetables.  We'll have to see.  And I do have some qualms that Sweet Girl won't ever eat veggies unless they're hidden in something, but at this point I'm really just trying to get ball rolling.

Experiment Number One: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with zucchini and banana purees
Notes: I substituted the Gluten Free Gourmet's four flour mix plus a teaspoon of xantham gum for the all-purpose flour and I used cf margarine in place of the tub spread in the original recipe.  The oats were certified gluten free too. 
I chose this recipe to try first because it's a cookie (appealing to Sweet Girl's Sweet Tooth) but still relatively low in sugar. The cookies turned out light and pretty fluffy.  Aunt Carrie approved of both the taste and texture, but Aunt Carrie is a pretty good vegetable eater to begin with.  So the real test came when Sweet Girl grabbed one off the cooling rack.  Gone in 20 seconds.  And the next two were gone just as quickly.

Experiment Number One: Success

Experiment Number Two: Beef and Broccoli Hamburger
So this isn't actually in a cookbook, but I figured if I'm officially hiding vegetables I might as well go all in.  Sweet Girl loves her a good hamburger.  And by love I mean that deep-seated, never able to shake, can't get you out of my mind kind of love.  Adding about a quarter cup of broccoli puree to the hamburger before I made it in to a patty resulted in a somewhat green burger that was devoured by Sweet Girl.  She ate it with a fork and then licked the plate.  That's my girl.

Experiment Number Two:  Success

Up next trying to fry up some cauliflower battered bacon.  Just kidding, but if someone has as a recipe for that you'll be Sweet Girl's favorite person.

Let's Give This a Try

I'm slow to the get on the blogging bandwagon, but anyone who's ever seen me run knows why.  After months (yes, I know people have been blogging for ages now - I said I was slow) of reading other people's blogs and being extremely grateful for their existence, I've decided to give it a try myself.  I have learned, laughed, and cried while reading other people's blogs.  I don't have goals nearly that lofty.  But I do hope this blog will provide a window (an appropriately sized window mind you) in to our family, particularly while my husband is off on another government-sponsored vacation to exotic locales.  I make no promises.  As I'm typing this I should be trying to make a gfcf dinner for Sweet Girl and Little Man is wailing to get out of the jumperoo.  However, I'm going to give the old college try and hopefully it will all work out. 

So, welcome, anyone who comes this way.  Sweet Girl and Little Man are happy to have you here.