Thursday, June 24, 2010

Henry, 2 months old

Can you believe it's been two months? I haven't even finished my birth story yet! Sheesh.

Henry is doing great. He's finally gaining weight at a good clip. He's not quite the chunk my other babies were, but he's got a couple of little rolls on his thighs now and he's awfully sweet.

He smiles and coos and is finally getting better at holding his head up. Along with a couple of other vague issues that haven't amounted to much, he has muscle tone that's a bit low. So did Jack. The pediatrician agrees he's a bit loose, but not enough to worry about. I'm trying not to obsess about the fact that autistic kids often have low muscle tone. And that male siblings of autistic children have higher chance of being autistic. I often stew about when Jack started to shift...when he started to lose his eye contact, when we started to lose some part of him to autism. One thing is for sure, we missed it. I look back through pictures and try to remember what exactly Jack was doing, what he was like at that point in time, and I can't quite reach it, the point where he went from being just fine to showing those early signs. It just happened, and one day we looked up and we were shocked at what was right in front of us, and we lost a lot of time that should have been spent helping him, and I feel like we failed him in that way.

So I watch Henry and Tess closely, and Henry especially.

I make myself notice that, at this point, he makes fantastic eye contact and loves to chat and sing with Momma.

Right now, he is fully here and present. He's meeting all his milestones on time.

Note to future self: at two months of age, Henry is just fine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

planning for chaos

Oh my goodness, buckle up ya'll. I'm going to actually do something besides post pictures!

I've been struggling quite a bit to get back on a routine here after Henry's birth. I realized when Tess was born that I had crossed some kind of threshold. It had officially become more work to catch up than it was to put whatever effort was needed to stay caught up in the first place...even if that meant staying up extra late or waking up extra early, even if it meant pushing to motivate myself past not feeling well, whatever it took, it was worth the push to stay caught up on housework...meals, laundry, cleaning, paperwork, etc. That doesn't mean I was always disciplined enough to *do* it. But the knowledge helped.

Now I've crossed another threshold. There *is* no ability to catch up. I can only go forward. There is no extra time in the day to catch up on a giant heap of laundry, or a couple of hours in the day to devote to cleaning or paying bills. It just doesn't exist. This has left me struggling a bit. But then I had a breakthrough. It came in the form of another mom's comment about how she makes well-laid plans for staying caught up on everything only to be constantly waylaid by different out of the ordinary events...that out of the ordinary events had become so frequent that she was constantly starting back at square one. I could have written the same comment. The only constant around here is inconsistency. Let's face it, there just are going to be times when I will fall behind. Even if I were perfectly disciplined (snort), there are still circumstances out of my control, and the chances of those circumstances grows with each additional child...illnesses, cranky teething little people who want to be held all day, activities and appointments that make our schedule nutso, etc. So, my new solution has been to plan for the unplanned. I've taken each area that tends to fall into chaos and made plans for the chaos. Am I making any sense at all? Let's give some examples, ....

Cooking and meal planning is a big one. I'm a big meal planner. I like to cook, and I'm married to a man who absolutely will not do cereal for dinner. And so before every payday, I sit down with my recipes and my planner. I plan out meals for the next two weeks and make a huge grocery list. It works well probably 85% of the time. And then there are the days that we get home late and I don't have time to fix dinner. Or the days I was supposed to put dinner in the crockpot in the morning but I forgot and now it's 5 o'clock. Or the days I find out someone ate some key ingredient. Or the days a cranky baby keeps sabotaging my efforts. Or the days I just plain don't feel like cooking what I had planned and wish I had an easy way out. And so I would have to improvise something not so great, or we would eat far too late and mess up the whole evening routine, or we would make a $30 Taco Bell run. Each time I would chastise myself to be more organized and vow that it wouldn't happen again. Of course, it would. So, I decided to plan for that particular chaos.

These are my emergency rations. I made five of these bags up and put them in that high, impossible to get into cabinet above the stove. Each bag contains the ingredients to make a meal, more or less. A couple of the meals have a component in the freezer. But none of them call for fresh ingredients. This is important. I don't want any of them to require something I might not have on hand. This particular bag contains the fixings for The Simplest Black Beans and Rice Ever...a bag of instant brown rice, a can of black beans, a jar of salsa, and a couple of packs of cornbread mix. I don't usually use instant rice, or cornbread mix, but the idea is convenience here. If there's time, I can dress it up with other things I might have on hand...saute some onions and/or peppers, put some shredded cheese and sour cream on the side. But if I don't have any of those things, I'm still good to go.

Here's one more example...laundry chaos. My main thought behind laundry and cleaning is that I need to be able to jump in and catch back up easily when we get behind. Let's say you have a new baby...and family comes to visit...and you spend a week spending all of your free time cleaning for the arrival of in-laws...and when they leave, all the dirty laundry hampers are overflowing. So, in the past, with my old system (yes, for seven people, you need a system) I would have had to spend most of an entire day "catching up". This is no longer possible. So I had to change our system to allow me to jump in easily and catch up painlessly.
Here's how our laundry process normally works. Every night before bed, everyone brings me the dirty laundry hampers and dumps them on the floor in front of the washing machine. That night I start a load in the wash. In the morning I start another. This might be enough if I'm otherwise caught up. After breakfast I will hang laundry out to dry or run it through the drier. After lunch I will fold any dry laundry waiting for folding (usually this is what was out hanging the day before) and put it away. Before dinner I will go out and get anything out on the line and bring it in to be folded the next day. Each step only takes a short time, laundry stays caught up, and all is good with the world. But even in the above in-law scenario, it works. When the kids bring me all the dirty laundry, I just have a much bigger pile. And instead of hanging, I'll definitely be using the drier. When it's my post-lunch folding time, I might be looking at a clean laundry pile like this...

...impressive, yes? And so instead of folding, I'll sort the clothing into baskets, like this.... for Tess and Henry, one for John and I, one for Maria, one for Kain and Jack, one for linens. Maria will be given her own laundry to put away. And that, barring some windfall of extra time during the day, will probably be it for the day. But so far, everything is cleaned, or at least a good bit of it, and sorted so that at least things can be found. That evening, I can pick back up where I left off, having the kids bring me that days dirty laundry again, and washing/hanging/etc. in the morning. When laundry folding time rolls around again, I still have that collection of sorted laundry waiting. I pick the ugliest looking one (in the picture above, that would be the boys' basket) and fold and put away. I do the same thing the following day, and within a few days all the folding is caught up again as well.

Is this tedious? I'm sorry. Ah well. I find it interesting to see how others manage. It's a juggling act around here, for sure. I'm always looking for ideas to improve things. I always kept waiting for this magical day to arrive when I would be so perfectly organized that I would never fall behind again. That day isn't coming. Accepting the fact that I will get behind and having contingency plans has been a big help, and it's much more encouraging than my previous "work like a dog and be irritable and nasty to everyone because I keep beating us all up for getting behind again" methods. Other areas that have chaos plans? Paperwork, school planning, and housecleaning.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

To John, on Father's Day

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. ~Clarence Budington Kelland

Father! - to God himself we cannot give a holier name. ~William Wordsworth

A father carries pictures where his money used to be. ~Author Unknown

Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father! ~Lydia M. Child, Philothea: A Romance, 1836

Never raise your hand to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected. ~Red Buttons

Happy Father's Day, my love.

I hope and pray our children will know how blessed they are to call you "Dad".

A baby's feet

A baby's feet, like sea-shells pink,
Might tempt, should heaven see meet
An angel's lips to kiss, we think,
A baby's feet.

Like rose-hued sea-flowers toward the heat
They stretch and spread and wink
Their ten soft buds that part and meet.

No flower-bells that expand and shrink
Gleam half so heavenly sweet,
As shine on life's untrodden brink
A baby's feet.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How Jack is doing

It's been a while since I posted anything about my Jack-man.

Where to start, where to start....
Well, first of all, we've got speech and occupational therapy underway. He goes to each for two hours a week. He loves going to therapy, and his therapists seem quite taken with him. They are always amazed with what he can well he can read, what he knows about all of his "pet" subjects, etc. His speech has already improved quite a bit. I don't think this has anything to do with speech therapy, because the improvements started before the therapy did...I think it's just a maturity leap...but all of a sudden he can answer questions more easily and express his wants more clearly. He does still use a lot of scripted speech. His occupational therapist has been working with him on life skills like hand washing, and fine motor skills like writing and using scissors.

He's still just as quirky as ever. This, combined with the speech issues, can make for some funny moments. Much of the time he sounds overly he'll say, "It is good to see you Mommy," in this really formal voice. His occupational therapist always wore her hair in a pony tail. Well, she got a haircut or something I think, and so one morning she came out to the waiting room with her hair down. Jack looked at her and said, "Your hair needs a wash-down," a bit of script he picked up from Thomas the Tank Engine. For two or three sessions she came out with her hair down, and Jack would kind of stare and make some comment about it. Then, last week, she came out with her hair in a pony tail again. Jack just smiled at her, and she said, "How's my hair today, Jack? Is it good or bad?" "It's good!" he said, and trotted back with her.

We're holding off on the gluten/casein free diet. We started. We got him casein free and we were experimenting with gluten free foods. It was really, really overwhelming. To be honest, this is probably not the best time for me to be trying such a drastic change around here. But I also just have my doubts that it will be worth the effort. Jack doesn't fit the profile of many kids I've met who have been helped by the diet. He doesn't appear to have bowel problems of any kind, or any allergy/intolerance issues in general. He's very healthy. He is also *extraordinarily* picky, and other than a few fruits, everything he eats has gluten and casein in it. It would be very, very difficult to make a full switch for the several months it would take to try the diet. He wouldn't understand what was going on and why we weren't letting him eat his favorite foods anymore, and I don't know what I'd feed him. His growth has already slowed way down...he's dropped from the 90th percentile to the 50th percentile in height, and he's quite thin. He eats no meat to speak of, no beans, no eggs, no nuts except peanut butter, nothing like that. All of his protein comes from dairy and whole grains. It'd be awfully difficult to get enough protein in him, and I'm just not feeling up to taking that on just to see if it helps at this point. We are having lots of gains from therapy, and that's enough right now. Maybe later. In the meantime, I'm working on the picky eating thing.

We've decided to homeschool him for kindergarten. It wasn't an easy decision. But we just weren't convinced there would be anything for him at school that we couldn't provide at least as well on our own. Our curriculum is accredited, and they have special ed consultants we can take advantage of as well. The kindergarten curriculum is quite gentle. Since he already has a good grasp of counting and number recognition and such, and since he's already reading very well, most of our concentration this year will go towards the kinds of things he's working on in therapy...motor skills, social skills, activities of daily living...we can truly shape the curriculum to suite his needs, my odd duck of a child who can read on a third grade level but is still struggling to write his own name. We also wonder about how he would handle being in school all day. For a child with sensory issues, it would be pretty overwhelming. This is a child who is frazzled after a trip to the library. Stressful events tend to really push him over the edge. After we had that trip to Little Rock in February, his autistic behaviors worsened quite a bit for a good two or three weeks. I guess if he had to go he would get used to it. But I think it could set his progress back quite a bit. Anyway, homeschooling is our default. It's what we do. I would only send kids out to school if we weren't able to meet their needs here. So far I don't feel that way about Jack. One person told me that she thinks I need to send him to school because parents of autistic kids need a break. I don't feel that way about Jack. Not yet. :) Jack, when he's not strung out over some stressor and we are following our routines, is very easy for me to handle. That part is not an issue for us. Not for him, anyway. :)

I get a lot of questions about his social skills will he develop social skills if he's not in school? I'm working on that. That is tricky. Finding socialization for homeschoolers is definitely not usually an issue. But for a special needs child, it's trickier. He can't just be signed up to the city soccer team or sent off to an art class for "normal" kids...not at this point anyway. Park days and such don't work very well either. Jack doesn't really give a rip about socializing you see, so he is content to go off and do his own thing. Frankly, he will probably always be that way, homeschooled or not. But he does need to learn some basic social skills. We are working on these at home, rehearsing how to make eye contact and have conversations, and modeling play and such, and his therapists do this too. Mostly I'm looking for activities to put him in that will allow one of us to kind of shadow him and coach him along for a while...we plan on doing this for PSR this fall, and possibly our homeschool co-op as well.

I've heard him singing lately. I noticed it first in the van. I was bringing him back home from therapy, and we were alone, so the van was uncharacteristically quiet, and I heard his quiet little voice singing a song from a Thomas dvd. I'd hardly ever heard him sing before, but now he sings all the time. It's very sweet to hear.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

just a catch-up post

....because I feel like checking in...

We are rearranging the living room this week. That living room painting I tried to get done the whole time I was pregnant is slowly underway. We rearranged the furniture into totally new configurations in our too tiny living room. It's not working out quite like I had it in my brain. We have too much crammed into this room. But it's all kind of needed. We have a lot of people to seat. In a perfect world I could relocate the oversized rocker and ditch the old, huge recliner and go buy a smaller loveseat. And I wouldn't have this inordinate attachment to my grandmother's old coffee table, which is actually a very nice piece of furniture that has the rare quality of withstanding years of daily abuse and still has not developed a wobble...but it takes up precious floor space. In the meantime, the whole room has this really claustrophobic feel because all the big furniture is a good couple of feet away from the walls so as to allow room for painting.

The aforementioned rearranging interfered with my blogging. The computer had to be disconnected and moved, and my camera cable was removed from the back. I'm not sure where it goes and haven't worked up the gumption to figure it out yet.

Summer is picking up. My in-laws came to visit for a few days, and we've been to the library for a workshop on making walking sticks. We will go back today for a kid's concert. They have shows every Thursday afternoon, and workshops every Tuesday. We will take advantage of a lot of these...hardly any excuse not to since we live four blocks from the library!

And, Henry beckons, so that's all for now! Hopefully I'll be back with some pictures...

Friday, June 04, 2010

Note to self

I need to explain to my husband that when he arrives home from work on the day his parents have arrived from out of town, don't walk in the door and say, with shock and awe in your voice, "Wow! The place looks great!" Because, we want them to think the place *always* looks great, that's why.

Nothing like out of town guests to spur your first real post-partum cleaning.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Goodnight Moon party

Goodnight room

Goodnight moon

Goodnight cow jumping over the moon

Goodnight light

And the red balloon

Goodnight bears, goodnight chairs

Goodnight kittens

Goodnight mittens

Goodnight clocks

And goodnight socks

Goodnight little house

And goodnight mouse

Goodnight comb and goodnight brush

Goodnight nobody

Goodnight mush

And goodnight to the old lady whispering hush

Goodnight stars, goodnight air

Goodnight noises everywhere

(Thank you to Maria,,she did all the decorating and most of the picture taking!)

Tessie turns two!

Singing Happy Birthday...she always puts her fingers in her mouth when you sing to her, hehe.

Her new toy kitchen

The ball was from Maria...Kain has already managed to pop it (sigh). It's ok! I'll get another!

...and the dress-up stuff was from Kain and Jack. The purple thing over her arm is the new pair of pajamas from Meme and Papa. She got a See and Say from them too, but that picture didn't come out.

Museum ABC blocks,,,a big hit! She got the picture book that went with it too.

Happy Birthday big sister!