Monday, August 30, 2010

The Skink's New Back Pack & Shoe Tying Lessons

Yesterday I took Broadway and Iraq to Target during The Skink's nap time. Daddy doesn't care much for shopping, so he was more than happy to be the assigned baby-sitter!

All 3 kids needed new shoes for school, and The Skink needed her first full-size back-pack (and I figured she probably trusted me enough to choose one for her). Iraq found some shoes rather easily. She has always worn either slip-on shoes or the ones with Velcro closures. Up until now she has had little interest in learning to tie her shoes (this is one of those fine-motor coordination things that some kids in the autism spectrum have a hard time learning). Well - she found some shoes she just HAD to have, and guess what? They have real LACES! She couldn't have been more proud... and I couldn't have been more nervous about the upcoming tie-your-shoes-lessons!

When we got home, The Skink (now awake from her nap) was presented with her brand-new Hello Kitty back-pack (thank-goodness the thing was on sale). She was so excited about it, she wore it the whole evening.


And the good news is that if she ever gets tired of wearing it, we can just put her inside of it, zip it up and carry her about. Yes - - it IS as big as she is :)

Now... notice what is going on in the background...


I sat with Iraq and worked on shoe-tying for a while. Just when I started feeling a little frustrated and like we were going nowhere fast, Broadway stepped in and said, "Mom, let me try. I remember learning to tie my shoes... I bet you don't."

He had a point!




How cute is that? By the end of nearly 40 minutes, Iraq had successfully tied her shoe once! Yay!!

Unfortunately by this morning, poor Iraq had forgotten what she had learned, and was running about with her laces undone. Yes - she learned that doing that was not such a great idea when she stepped on a lace and fell. Perhaps I can sweet talk Broadway into a few more lessons for Iraq... I hope!

Also, one of the other moms in the blogosphere has proposed "Me Time Tuesday." With any luck I'll be reporting on my Me-Time adventures once the kids are in school. Now to figure out what to do!

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

School is Starting Soon!

While I realize that much of the rest of the country in already in school, my 3 will start on the day after Labor Day. I just got their bus schedules... Broadway gets picked up around 8:15 and comes home just before 4. Sounds good. Iraq gets picked up at 7:17 and gets home just before 3. Cool. The Skink gets picked up at 6:15 and comes home at 3:20... say WHAT??

The Skink? That's my 4-year-old! Pre-K! Special Ed! Isn't that kind of a long day for a Skink? And what will I do without her? And what will I do with all that FREEDOM? I haven't had that kind of freedom... since, like, college?

I have a feeling this is going to be a bit of culture shock for me. Then again, I have a long list of things I've been wanting to do, if only I had more... TIME! I know this lady - one of The Skink's therapists from before she went to school - and she has a HORSE! Do I see more horse in my future?

And there are a few books I've been meaning to write, and some exercise I've been meaning to get, and a house I've been meaning to clean, and some groceries I've been meaning to buy, and oil I need to have changed, and laundry... OK - so maybe I'll have plenty of things to do.

Yesterday we went to the lake for some fun. The Skink LOVES the boat. She LIVES for the boat :o)

Like you couldn't tell from the picture... right?

And after dinner, the kids all took advantage of Mimi and Pop's front yard which has a lovely slope I'm glad I don't have to mow! In Texas the children never played in the grass due to the nasty little critters known as fire ants. A fire ant bite feels much like a bee sting, and if you happen upon a fire ant, you'll know they like to travel in packs... and bite in packs.

Thus, this whole VA play-in-the-grass thing is a newly found joy for the kids.



And exploring is a great way to get a bunch of grown-ups to test their running abilities...


If you look in the background, you can see Broadway bringing The Skink back from her adventure.


So - Happy Weekend!
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Monday, August 23, 2010

On Broadway...

Iraq tends to be the most photogenic person in our family. Of course, before we go to Philadelphia, we have to have shots of Broadway, too. Broadway is going through that awkward phase we all go through in our first years of high school. He's growing and changing so fast he barely knows where his body is. Of course, he's also a 15-year-old male, so smiling is stupid. On top of that, he hates having his picture taken.

Boy - doesn't this sound like a fun assignment??

Once again, we need votes for your top 3 favorite pictures, via comments, email or FaceBook. So in no particular order, I present you... Broadway!

(You can click on any image to enlarge it)

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

So there you have it, folks. I'll be taking more in the future, but this is a start, and your opinions are paramount in my not looking like a buffoon at the November Conference.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What have I gotten myself into??

About a week and a half ago as we were driving in the car, and advertisement for ProScout came on the radio. Though normally I might have tuned it out as just another blah-blah advertisement, Iraq piped up from the back seat, and almost screamed, "IT SAID I COULD BE A MODEL!" That was all I heard about until we reached our destination.

I never really thought about getting my kids into that industry - I mean, it's almost right up there with kiddie pageants in my book of things to avoid like the plague... but...

It's true. Any time a camera comes out, Iraq is there "workin' it!" And BOY can that girl work it! I can take 100 photos of her, and 99 of the pictures I take will be lovely. I somehow missed out on the "photogenic" gene. You can take 100 pictures of me, and approximately 3 of them won't send you in to fits of giggles... if I'm lucky.

So I figured, what could it hurt? If we go to ProScout and they do that vague smile & nod thing, pat us on the head and tell us "Don't call us, we'll call you," then we haven't wasted anything but an hour or two of our time. It won't hurt MY feelings - I mean, what mother out there doesn't think her children are the most glorious things ever created? And I knew all those other moms and their glorious creations would be there to to help us with our little reality check.

Just before I left I asked Broadway if he wanted to go too. He said "sure" in that I'm-so-over-you bored teenager tone and schlumped out to the car with us.

There were hundreds of people there. As we waited for our turn to meet with one of the ProScout scouts, more and more people left. Then it was Iraq's turn. She marched right up to that desk, stuck out her hand and said in a bold voice, "HI! I'm Iraq!" The guy asked her why she was there and she looked him in the eye and proclaimed "I want to be a MODEL!" Then he asked her if she'd ever thought about doing advertisements or acting... she said "I don't know. I guess that would be fun, too." He asked what TV show she would like to be on - and her instant reply was "SpongeBob!" LOL!

The scout gave her a big smile and asked if he could take her picture - of course she yelled "SURE!" and gave him a great little smile and a pose. Yeah - that's my Iraq! He handed her the Ace of Hearts card and told her he thought she'd make a great model. Yes - this is when my Iraq put her head to the side, looked him in the eye and said, "I know."

Broadway wanted to go up on his own. I could see his personality coming out from where I stood - and then the scout handed him a card too.

Holy Cow!

So my two older kids have been invited to meet about 40 representatives of international modeling agencies in Philadelphia in November. Road Trip!

Broadway was at his grandparent's house this weekend, so I started taking a few shots of Iraq. We need some decent head shots and some other shots to try to impress the agents into flying us to the Bahamas for a week-long photo shoot  (I can dream, can't I?). So this is one 10 minute photo session in our front yard wearing clothes I picked up at a second-hand shop. I figure the more I take, the less likely we are to need to get professional photos done... because there is NO way we can afford that right now!

Here's where YOU come in! I need you to leave me a comment, email me or let me know on FaceBook what your top 3 pics are. I like certain ones, but I'm the kid's mom, so my opinion may be a little swayed :)

And here they are:

1.

2.

3.
 4.
 5.
 6.
 7.
 8.
 9.
OR:

10.
 OR:

I have each one in both color and black & white. Your input is HUGELY appreciated because I don't want to look like a completely clueless idiot when we meet some agent from the Ford Agency... an idea which makes me want to pee myself, really...

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Little Smarty-Pants!

Don't you love it when your 4-year-old outwits you? She has figured out how to open her bedroom door and escape during nap-time and at night. Having a Skink wandering about one's house in the middle of the night is not necessarily a good thing...   So...


Yes - bungee cords have many wonderful uses in our house. If anyone wants to buy the Pack-n-Play crib sitting in our hall upstairs, please let me know. I'll give you a good deal on it!

Another random thing I need to mention is that for her 4th birthday, The Skink got a singing cow from my mother. It is by far The Skink's favorite toy right now, so much so that we have to take it away from her at nap time and night time... or she'll make it sing "Blue Mooooooooon" all night!  The following picture was taken right after my mom gave it to her...
More bars in more places...


And apparently children who go to camp learn to do the chicken dance! No matter what music is playing these days, we get a visit from our resident chicken.


Even though it's been really hot lately, I took the kids to the park the other day. We have a great park within walking distance, but there is another one that is a short drive away - I like it better because it is completely fenced in! I can set The Skink loose and I don't have to run after her the entire time. They also have these neat little play houses for the kids, and the whole park is beautifully maintained. 




Remember, the bars are for YOUR safety!

I have often told people that Iraq has an amazing amount of patience when it comes to The Skink. This morning she got really mad at her little sister when The Skink wandered into her room through the un-latched baby gate and "messed up" one of the lines of matchbox cars. If you have read my blog before, you know that Iraq has a form of Autism called Asperger's syndrome. She is super-high functioning, but has some quirks - one of which is lining up all her toys in perfect lines. This is how she "plays." People with Asperger's often have these strange forms of OCD - like compulsions to do things other people may not understand. To Iraq, having one of the cars moved out of it's place in line is... BAD! She can't explain why it's bad, but it just is. Kind of like how germaphobes know in their mind they won't *die* if they don't wash their hands, but they are compelled to do so... over and over and over.



So, The Skink apparently moved a few of the cars which resulted in a massive, pre-camp melt-down. It was about the angriest I've seen Iraq get with The Skink, but she still did not resort to any physical actions. The Skink looked horrified and ran from Iraq's room with her hands over her ears.


Iraq's compulsive nature can result in some positive things, like how she organizes her shoes. Other compulsions are just a little random, though...


This is actually a BIG improvement! Leaving the drawers open "just-so" is fine with me, really! She used to take ALL the clothes out of the drawers and put them in a single drawer. Talk about wrinkles!!

The compulsions that cause problems (like wrinkled clothes, permanent pen marks on things, nasty smells or general destruction of property) well, we work on those things a day at a time. We make sure she understands why we don't want her to do those things, and when necessary, temporarily take away toys or privileges as punishment... but one time is usually not enough. If it is a true compulsion, we will see it over and over and over, no matter what the punishment is. The all-the-clothes-in-one-drawer thing lasted months, so you can't imagine how excited I am to see the drawers as you see them above! YAYYYY!

Sure, it can be stressful for everyone involved, but we love her to bits no-matter-what! There will always be some people who believe their children to be perfect. I will never be one of those. My children are perfect for who they are. That is how they were made. It's my job to help them find their way in this world as best I can... that, and keep them alive...
Yeah - it's all in a day's work.

Have I mentioned how good Iraq is getting at Hide and Go Seek? She used to hide under her bed every time, but look how creative she is getting!!


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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Skink Turns Four!

It's hard for me to believe, really. Can it possibly have been 4 years ago today that my Skink made a very early appearance into the world, weighing 2 lbs 7 oz??

My blood pressure was high before I became pregnant, so in an attempt to control my blood pressure, I was taken off birth control. No biggie, really - I had always had fertility issues, so we weren't worried. We were also in for the surprise of our lives!

Pregnant? How can I be pregnant?

Needless to say, pregnancy did not HELP my blood pressure.I was been in bed for weeks, but my blood pressure just kept going up. Then one day I went in for a weekly non-stress test, and I wasn't allowed to leave! More days passed by and the blood pressure monitor grew less and less happy. Then on Sunday, August 6th at around 1-something in the afternoon, the doctor informed me that it was time!

It was 10 weeks too early, but it was time.

I summoned my husband to the hospital and I was put on a magnesium drip (so not a fun experience!) and I was given an epidural... and my blood pressure did not go down.

The magnesium was taking effect by the time I was wheeled to the OR - I was sea-sick and the walls were breathing. My memories are very cloudy. I vaguely remember the anesthesiologist telling me to put my arm down. Huh?? What arm? Apparently the magnesium coursing through my veins caused my arm to develop a life of its own and fly off into nowhere...

And then a very small cry and silence...

I barely caught a glimpse of an isolette with a very small baby in it being rolled past me... but the baby was PINK! Pink is GOOD!

Then fog. I remember being in the recovery room adjacent to the OR, but someone said I could not be moved far. I was wheeled about 15 feet to the nearest room in the Labor and Delivery unit, just across the hall from the recovery room.

Fog again.

The next day (I think) I was brought a picture of my daughter. I begged to see her, but I could not be moved and she could not be moved. Everything was foggy. I was very ill and I remember very little.

On Tuesday I had been stabilized enough to be moved, but I was not yet allowed to sit up. I was taken on a gurney to the NICU for a very short visit. I tried to sit up a little to see my baby, but was pushed gently back down. I could see a hat and a small foot poking out from a blanket. I was told my baby was doing very well for being so small. Then I was wheeled to the postpartum unit.



I was taken for tests and CT scans. Apparently my doctor (who was in his 60's) had never seen blood pressure as high as mine was in the OR. They were amazed to find no sign of a stroke (Yay, me!). But it was a close one. The doctor admitted he thought he would lose me. But I was too stubborn to give up - that's just how I roll.

The following Friday I went home (against doctor's orders) but heck - I hadn't been home in weeks! After so much time in bed, I could barely walk. I became short of breath just walking down the hall in our house. I missed my baby. It felt weird going to visit her each day, but even more weird was saying "good-bye" at the end of each visit.

The first time I drove myself to the hospital for a visit, I was met by a doctor as soon as I came through the NICU doors. He took me to another room. He told me in a very heavy Indian accent that my baby's blood work had come back from the lab. My baby had Down syndrome. Trisomy 21.

He told me that this meant my baby would have mental retardation, but nobody could know yet how profoundly she would be affected. He told me my daughter would never be like the other kids. He told me that my daughter might never read. He told me it was very likely she would have heart problems, digestive problems, behavior problems. Problems.
Then he said, "I will leave you alone to cry." And he left the room.

Oh yes - I cried! I bawled my eyes out. So many things went through my head. Would I be able to love this baby the way I loved my other children? Would the world be cruel to my baby? Would I ever be able to go on a vacation alone with my husband? Would my husband accept this child? Would I be tied to this child for the rest of my life??

I left the room and I held my baby. I held her and cried. I hurt so terribly on the inside. This wasn't the baby I thought she was. I felt suddenly like this baby was an impostor. Oh, but she was a cute, pink little impostor...



On the way home, I called my husband to break the news. I dreaded his reaction, but he did not react the way I was worried he would. I thought I would be the one having to tell him that everything would be alright... just words, but words that set a positive tone in a dubious situation... but there he was on the other end of the line, telling me that everything would be fine! He was helping me deal with my emotions - - and he didn't seem all that upset about the news at all.

I had a rough night, but by morning I knew one thing for certain... I already loved this baby. I did not know anybody with Down syndrome while I was growing up... I had a friend whose brother was "mentally retarded,* but I had never really met him. I used to wonder how a parent could love a child "like that."  I used to wonder if they wished their child looked or acted more "normal."

By morning many of those thoughts were already fading. I started researching. I started finding that the doctor who broke the news to me did not tell me everything I needed to know. In fact, the more I read on line, the more I realized that the doctor was a moron! How dare he say such negative things about my baby? When my other two children were born, nobody came to me with a list of all the things that could possibly go WRONG with them... so why did they feel the need to do that with THIS precious child? It was like I had been told, "Well, just forget what it feels like to be happy. You're screwed now! This kid is a mess, so don't even bother!"

I was incensed! I went to the NICU that day and I LOVED my baby. I held her and sang to her and rocked her and LOVED her.



Because she was premature, she did have some heart issues, but I am happy to say her heart corrected itself completely. She has been a very healthy, happy kid over the last 4 years. Sure - we had a little hospital adventure a few weeks ago, but since getting out of the NICU, this was her first major issue!

And as for that moron doctor? If I ever find out his email address, you can bet I'm going to send him the video of my little Skink READING... at the age of 3 years and 2 months! Take that!

And problems?? What are these problems you speak of? The Skink is many things, but she has never, ever, ever been a "problem!"


Most of the above NICU pictures appear in our book, The Littlest Sister.