Monday, October 29, 2012

Girl Power

I took the kids bowling yesterday. Among other things, we were trying to see whether they wanted to have their birthday party at the bowling alley instead of the skating rink. Not sure how things would go, we only paid for one game, and after figuring out the right shoe size and finding a ball for each of them--one that would not pull their arms from the sockets--we got to bowling. Since the bumpers were up, I thought we were headed for a stress-free game.


Well, kind of. The first game actually went pretty well. Sky, Pink, and Sky's friend from school had a pretty close game. Pink scored two spares and Sky a strike. All might have been perfect had it not all come down to Pink P's final ball. Because, on that final ball, she rolled a highly improbable spare, moving ahead of her brother by a mere two points, snatching the victory from his exuberant grasp. To add insult to Sky's injury, because she "spared" on the final ball, she got to roll one more than he did.

To Sky, who was only beginning to grasp the nuances of the game, this was simply too much. I could see him beginning to come unhinged, so I made a quick and ultimately fatal split-second decision. I declared we should play another game, figuring he had a good chance of winning the second game.

After all, how lucky could Pink P be?

Oh, you laugh, surely by now Moe knows better than to tempt the fates like this. Surely she knows better than to rely on the laws of probability.

You're right, I should have known better.

But, I didn't.

And on the second game, Pink P bowled a 111. That's right, on her second ever game of bowling, my twirling, prancing, ballet-loving four year-old daughter broke one hundred.

Sky lost it. And he couldn't regain it. He yelled. He pinched his sister. He cried. He flailed about. He angrily hurled his ball down the lane.

And I failed to stop it. I tried soothing him. I tried reasoning with him. I tried reprimanding him. I tried giving him squeezes for compression. I tried removing him from the situation. He weighs over 60 pounds now. When he loses it, I can't contain him. I can't keep him safe, and I can't really keep him from hurting others.

And it makes me furious.

In the end, I gave him my iPhone and he was able to zone out playing a marble labyrinth game. To the observer, I'm sure it looked like I was rewarding absolutely horrendous behavior with video games. Awesome parenting, lady. Way to go!

The iPhone game got Sky back to a place where he could hear what I was saying. He managed to tell his friend, "Good game," even if he didn't entirely appear to mean it.

But I left the bowling alley feeling utterly defeated in a way I've felt so very many times before.


But way more than that.

Once again, I'd failed to protect Pink P. Instead of being able to celebrate her accomplishment, we had to do damage control. Instead of joy, we had fear and sadness. Pink says she doesn't mind, that she understands. But I doubt it. How can anyone understand the barrage that is life with her brother. I don't.

I have no doubt that Pink P will be okay. She's got spunk and determination and sheer grit. She's also got a spring in her step, a wiggle in her behind, and the most infectious laugh. And for all these things, I am very, very grateful.

But, for the other stuff, there are no words.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another Day, Another Intervention

I recently heard a story about the positive effects of yoga for kids on the autism spectrum, so in typically frugal fashion, I bought the cheapest kids' yoga video I could find. It was an actual VHS tape, new for only $2.48. Last night, as I made dinner, the kids tried yoga. (Amazing, right? I not only kept them from bugging me while I cooked but also encouraged mediation and exercise.)

When I bought the video, I expected to see this:

Instead, I got this:

At least I'm only out a couple of bucks.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sky and the Art of DIY

Sometimes when I walk into the play room, this is what I see.

And it used to be that something like this would really annoy me. I mean, with all the toys and other stuff the kids have to occupy them, why must they take apart the sofa?

And then I learned about sensory processing disorder and what it means to need a little compression now and again. Temple Grandin had her cow squeezer. We have this:

Frankly, I'm glad Sky found an alternative to having a huge contraption in the middle of the play room. A weighted blanket might also do the trick, but they're expensive! And my DIY attempts were a dismal failure. If you figure out how to sew compartments into a blanket so that hundreds of navy beans stay in place, please let me know! And, then, please tell me how I can wash a blanket full of beans without something going terribly, terribly wrong.

Oh, just in case you missed it, the side-by-side (AKA "dummy") version:

(Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

WTF Vermont Curry?!?!!

Now I don't usually use foul language, but seriously who ever heard of peanuts in Japanese curry? Not me, obviously! Peanut butter is not at all popular in Japan, and aside from a few bar snacks, you rarely see peanuts, period. So, why would it occur to me or any other parent to a kid with a severe peanut allergy to check the label on the Japanese curry?

The good news is that Pink P is fine. The bad news is that even though she complained of CHEST PAINS, I told her to get an ice pack (her panacea of choice, along with the princess bandaids) and sent her to bed. In my defense, Pink P is known for melodrama and overreaction. I can't count how many times we've discussed the story about the boy who cried wolf. Just in case, I gave her an albuterol treatment, thinking she might be headed into an asthma episode.

I did not, however, break out the epipen. Why would I? We don't have any peanuts in the house, and if we did, she knows enough to check with someone before eating anything new. So, instead of keeping her safe, I made her eat the curry, which she doesn't really like anyway, and then sent her to bed without realizing she was having an allergic reaction to it.

Thanks a lot Vermont Curry. Thanks for once again making me feel like the shi**iest mom on the planet. And thanks, too, for setting off all of my panic sensors so I can never let my kid eat anything ever again without being totally paranoid.

**Oh, and consider this your PSA: VERMONT CURRY HAS PEANUTS IN IT.**

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Totally Unsolicited Parenting Advice

A friend of mine just learned she'll start fostering two young girls in a few days--after years of planning and months of waiting, she's now experiencing those moments of sheer terror we all feel when we realize we're about to become parents and we have NO idea what we're doing.

Her story got me thinking about what I've learned as a mom and what advice I have to give (not that she needs it or even that she asked for it). So, here you go. My totally unsolicited parenting advice.

1. Establish routines organically and from the very beginning. Structure is key.

2. It's good to give them choices, but limit the choices to things you're ok giving them.

3. No dyes, no processed food. If you don't have it, they won't expect it, and life's a whole lot better without that crap.

4. Have plenty of band aids, preferably ones with pictures.

5. Don't assign chores. Instead, instill a sense of team and working together for the good of the family.

6. Teach them to see what needs to be done around the house and to do it. Mine come into the kitchen and help get things on the table without being asked. It's heavenly.

7. Remind them how lucky they are to have each other. Sometimes this keeps them from trying to kill each other, but not always.

8. You can really never have too many books, sketch paper, crayons or markers. But you can have too many toys that make noise.

Some of the kids' books. You can never have too many books, but you can definitely have too many skeletons.

And even Stow has his own set of books to tear up read.

9. Praise and encouragement go a long way. So does giving your kids the benefit of the doubt.

10. If you feel like you're completely out of your element and that you're flying by the seat of your pants, you're in good company. That's how we all feel, all of the time. Or at least most of it.

This is what happens when Sky gets his hands on some markers and some paper.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened...

We took the kids to a koto** concert on campus (a.k.a. the place I work, filled with my students and my colleagues). Not so very long ago, we had easy access to koto music, so the kids could recognize the sound and the instrument. Not so much these days, though. When I heard about this concert, I realized it might be one of the few chances my children might have to see and hear a koto. So even though the concert started later than their normal bed time, we dressed them up and made our way to the university auditorium.

Part of my motivation for bringing the kids along was the fact the person who organized the concert worried there might be a small turnout. We're nothing if not strength in numbers, so we brought seven seats' worth--our clan plus Sky's friend William and William's mom.

I'm not sure, really, what possessed me to do any of this. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you can imagine all the things that could've gone wrong. I mean, sometimes we can't even make it to the garage before a major catastrophe befalls us and forces us to turn around and go back into the house to regroup.

Miraculously, on this particular night, we made it all the way to our destination without incident. In fact, we made it into the building, to the auditorium, and into our seats all without anything going wrong. It. Was. Amazing. Transcendental, even.

Once I got everyone settled, I looked up. Then, and only then, did I realize two things. First, the place was packed, and second, practically everyone was there. Directly in front of us, the provost, and behind us? A retired president of the university who also happens to be a specialist in my field. Suddenly, the sheer idiocy of my plan hit me. And, we still had at least 10 minutes until the concert would start. What. Was. I. Thinking?

Those were the longest 10 minutes of my life. The kids squirmed. They giggled. They competed for William's attention. Twice, we changed our seating configuration.

But, they didn't fight. No one cried, and no embarrassing personal information was shared.

They actually held it together all the way until the music started, and then were quickly enraptured by the whole experience. The musician combined her twenty-first-century compositions with some premodern favorites. It was ethereal. It was magic. And, it almost immediately put all three kids to sleep, leaving William stuck in the middle a bunch of snoring mini-MOEs. At the end of the two-hour concert, they all woke up without a fuss, walked to the car, then into the house and straight to bed also without a fuss.

In other words I took my kids to a grown-up event past their bedtimes, and nothing went wrong. I suppose there are all sorts of lessons for me to learn about trusting my kids to do the right thing and believing in the benefit of all the interventions we've been pursuing.

I don't know about those things, but I do know I need to get a copy of that koto player's CD.

**The koto is a traditional Japanese instrument with 13 (or more) strings and made from paulownia wood. Here's a link.

Photo adapted from Wikipedia.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The World According to Pink P

I'd say this pretty much sums it up:

(And she's never even heard the John Mellencamp song...)