Thursday, October 31, 2013

5 Years of Costumes

When I woke up this morning we didn't have any solid plans.  But Sadie was so, so incredibly excited about wearing her jellyfish costume somewhere that we just had to figure out someplace where she could wear it (and it's been raining pretty much non-stop all day)... in between Paul's class that started at 1 and his class that started at 5:45.  Thankfully when he came home from his first class he had news that there would be trick or treating at the law school between 4 and 5 and so it was decided.  

We had a couple small packages of some special candy that's pretty much free of every allergen that the girls got to have for this very special occasion (although still definitely not part of the diet).  Mae walked around the house with wide eyes eating little sour hearts very, very slowly (she even gave one to me).  

Now everyone is sleeping and I've been nostalgically looking at old pictures while saying "the last five years have gone by so quickly!" over and over again.  And so, I thought I'd share with you what I found!  

Time flies...

Back in the day when I had time to do multiple outfit changes in one
day because I just couldn't decide what to put her in!

Her first year in her angel costume.

Maggie arrives... and Sadie is an angel again.

The princess dress picture above isn't from Halloween, but it's from around that time.
Sadie wore her nun costume while we were trick or treating at Ave, and
Mae wore her princess dress and went as Saint Margaret of Scotland
(if memory serves).  But they were wearing princess dresses just about every day
so it's hard to keep the days straight!

Here are a few pictures from last fall!  They were Cinderella when we went
trick or treating at a local shopping center.  We went to the Candy Land
day at a local library.  And the princess dresses in the left hand corner is actually
what they wore on Michaelmas.

This year:  We went to boo at the zoo and the law school trick or treating time.
Mae was a unicorn at the zoo and Rapunzel today.  Sadie was a jellyfish
both days and Patrick was a Patch-o-saurus Rex both days too!
Just before bedtime tonight Sadie told Nani on the phone:  "Halloween is looking forward to All Saint's Day!"

And I have to say, I'm pretty excited for one of my favorite feast days of the year!

Patrick's Saint John of the Cross Costume

Tonight I sat down at my sewing machine and Sadie said:  "Mommy, you'll have plenty of hours before All Saint's Day.  Go to bed.  You've been working since early this morning.  You're very tired.  Don't worry, you'll have lots of hours to sew."  She was so serious and cute.  When I insisted that tonight was in fact a sewing night she came over and stood next to me and watched and talked and did any little job I needed done.  

And she told Nani that the reason Patrick was crying this morning and would probably cry when he saw his whole finished costume (which she insisted is a surprise) was because he's just so excited that he gets to be Saint John of the Cross and he can't contain his happiness.  They're tears of joy, she said.  

Um... Yeah.  

These definitely look like tears of joy to me:

I finished his costume shortly before midnight tonight.  It took me almost six hours altogether to make it (about the same amount of time it takes me to make a princess dress).  The mantel ended up being the trickiest part.  The pictures don't really do it justice with it laying flat... hopefully I'll be able to wrangle Patrick into and snap some pictures tomorrow while I double check the fit (since the tunic fits I think the rest should be fine):

The Mantle

The Scapular

The Cowl

The Tunic

Patrick's Carmelite Habit
for his Saint John of the Cross
All Saint's Day
Now to sleep before one of the babies wakes up!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween, All Saint's Day and the Great October Debates

I love autumn.  I know I've said it at least a dozen times on this blog, because I'm still relishing living in an area with seasons again, but it's true.  And it's not just because of the crisp air outside, the awesome deals on apples (we bought 20 lbs last week and have had homemade apple cider, dried apples fresh out of the dehydrator, apple muffins, home made apple-pumpkin-almond ice cream and even apple-pumpkin porridge), or the beautiful fall colors.  It is because it is in autumn that I am most reminded of how much I love being Catholic.  

Don't get me wrong.  I know that Christmas and Easter are out big times of year.  But the changes in the celebration of Christmas and Easter as a Catholic weren't that huge (let's face it, it's not like I've made it through an Easter Vigil Mass since I've had kids).  Autumn though?  I love the feast days.  We've got Michaelmas and the Feast of the Nativity of Mary (let's just count anything after school starts as "autumn", m'kay?).  There's Saint Therese's feast day and Saint Francis' and our family patron saint's, Saint Martin de Porres (along with many, many more!  Those are just my favorites off the top of my head!).  And of course, there's Halloween and All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day.

I've almost been hesitant to say this out loud, because it's such a contentious subject every October in the Catholic blogosphere... but... I like Halloween.  I get why other people love it and why other people hate it and I find I fall somewhere in the middle.  I've read the various debates, but nothing has really swayed me, probably because, as we celebrate it I see nothing wrong with it.  

The kids get dressed up in cute costumes that Nani sent them (after a conversation with Sadie on the phone) and the have fun.  This year I had a jellyfish, a unicorn and a dinosaur.  We went to the zoo for their little party day and that was really the main event for us.  I'm not totally certain what we'll be doing on Halloween.  We may be at home.  I need to check the bulletin because I think there's something at our parish.  Last year we went to a local shopping center a few days before hand and did trick or treating there, in the icy cold wind with two little Cinderellas.

I'm not a fan of what it has become for a lot of people.  I cringe when I see pre-teen girls wearing the "sexy" costumes while strolling down the street with their families, who they're still young enough to trick or treat with.  I've felt the urge to take a Dad or two by the shoulders and say "Really?  Really?  You see nothing wrong with your twelve year old wearing that?!?!?!"  I don't, but I've been tempted.

In our house the kids get dressed up and run around and play (which means pretty much 4 out of 5 days around here are "Halloween" year round), and I actually consider letting them leave the house (more often) so they can wear them in public, instead of wrestling them into relatively normal clothing (and I know that most of the people who aren't Halloween fans probably wouldn't have a problem with that).  I'm not convinced that Halloween needs to be gory or gross either, as some proponents say (because I've seen a trend where people argue that it should be that way or you're doing it wrong).
So that's my two cents on Halloween.  It's okay.  The kids have fun.

But you know which feast day I love?

All Saint's Day.  

And guess what?  My kids love it too.

It helps that we started talking about how much fun it was going to be since they were tiny.  I'm sure the fact that we lived at the Ave law school for a year where most of the kids did dress up on All Saint's Day contributes to the excitement.  And it probably really helps that we have an oldest who's obsessed with religious vocations and would spend every day dressed as a nun if I let her... because she spreads the excitement through the house with her gleeful anticipation and delegation of costumes... since the little kids are too little to protest and all.

This year I made a mistake.  I was thinking of doing making something quick and green and calling Patrick "Saint Patrick."  Something easy, I imagined.  Then in conversation, I asked Sadie what she thought Patrick should be and she passionately answered that he just had to be Saint John of the Cross.

It took me a moment to realize why.  Saint John of the Cross was a Carmelite Friar.  Sadie will be going (again) as Saint Therese.  She wants him to match.

In a moment of insanity I agreed.  Then I put it off until the last possible minute, because that's how things tend to go around here.  Last night I started sewing.  I found a site that showed the parts of the Carmelite habit and suddenly my vision (which was a quick little brown tunic made from broad cloth) shifted and I found myself unfolding a huge piece of brown linen.  I'd been sucked in by my inability to not make costumes look as realistic as I possibly can.  And that linen was thick and rough and perfect.

I finished his tunic and half of the cowl last night.  I still have to sew his scapular (think big scapular) and mantle, and the hood in his cowl.  Since he's due for a hair cut I was tempted to do a mini tonsure just cutting the inside his regular length and leaving the outside long until the next day, but I'm not sure I could make it even enough since he doesn't hold still while I'm clipping away.    

I made the pattern up in my head.  I cut it out freehand.  I checked the length against a sleeper and hoped it would fit.  This morning I tried it on him to see if it would work before I went any further and it was perfect.  At least I thought so:

He was having a clingy morning and
being put down wasn't part of his plan for the day.

So I bribed him with a broken camera...

I'm either going to add buttons or ties to the back.

He was finally happy.

Halfway there!
I know fall can be busy.  And I don't let myself feel pressured to do it all.  Some years we go big on certain feast days.  Other days the celebrations are much, much smaller.  This year we watched the Therese movie on her feast day and didn't do much else.  But I also try to make breaks in our schedule to celebrate, have fun, and be inspired by the saints who's stories of heroic virtue can have such power in little hearts and imaginations.

I hope you have a blessed week and that you and your families are inspired by these beautiful feasts in the coming days!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Homeschooling: The First Half of the Year

You know what happens when your daughter turns five in June and announces that what she really wants for her birthday is to start kindergarten the next day (although you drag your feet and make her wait until the following Monday so that you have a little extra time to prep)?  It means that midway through October you hit the halfway point of the school year.

And I have to say... It's been way more fun than I expected it to be.

You see, when I first started thinking about homeschooling I was working as a coach at a high school back in California.  Sadie wouldn't arrive for a couple more years.  But Paul and I began to talk about what kind of education we'd want our children to have.  Because of my own experiences I would likely have been drawn to homeschooling anyways, but that job sealed the deal.  And Paul, was only too happy to agree.

So I began reading everything I could get my hands on.  I fell in love with the Well Trained Mind.  I read it twice.  And I eagerly awaited the day when we would start school.

Yet while I was in love with the idea of homeschooling in the abstract, I wasn't sure what it would be like day to day.  It would be a lot of work, I was told, and had the vague thought go through my head that school or no school, life is a lot of work.  But I was nervous.  I didn't really doubt my ability to teach, because I've taught hundreds of people how to swim, and because like most parents, I've already been teaching my kids from the start in our day to day life, but I wondered what it would be like in the trenches of day to day schooling.  While I'd read plenty of posts that made me count the days until we started school, I'd ready plenty that made it seem like something to be dreaded too.  My feelings were mixed.

Then we got started.

Now I know we're still pretty new to this whole thing.  I know that I have a lot to learn, and will learn it, in the coming years.  And I know someone is probably going to say something like "just wait, just wait until something-something-something" when I will most certainly have days when I'm ready to throw in the towel.

Sure, there will probably be days like that.  I'm sure teachers in classrooms around the country sometimes have days like that.

But we haven't yet, and in some ways that amazes me.

Okay, I'm sure it helps that I'm starting with Sadie.  I have a feeling she's the kind of student that most teachers would love to have in their classroom.  She begs for more work.  She asks to do school on the weekends.  And she absorbs information like a little sponge and then repeats some complex science fact that she's learned two months later, leaving me wide eyed.  When I let her, she watches science documentaries for fun.  And then she begs to watch them over and over again.

So my main "problem" is having enough for her to do.  Because I remember sitting in first grade where the teacher would draw lines in my books and say "don't go past this line" so I wouldn't get too far ahead and so I would finish the work in five minutes and sit there waiting.  Since we aren't in a classroom Sadie wouldn't have to sit there waiting, but since she's so passionate about learning more, I'm just going to have to figure out a way to keep up (which means planning more than a week in advance for those days when she does a weeks worth of work all at once).

And the "work" part that I'd been warned about?

Doing school with her doesn't feel like work to me.  It's a refreshing break in my day.  I sit down and answer her questions.  Often times I'm holding Patrick.  Other times I'm holding Maggie.  Sometimes they're both climbing on me, or pulling at my skirt.  Sometimes Maggie sits at the table and draws next to her sister.  Once and a while she'll sit in the same chair next to Sadie.

I have to say, that of all the things I do during the day that feel like work, school isn't one of them.  Cooking everything we eat from scratch with insane dietary restrictions feels like work. Changing diaper after diaper gets a little old.  Cleaning the house and doing dishes?  Definitely work.

But school?  School time I love.  I love snuggling up on the couch and reading the latest Little House book.  I love trips to the library to get new books for the week.  I love going on field trips and seeing their little faces light up as they learn something new.  And I love lining up My Little Ponies on the table and doing "pony math" with Sadie (she will tell you that math and religion are her favorite subjects... using my little ponies as manipulatives may have something to do with that.).

Maggie and I have started doing school too and I have to say, it's less of a challenge than I expected.  She's interested in what her sisters doing and she can have laser like focus when she sees we're doing reading or math.  She draws shapes and letters on her own.

Halfway through our first school year I can say with growing confidence that this was the right decision for our family.  My hands might feel very full on some days, but even during particularly challenging moments I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Your Child isn't Autistic: Part 2

This is Part 2.  Part on can be found here.

The other reaction I've found is from people who feel like they really know Mae and just cannot believe that she is autistic.  It might be from someone who knew Mae as a baby or who have heard about her antics from my facebook status updates.

And the knee jerk response seems to be that obviously she can't be autistic.  They've heard what she can do.  She's obviously smart.

The thing is, being smart and on the spectrum certainly aren't mutually exclusive.  People on the spectrum come with a wide variety of IQs.

Yes, I know that Mae is very, very intelligent.  She demonstrates it daily in her ability to come up with new and creative ways to get into trouble.  I hear it over and over again at her evaluations.  But that doesn't mean that she isn't autistic.  Being autistic doesn't mean a person is dumb, anymore than being neurotypical means that a person is smart.

The other possibility is that the parent in question might not share every single little challenge that they've faced with friends and family.  They might not feel like telling the world at large that they had to clean smeared feces off of every surface in their dining room after going into the kitchen to make lunch and finding the mess unfolding in the baby proofed room five minutes later.  They might not talk about trying hard to convince themselves that it was "just a phase" while simultaneously trying not to get sick during the extensive cleanup that followed (or in 27 other scenarios, when they're child somehow took advantage of being alone for thirty seconds while their mother went to the rest room). And yes, that particular challenge appears to be behind us now.  

I tend to try to write about our cuter challenges.  I write about the challenges that make me laugh.  The ones that cause me to shake my head in amazement about the little firecracker that we've got on my hands.  I don't write about our toughest days, since I'm using all my energy getting through them (like yesterday when I had a migraine and someone kept trying to sit on my head when I tried to lay down and buy their silence with a Diego movie... which didn't work.).

And more and more I feel for those parents who's children are at other places in the spectrum... because the last thing anyone wants to hear when they're struggling to help their child is that their struggles are just in their imagination.

We know that something is really wrong (even if we've spent months or years denying it), we live with the challenges day in and day out.  To be honest realizing that something was happening that wasn't just in my head was a huge moment for me (and I imagine for many others walking in these same shoes).

So here's my advice to those who have a friend who has a child on the spectrum, or with any challenge.  Try not to assume that you know every facet of the problem.  Try not to assume that you're an expert in the area unless you really are.  For some kids it is very obvious (Mae falls on the more obvious side right now).  For others it's far less so.

And whatever you do, please don't tell them a) that you don't believe in autism or aspergers b) that you don't believe anything is wrong with they're child that a few good spanks wouldn't cure or c) that autism or any of the other parts of the spectrums "aren't real."  You also might want to hold off on telling them that you think the vast majority of kids who receive the diagnosis aren't really autistic at all.  

And for anyone who's still reading, and who's wondering what they should say if any of the above was your go to response, a nice place to start instead might be by asking them how they're doing.  If they've just received a diagnosis their lives likely feel chaotic.  They might not have a blog where they vent their every thought.

And then actually listen to what they say.  You might learn something that you didn't know before and even if you don't you may have lightened their load a tiny bit, rather than having added to it by telling them that the challenges they're facing are all in their head.

Your Child Isn't Autistic and Other Winning Statements

A few years back...
Before Mae's diagnosis, I knew just about nothing about autism.  Since the diagnosis I've been reading everything I can get my hands on, and sorting out the good from the bad (knowing Mae so well makes that fairly simple because at a basic level I know what she is and what she isn't and I can usually tell if a book is worth reading in a chapter or so based solely on the way they talk about autism).

But I also realize that what I have learned in a month and a half is still very little.  I've talked to our pediatrician and psychologist and therapists and social workers.  I've spent hours every week sitting in offices watching Mae be tested and asking questions.  I sneak out the book of the day and read whenever my children are quiet enough to steal a few moments away from the crazy loud playfulness that is my life.  And at night I try to find a few moments when everything I'm supposed to have done is complete to sit and read some more.

I've learned a lot.  Being part of this study should help me learn a lot more (since every time anyone hears that we're doing it they talk about what a great program it is and use words like "time commitment" and "intensive" that make me a tad nervous about how I'm going to cram it into our schedule).  But I will.  Because I would do anything to learn how to help her communicate and interact with the world around her.

What I didn't know before we began this journey, was how many autism experts there are in the world.

If you don't have a child with autism, or aren't on the spectrum yourself, you might not realize that half of the population of the US appears to be an expert on the subject.

Once you get a diagnosis the floodgates open.

"There's nothing wrong with her."  You'll hear.  "She's just being a kid."  There will be eye rolling and snorting.  "I think that autism is extremely over diagnosed."  "My kid probably had it.  But we never did anything and he's fine now."

And if you're like me your tongue might get a little sore from all the biting of it that you've been doing.  And then you'll start typing (because let's face it, that's what I do too!).

Yesterday it came to me that talking about having a child on the spectrum is a little bit like being Catholic.  When others find out, you might discover you have something wonderful in common, that they're Catholic too and that you share a deep love of Christ and his Church.  Or you might find out that the person has about a million preconceived notions about the Church and is only too happy to share them with you.  "Oh I know all about the Catholic Church.  You guys worship Mary and the saints and statues."


That sort of comment shows a real ignorance of the Church and of Catholicism.  And the sort of comments I've been hearing often reveal a total ignorance of autism.  Which brings me to the point of this post.

Before offering unsolicited advice to a parent of a child with autism, it's helpful to ask oneself what they actually know.  Where have you learned what you know?  Was it a five minute segment on the news?  Was it a half page article in a magazine?  Was it from hearing about so-and-so's-cousins-son who "was really just a brat" they were "making excuses for"?

If it's possible that the whole of your knowledge comes from a source like one of those listed above than you may want to consider not offering advice.  And more than that, you may want to work really, really hard to suppress that eye roll.

I appreciate most well meaning advice, even if it ends up being something that we don't use.  After all, I'm learning, and when I hear about something new I start researching.  I would love to hear how you're sister's cousin's uncle's daughter did really well on a gluten free diet.  It gives me hope.  And  I really, really appreciate all the supportive and loving comments we've received.

But if the first thing that comes to mind is saying that you think kids with autism are spoiled and that nothing's wrong with that kid that a few good hard swats to the butt wouldn't cure, than stop.  Because you're wrong.

To be continued in part 2 (since I apparently have a lot to say on this subject...)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Saturday Morning Edition

Yesterday was the cognitive testing.  It was with the same psychologist who made the diagnosis and she explained that it did not matter how Mae did, she couldn't fail.  Which was good because an hour before we left home I'd posted this one facebook, which pretty much sums up the twelve hours leading up to the test:
"You know what you should totally do if you're three and you have a cognitive test the next day? 
Stay up all. night. long. talking about how it's morning and you're ready to get up (at least that's what I imagine the ongoing baby-talk conversation was about). Get up and stomp around the room. Yell to your brother in the next room to see if he'll join you (You know he will. Enthusiastically).  
And then an hour before the test start to act really sleepy and lay down on the middle of the living room floor like you need a nap. 
This is going to be awesome. And accurate... Or more likely the opposite of accurate. Maybe the icy cold autumn air will wake her up..."

The test had four parts.  The first was to point out the body parts on a picture of a teddy bear.  She wasn't having it.  She tried to scribble on the picture with an eraser instead.  The third was saying the names of things on simple pictures.  Again, no way.  The last was building block towers... and true to character, Mae proved that she was a destroyer of towers.

The second part of the test, however, was her chance to shine.  She was supposed to match a card with a picture on it with a picture in a book.  At first the pictures were identical, but they got increasingly harder.  She matched a octagon with another octagon.  She matched the right sized circles.  She matched something else I can't remember.  And then she matched two different flowers after figuring out that the flowers were different from the other three plants.

The psychologist also thinks that Maggie has taught herself to read (from watching me teach Sadie).  And that she likely refuses to do a lot of the things she's asked to do because she finds them too easy and gets bored... Which could be why she does the harder puzzles but refuses to try the easy ones...

Lately with all the supplements, I've been feeling a bit like a pharmacist.  And the fact that we're only up to maybe a quarter of the supplements she'll be on (we add one a week) means it's only going to get more extreme.  But the girls both love the Cod Liver Oil and are convinced it's "candy"... which perhaps shows how often they see real candy...

I was really hoping that Patrick had outgrown his dairy allergy.  "Most babies do" they tell me.  I was hope, hope, hoping we'd find it out at his appointment in April (and maybe we will)... but I'm a little down about it now.

Paul and I both had burritos last week.  Paul's had sour cream.  Mine didn't.  They got mixed up.  I took one bite of the sour cream burrito and spit it into my napkin.  But I could feel sour cream in my mouth, even though the vast majority wasn't swallowed.

And guess what happened?

Four days of an allergic reaction (and think, that's just from nursing...).  Despite his every night allergy medication.

I have a sinking feeling that this doesn't bode well for him not being allergic any time soon... it also worries me about severity since it was such a small amount and he still had a reaction.

Now on to next week!  We have two days of testing at the University. Therapy has been momentarily postponed until paper work goes through.

Mae was less a fan of the test this last Thursday.  It involved a graduate student following her around imitating her.  It did prove that she can become annoyed enough to do tasks however.  She even pointed after a car and said "over there, over there" which had both me and the student grinning from ear to ear because I can't even remember the last time she pointed!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Theme Thursday: W

You'd think that with a last name that starts with the letter in question for today's Theme Thursday link up I would have some sort of initial worth photographing around here.  But after thinking and thinking I couldn't come up with a single thing.  So I stepped outside and found this... of course it's in front of one of the few trees left on the block that isn't in it's full autumnal glory:

For more Theme Thursday head over to Clan Donaldson!

Mae: Destroyer of Baby Gates

Last night Maggie broke through the bottom baby gate in her room.  I heard a crash and ran up the stairs to find her laughing hysterically as she tore the plastic webbing in two.

I paused and marveled.  She'd had to yank off a heavy metal clasp, yanking apart the wooden and heavy duty plastic webbing.

We've gone through a half dozen of these $20 gates, but this was a new way of breaking one.

And it was nighttime.  I needed a way to secure the door so that she couldn't sneak out.

I grabbed a thick ball of acrylic yarn and pushed the gate back into place.  Then I wrapped the yarn around, over and over again, until the gate was tied back together, securely, making knots and then wrapping it again until I was certain she wouldn't be able to break through it.  Or maybe I should say that I was fairly sure that she wouldn't break through for at least one night, until we could get a new gate.

We used to have those door knob covers that go over the doorknob and "baby proof" them.  It was true that Maggie couldn't turn the door handle with them on.  But then she learned that if she hit them just right, with just enough force, they would fly into four separate pieces.  After that it took her less than a minute to get the door open in her room.

I can't help but look at this particular problem in two different ways.  The first is the obvious.  Of course it's a problem.  The child that runs and runs and runs without glancing back over her shoulder to see if someone is following needs a secure room.

But at the same time I can't help but appreciate the intensity of her determination or her inventiveness in finding new ways to escape.  I find myself marveling over these traits and wondering where they will take her.

"She's so smart" is something that I've heard over and over again and I have no doubt that it's true.

Last week I said that I was certain that she understand almost everything that I say.  The person asked how I could be certain.  I struggled to put it into words.  Later I repeated the question to Paul.

His response?  "Well, I guess it's the way she flips you the bird as she does the complete opposite of what you've just asked her to do."

Obviously that's not literal (I always have to say that lest someone miss the sarcasm, as so often happens with sarcasm or satire in the blogosphere... Maggie does not literally flip anyone the bird, just to be clear).  But I knew what he meant.

It's when you've just said something to her, or even had a conversation about her in her presence, and she goes over, with a gleam in her eye and a smile on her lips and does the exact thing that she wasn't supposed to do and then giggles hysterically about it.

And really, all I can do is laugh.  Don't get me wrong.  She has rules.

But when she finds the five hundredth way to get through a baby gate?  I fix the problem and I go downstairs and laugh.  "You know you aren't allowed to do that." I say.  "We need this gate.  It keeps you safe."  I tell her.  And I struggle to keep a straight face as she practically falls over, giggling at her handiwork.

I've only recently begun to realize the lengths we've gone to in Maggie-proofing our home.  As we sat at the last meeting the case worker asked if there were any dangers in the home they should know about.  At first I said no.  We've got it baby proofed.  Because when I scan the house I feel like we do.  But then I kept on talking:

"But I have to tell you about the vents.  I almost have all the vents blocked.  There's one in her room and she could get out the three inch screws so we bolted the bed in front of it, so she can't get into it any more.  And the other vents have heavy furniture over them so she can't go down them, because they're huge and wooden and don't screw down.  But the other day she found a heavy brass vent and moved the chair that was over it and tried to go down it. I found her up to her arm pits in it.  And when she wouldn't stop trying to remove the grate I put her up in her room for a time out.  And when I went up there to check on her she'd used her sister's headboard to climb up and reach the curtain rod and she as hanging from it. So we unbolted her sisters bed and removed the bookshelf headboard and put it in the closet and bolted the bed back down so she can't get up there.  Oh and there's a six foot tall double baby gate on the stairs she scaled the other day.  So really we've done all we can think of.  But she keeps finding ways you would never think of to get through the baby proofs."

You'd think that she has zero supervision hearing these things, but she's very quick and very quiet.  I am with them all the time.  If I notice silence, I'm quick to look up, but with Patrick and Sadie happily playing I don't always notice that Mae, in the corner of the room that I think is safe, has suddenly become very quiet and is therefore likely "into" something.

Maybe someday she'll become a security expert.  It would put her skills to good use.

Now to get ready for today's testing!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mae: The Latest

Here's the latest Mae update.  I included all the names of the tests for anybody curious or interested about that sort of thing:

This morning kicked off the first meeting, in a week full of appointments.  Mae and I left the house bright and early, her little hand clasping mine excitedly as we headed towards the car.  So far she's been enthusiastic about going to all of her tests and appointments, since they usually involve bubbles and balloons and play dough, and this morning was no exception.  She hurried alongside me to the van and giggled as I strapped her into her car seat.

Today's appointment was to discuss the results of the two 2-hour tests we'd done at the ABA therapy center, called the VB-MAPP (The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program).  On Thursday we'll head back over to State for her second 2-hour test there (they re-did the ADOS for the study and began the Mullen Scales Assessment last week and will continue with the Mullen this week).  Friday morning will be Mae's first therapy appointment here at the house and in the afternoon after Paul gets home from his classes there's a cognitive test back at CMH.  And since therapy will be here at the house six days a week, she'll have her second session on Saturday morning (and then it will be Monday through Saturday, every morning).  I think this new schedule is definitely going to take some getting used to.

Mae was ready to play when she got to the therapy center this morning.  She picked up a tiny piece of balloon that she found on the floor, looked at me and said "ba-lloon!  ba-lloon!" in a perfectly clear little voice before jumping into my arms and giving me an excited kiss, pleased with her new word.

Mae's case worker, one of the heads of the therapy center, one of the therapists that Mae will be working with (there will be three and each will be here two days a week), an intern and Mae and I all went into the little assessment room to go over her test.

The graphs showed that Mae could do about 3/4 of the things in the 0-18 month category.  In the 18-30 month category there were a few lone boxes filled in and the 30-48 month category was completely blank.

We talked about the fact that Mae is obviously very smart, but she's very good at ignoring people and stubbornly refusing to do what she's asked.  She's also gets very attached to little toys very quickly, but if she's told she can only have that toy if she completes a task, she'll switch her attention to something else very quickly.

So basically the assessment wasn't a perfect example of what she actually knows or can do (for example, she's really good at puzzles, and zipped through them when we were at the university test, but refused to do them when we were at the therapy center), but it's a good starting place for working on getting her to do more.  They said they have a feeling she's going to zip through the goals once she really gets going and that we'll probably have to set new ones before the four months are up (when we'd normally set new goals).

And we talked about how we set up a new downstairs baby gate today that is heavy duty and six feet tall and she scaled it this morning... and about the "eloping" problem, so all that will be going into the plan too.

That's the latest!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why it's not a good idea to make Mae angry...

You know what happens when you write a post about how your kids never fight...  yeah... I totally set myself up for this.  But still.  I'm chuckling about it because I'm so impressed by what she actually did...

Let's say that you're a certain three year old and your big sister is just kind of annoying you today.  She keeps taking your binkie and laughing and trying to hug you and keeps trying to play with whatever you're playing with,and while on some days this is okay, today you're just not having it.  Especially the binkie-theft.  After all, there have to be limits.

Do you know what you might do?

You might go into the living room, while you're mom is working on lunch, with an orange crayon you've smuggled out of the crayon container.  You might find the photo book of your first year of life and open it up and scribble out every single picture of your sister's face in it.

And then you might be so disappointed when no one notices (because you replaced the book and crayon) that you take the book back out and bring it over and open it to a particularly scribbled on page and leave it next to your mom to see what she does (or as a confession of sorts?).

It's been quite the day.  But I've got to say, there's no denying she's smart.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week Ending: A Jellyfish, A Unicorn and a Dinosaur

We had a busy weekend!  It began when a box from California arrived at the house filled with Halloween and dance costumes from my childhood.  Suddenly we had a purple unicorn galloping around the living room:

And the child who really doesn't have any interest in costumes beyond boots?  Well.  Suddenly she was interested.  Very interested.  Hug-my-sister-four-times-while-figuring-out-how-to-rip-the-unicorn-costume-off-her interested.

She wore the unicorn hood for all of ten minutes and then realized that it was way better this way:

Patrick wasn't sure what al the fuss was about:

But he had fun playing outside with his sisters (although he stayed in the tower because he is definitely not a fan of mud):

Someone had to sit in timeout after incessantly pulling her sister's tail.  But her sister was sweet enough to come over and stand by her while she as in timeout.

On Saturday we went to the zoo. Mae was going to be a super hero but she loved the unicorn costume so much we let her wear that instead... for the record... that costume was my pride and joy when I was six when I wore it and won a costume contest...  It looks like capris when Sadie wears it and fits three year old Mae perfectly.

Sadie got her face painted for the first time.  She was a jellyfish.  And her skirt and hat were wired with flashing lights:

And the girls and I rode the train:

I'm not sure if you can tell, but Mae sat as far away as she possibly could from me and Sadie:

We paused for a picture in which none of the kids cracked a smile.  

Then went in the reptile house so they could visit the gold fish that are in with the turtles (okay, so it's more of a reptile, amphibian, bird, monkey house):

The Patch-o-saurus Rex was a little bit sleepy as we got in line for the hay ride:

We were the last one to squeeze up onto the trailer!  There was just enough room on the hay bales for us.

Then we made the mistake of driving through East Lansing... just as the State vs Purdue game was getting out...  However, during the hour that it took to go three miles I experimented with my cameras many settings and snapped pictures of the fall colors:

This morning the girls and I walked to Mass.  Mae loves sweaters with zippers and I was thrilled to find this one while we were out doing errands on Friday at a second hand store.  She even picked out the matching hat to wear with it:

And here she is when she paused while playing before we made the walk home.

It was quite the weekend.

For more Week Ending head over to Re-inventing Mother!