Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A GPS for our Wanderer

Maggie's GPS arrived today and I nervously opened it.  After the last wandering incident it couldn't get her quickly enough.  

We ordered her the Verizon Gizmo.  It's a child's phone/GPS.  It can call out to two lines, while four designated numbers can call in.  It's pretty affordable compared to other models on the market (since I've been looking at so many this month) at $79.99 (no contract required) and the plan itself was added onto the plan we already have for $5 a month.  

It's the second GPS to arrive here in the past two weeks.  The first one arrived and was bulky.  I couldn't imagine it working with Mae and her extreme fashion sense (she cares a lot about how every aspect of her clothing looks and feels). And when I turned it on it didn't work.

I emailed the company to find out that they only use AT&T and T-Mobile sim cards, neither of which work out here in the sticks (the very rural area where my family lives).  

So we turned to Verizon.  I was prepared to be disappointed.  Would she wear it?  Would it work out here?

It arrived and I opened it and charged it and then activated it.  I also applied the sticker that came with it that I thought Maggie would prefer:

Once it was all set up I put it on her wrist.  She held very still (which is not usual) while I put it on.

And then she turned it over and said "ice cream" about a dozen times, a smile slowly spreading across her face.

We had a winner... as long as it worked.

We hadn't only gotten one watch though.  We'd gotten two.

We decided that since emergencies seem to abound these days it would be best if Sadie had one too, just in case she ever needs to call for help.

Sadie picked the butterfly screen for her GPS/phone:

Sadie and I went out on the porch to experiment with the phone before dinner.

We don't have great cellular service out here (Verizon is the only option that works at all, and the signal is still rather weak) but I was able to call Sadie and she was able to call me.

To call she pressed the large button on the phone twice.  It then gives her verbal directions and asks her to push the button once to call me or twice to call Paul.

If the button is pressed once (without pressing it twice, rapidly) it makes various funny sounds that had both girls entertained.

Sadie can answer her phone by pressing a button, but I have Maggie's phone set up to automatically answer after ten seconds (if she doesn't press the button to answer).

After the kids went to bed we decided to test out the GPS.  Sadie and Nani went for a walk, while I made sure not to look where they were going.  I gave them a two minute head start.

After that I hit the GPS button to track Sadie's watch on my phone (on the Gizmo App, which I'd downloaded) and I started looking for them.

It took about sixty seconds for my phone to tell me where they were.  I hit the button a second time to find them again.  This time the location came back after about thirty seconds.

I looked at the map.  If it was right they were on the other side of the orchard.  I glanced up and could see Sadie's blue dress on the other side of the trees.

I gave them another head start and then used the GPS to track them down to the river.  

I'd call that a success.  

After I got back home I looked at the maps on the app and I thought I'd share a little more with you about Maggie's... adventure.  I've blocked out some addresses and names, but this is a satellite picture of how far she got in the fifteen minutes she was gone, before the US Forest Service located her.  

The next picture shows some things that cause me stress every time we drive down the road and I picture her walking along down the road in her tights, barefoot.

Since I wrote my first post I found out that the Forest Service guys were already in the truck and were returning home from somewhere else when they heard the dispatch.  They decided that since they were nearby they might as well drive down the road and see if they could spot her.  

Thank heaven that they did.  

I had headed in the opposite direction (towards the river).  I've had a few people ask about how my feet got so badly burned and basically it was from running across the flood plain, with bare feet, when it was over a hundred degrees.

Now I have to say, I wouldn't have thought that that would cause a second degree burn covering an entire foot... but it did.  

On the ground the flood plane looks like this:

The ground itself is absolutely ordinary:

But I can attest to the fact that it does get hot.

Today, twenty days after she ran away, is the first day that the burns didn't feel like burns. I am very thankful for that fact.

And I also snapped a few river pictures so you could see the reason that I was so desperate to get down there.  This is the river a short distance from the house:

We haven't taken Maggie to the river in the last two years because we know she would be incredibly drawn to it.

But it still makes me nervous.

The bank is exceptionally steep this year:

Back to the GPS.

In addition to working wonderfully as a phone and a GPS, I'm a big fan of the fact that the strap is pretty sturdy and has a little piece of plastic that goes over it that makes it more difficult for a small child to take off.

There's only one thing, so far, that I would change about it if I could.  It's water resistant.  I would really, really love if it were water proof.

Time will tell if it will hold up to our rough and tumble girls, but I'm cautiously optimistic.  I hope in the future I can write another post telling you about how the Verizon Gizmo has continued to be a blessing that helps me sleep at night.

I hope that we never have to use that GPS feature in an actual emergency... but it's nice knowing that it's there if we need it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

7 Quick Takes: On frogs and squeals


I already asked this question on Facebook, but I thought I would ask it again here, because I'll take all the suggestions I can get!

Do you have a favorite podcast that you listen to that you'd like to share?  I've been looking for podcasts to listen to while I'm outside watching the kids play in the pool and I have a few I'm subscribing to now, but would love more suggestions!


James started zipping around the living room yesterday.

He's still pretty floppy (his torso though, not his neck anymore, thankfully!).  He can't sit up on his own or in a high chair or shopping cart quite yet.

But he has mastered a sort of rolling/scooting movement on his stomach and he was using it to get all over the living room.  He went from one side to the other and was trying to pull open cupboards and get into anything he could reach.  

I have a feeling he's going to be crawling before we know it!  


Today however, topped yesterday's rolling from place to place (at least in James' mind, I think).  

As the temperature climbed up to 106, the kids wanted to head back outside.  I agreed, but after having James out for a few minutes I dipped his feet into the water (on other days he hasn't thought this was a great idea), when he didn't mind I put his legs in.  And pretty soon both of us were in the pool escaping the heat:

Then I thought, hey, as long as we're in the pool we might as well get one bath out of the way.  And suddenly everyone was helping me wash James' hair.  


Today I was trying to stay off social media... not entirely but... more than usual.  

And these are the two books I'm reading at the moment, during those moments when the kids are too busy playing to have any expectations of mom.

Lord of the Rings is softening the sadness of finishing Kristin Lavransdatter and not wanting the book to be over.


This morning Nani and I were sitting out on the porch with the kids when we noticed that it had suddenly become oddly quiet.  We both looked around.  Where was Maggie?

Now I was sitting at one corner of the porch and she'd been sitting at the other so that we could watch the entire thing and so we knew that she couldn't have gone anywhere, but there was still a solid fifteen seconds of trying not to panic until we found that she'd hidden in the bottom of the pirate ship and breathed a sigh of relief.

It turns out, however, that that sigh of relief was slightly premature.

The thing is, if Maggie is awake and quiet, something is going on.  If she's quiet for an extended period of time, it's probably something she knows she isn't supposed to be doing.  

Suddenly Maggie jumped out of the ship and sprinted past us, with Patch hot on her heels, screaming "frog, frog" (which still sounds like another, very bad word, since he hasn't mastered his r's or his g's).  We followed close behind and managed to rescue the terrified frog who she was taking to the swimming pool to swim with her mermaid dolls (and he was totally not a water frog).  

And Patch ran around saying "frog" for the next hour...


James has clearly mastered the ear piercing younger sibling scream that lets everyone know that "someone bigger than me is taking the thing I have away from me and I don't want them to,"

Yesterday he decided that Maggie's PECS board was his:

He spent a long time looking at it.  And then when she came over and touched one of the pictures:

Imagine this face, but with screaming.  Lots of screaming.
So the PECS board will definitely have to be off limits for the little guy since it definitely isn't his.  Even if he really, really thinks that it should be.


Thankfully Baby 'Ames (who she's begun calling "Bumble Bee," which makes my heart melt) is her favorite person and can do no wrong.  At all.  Even if it involves screaming and holding on to her board.   

For more Quick Takes head over to This Ain't the Lyceum.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

{phfr} Sword Fight and Cuddles Edition


I just love this picture of Maggie and James.  

Maggie is absolutely enchanted with her littlest brother.  

Patch is her playmate and sometimes I wonder if having the two of them together is kind of like having twins.  They're in very similar places developmentally (who's ahead in spoken language seems to go back and forth depending on the day) and they're very funny together.

But James gets Mae's unwavering attention and affection throughout many of his waking hours.  


Patch brings me my phone and asks that I take our picture together, so these were captured when I agreed to capture a few snapshots. 

He's such a ham and is constantly saying "cheese" whenever he sees anything that looks vaguely like a camera.  


I found these swords in the dollar section at Target and after the little mermaid and dinosaur bags they were the biggest hit at the birthday party.

The porch has been the scene of many sword fights since they arrived.  

Even young James was enlisted in their adventures (or at least managed to swipe a sword for a few moments).


As you may know if you live on the west coast, we're in the midst of a bit of a heat wave.  On Friday the news says it's going to be around 113 degrees.  

Which I would say is miserable, except I'm still really appreciating the fact that the heat here is dry, and so when I've been sitting outside in triple digit heat it hasn't felt all that bad.  I'm sure when it climbs over 110 though that will change, as it always does.

James, our littlest Michigander, is not a fan of the heat and this afternoon I found that he'd managed to wiggle over to a vent and was sitting next to it feeling the cool air blow on his hands:

Pretty good for such a little guy.

And now he's sound asleep after another long day of playing hard on the porch.

For more {phfr} head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

FAQ: On Developmental Delays and Asking for Help

Earlier this week Michele wrote a great post about getting help for kids who aren't "special needs" but who need a little extra help.

And her post got me thinking about a post that I've been meaning to write for a long time.  It addresses the number one question that I've found myself asked over the last not-quite-two-years since Mae's diagnosis.

How do you know when to get your kid tested?  How do you know when to start looking for help?

A few months before I started searching for answers.
Usually a parent asks me this question because they're worried about something.  It comes up because they've noticed one or two or a dozen things that don't seem quite right, little quirks or lags that might cause a dull ache in their stomachs when they think about them, or keep them up at night wondering if something might be going on.

Now I should probably start by saying that I'm obviously not an expert in this field.  I'm just a mom who's sat in a ridiculous number of evaluations and therapy sessions over the last couple of years answering questions and carrying reams of paperwork around in my bright pink folder.  But since the question has been asked so often I thought it couldn't hurt to jot down what I've learned since we first set off on this journey.

I believe that parents usually know a lot more about their kids development than they give themselves credit for.  You may not be able to put your finger on exactly what's going on, but if you have a feeling that won't go away that keeps popping into your mind, it may be there for a reason.

It also might be nothing... but it doesn't hurt to ask.

If your worried about something, mention it to your pediatrician.  Google early intervention services in your state and get in touch with them and ask for an evaluation to go over your concerns.  Take the ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire) and talk with your doctor about the results (Oregon has this great little website that actually gives you an idea right away how your child is hitting milestones.

Taking the test (which our doctor's office sends in the mail before checkups) helped me articulate to James' pediatrician exactly what my concerns were, when they were just forming in my head.

If you're wondering if your child might be on the spectrum, take a look at the MCHAT and then print out the results and take them with you to your appointment.

You see, there's a good chance that there's nothing to worry about.  But there's also a chance that your child might need a little extra help, or a lot of extra help.  And getting that help early can be life changing.

So if you have a concern, an little annoying fear that you can't shake, don't be afraid to ask questions to find out if there is something going on. Chances are it's that everything is within the range normal.  And if it's not you'll be on the road to getting answers and getting help.

I read a statistic a while back that said that children who were born to families that already had a child on the spectrum, were something like twice as likely to receive therapies like OT and Speech than families without kids on the spectrum.  This doesn't surprise me at all.

As a parent of a child on the spectrum I know that I've become immersed in developmental milestones.  Sometimes I find I have to be careful to actually really enjoy a moment and take in what's going on, otherwise I'll find myself excitedly checking off boxes in my head, and saying "Oh, functional play! Imaginative play! Check and check!"

I think that has probably been strange for Patch's and James' therapists since I can often list off the key developmental accomplishments they've hit, but can't remember what the actual specific activities were where they made those accomplishments ("Um... I know he had some good imaginative play!  Because I thought 'Oh look!  Imaginative play!"  But I can't remember what it actually was that he was doing....").

I have to write down notes of key moments so I know what I need to remember to tell each therapist.
Which brings me to another big tip for these types of appointments.  First, call and schedule and appointment.  And then, in the time you have between now and the appointment, write down your concerns.

It might not be a lot.

Or it might not seem like a lot until you start writing.

When I went to meet with a social worker before Mae's first ADOS, I compiled a list.  When she asked me what my concerns were I pulled out the list.  I hadn't thought there would be all that much but an entire piece of paper was covered.

If you have a concern, trust those instincts and ask questions.  If it's nothing than hopefully you'll be able to find answers that ease your worries.  On the other hand if there is an underlying issue, you'll be able to move towards getting your child help as soon as possible, whether it's just a little extra help to overcome issues that might have grown into greater stumbling blocks, or larger issues that will require more long term help to face.

Knowledge is power and knowing what's going on can give you the key to begin to learn how to help your child grow and learn more effectively.  And it will hopefully give you the peace of mind that searching for and finding answers to those nagging little doubts can bring.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sadie's 7th Birthday

Sunday was a big day at our house, since we were celebrating Father's Day and Sadie's 7th Birthday.  

It started with a pie on Saturday night.  A certain six year old was feeling a little sad about leaving six behind, because it was such a fun year and so we put together a Say-Goodbye-to-Six cake, and suddenly everyone was smiling.

Everyone except Patch that is, who kept pointing out that the pie wasn't a cake.

The next morning, before 6 am, the birthday fun began.  And it had a mermaid theme:

These little toys from the dollar bins at Target were every single kids favorite thing.  They're still playing with them days later.

Patch called his dinosaurs frogs on Sunday, but by Monday he was saying "'saurs."

The tail was as spectacular she she'd imagined:

When we got home from Mass I put the finishing touches on a mermaid themed cake I'd baked the night before.  Sadie said that the sharks were guarding the "sleeping baby princess mermaids."

Then it was time to sing Happy Birthday to the birthday girl:

And after lunch it was time for a pool party.

James spent his time on the quilts, running his fingers through the grass.  He was a big fan of the grass.

Maggie loved the mermaid pool.

And the birthday girl let Maggie wear her new mermaid tail, which pretty much made Maggie's entire year.

Then it was time for a Father's Day/Birthday barbeque with four generations of family.  Nini and G.G. came over from next door to join in the mermaid themed fun.

Sadie had requested pork ribs and mermaid cupcakes.

James got his first taste of chocolate cupcake, which was very excited.

But he was a little grumpy when it was all over.

And that was Sadie's 7th Birthday in pictures!  Everyone had a blast and I'm still marveling at how the last seven years have flown by.