Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On Locks, Pick Pockets, and Super Powers

I'm expecting to have pink eye just about any time now, and praying that I somehow manage to avoid it the way I somehow avoided the plague that is Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease that swept through our house.

I thought I might stand a chance at avoiding the miserableness that is conjunctivitis until a certain child, who may remain unnamed, was cuddling with me after her doctor's appointment and reached up rubbed her eye and then, with the same hand, reached over and touched my eye (before I even had a chance to lift my hand to redirect her or shout out a panicked "no!"). 

The seventy-five times I'd washed my hands since breakfast, in scalding hot water for longer than it took me to hum the Happy Birthday song, suddenly seemed rather pointless.

Kind of like 98% of the locks we've purchased in the last four years. 

Yesterday morning while I was getting ready I realized that the key to the downstairs outer doors was sitting on my bookshelf. 

You see, after Maggie defeated every type of lock on one wall of the lock aisle in Home Depot, we finally broke down and opted for double cylinder locks to keep our little eloper from venturing into the outside world on her own. 

The man who sold me the locks was pretty sure I didn't know what I was buying when I picked them up.  I knew that he wanted to save me (or more likely Paul) from a return trip to the store when I realized that the lock needed a key to open either side.  I reassured him that that was actually exactly what I wanted, but I think he still expected to see me back there later that day, getting normal locks that only require a key to get into the house instead of out. 

I'd been against double cylinder locks for a long time, because I honestly hated the idea of them.  But the alarms on the doors only gave me partial peace of mind, and once Maggie mastered all three of the locks on the front door I knew it was time to look into something else. 

Now, however, I love those double cylinder locks almost as much as I love the six foot security fence in the backyard.  I now know that I won't hear the alarm sound while I'm in another room changing a diaper.  So I carefully keep the key with me at all times and this new system has worked remarkably well. 

Until yesterday when I put the key in pocket and then heard Lily barking to come inside. 

I ran downstairs and put my hand back in my pocket.  The key was gone.  I backtracked.  Was it on the bookshelf that I remembered taking it off of?  No.  Had it fallen onto the bed?  No again.  Was it in the bathroom?  On the other bookshelf?  In the hamper?  On the floor? 

No, no, no, and no. 

As I searched Maggie drifted along after me, her little pink half pony tail bobbing happily as she walked. 

Finally I gave up and found a back up key and let the dog in. 

Five minutes later I heard Sadie saying "no, no, no" from downstairs.  Twenty seconds after that she was racing upstairs with my keys in hand to inform me that Maggie had them and was making a break for the outside world. 

Apparently pick pocket has been added to her (impressive) repertoire of skills. 

Maggie's super power is easily defeating every security measure I put in place.

But she wasn't done yet (for the week I mean... I'm not na├»ve enough to believe she's anywhere near to giving up her security system defeating skills in general...). 

This morning we were driving into town.  I'd loaded Tessie and James in the back and then snapped her into her seat with the new seat belt lock that one of her therapists suggested.  I noticed yesterday that she had cheerfully helped me hold the lock in place while I snapped the buckle closed, something that I'd found rather odd. 

Maggie doesn't usually like me to close locks.  Unless she knows that she can open them.

After months of practicing she sits very well in her booster, but suddenly, after a successful initial time period in the "big girl seat" she began unbuckling it when I stopped for more than 5 seconds, or any time Tessie cried.  The buckle lock was the perfect solution. 

The lock is plastic and rectangular with a series of slots that locks on over where the seat belt fastens, making it impossible to push the red button down without using a tool. 

It worked for a solid forty eight hours, but I noticed that Maggie was carefully watching me as I used the popsicle stick that came with the lock, to pop it open when it was time to get out of the car. 

As we reached Paul's office and I put the car into park I heard the buckle pop open.  I turned and saw Maggie holding her slap bracelet in her hand, looking entirely innocent as she took Paul's hand. 

"Did she just use that slap bracelet to open the buckle?"  I asked, wondering if I'd imagined locking the thing in place.  Had I been too distracted by the babies and forgotten to secure it in the first place?

I carefully made sure to secure the lock on the way home.  This time her bracelet was sitting on the front seat next to me, where it couldn't be used to open the lock.

I didn't count on her smuggling a back-up-spoon on her person, however. 

She waited until I'd parked the car in the driveway to demonstrate her new found skill.  As I lifted Tessie from her car seat I heard the buckle pop again as she used the spoon to press down the red button between the slots. 

At least she waited until we got home. 

And can I say that as she gets older I hope she uses her powers for good and not evil?  Because if six year old Maggie can break every lock at every hardware store I don't even want to think about what ten, or twelve, or twenty year old Maggie is going to be able to do. 

She is amazing.  And as annoying (and sometimes scary) as it can be trying to find a lock that she can't get through, I can't help but be a tiny bit proud of how good she is at figuring things out.  Although I may not feel that way if she graduates to actually being able to pick that double cylinder lock without a key.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tessie's Eyes

I was worried about Tessie.

I knew that Paul thought that I was crazy. 

"She doesn't look at me."  I'd been saying since she was a month old.  "She smiles, but she's always staring off over my shoulder."

"I don't see it."  He said. 

But I did.  I'd lean over her bassinet and try to catch her eye.  I'd cradle her in my arms while she nursed and she'd look past me, rarely making eye contact. 

Was I just paranoid?  I asked myself.  Yes.  Partially.  I mean, it's impossible not to be after the last six years.  I am especially alert when it comes to developmental milestones.  How can I not be?  But that didn't mean that something wasn't off, did it? 

Still, with the exception of mentioning it to Paul and the pediatrician at the one month appointment, I kept my concerns to myself. 

One day when James' physical therapist was here, Lily was barking not far from where Tessie was sleeping.  "Is she really sleeping through that?" She asked.  I said that she slept through everything.  Paul had used a screw driver and a hammer in the room with her and she hadn't batted an eye. 

I knew that she could hear, I explained, because sometimes the smallest sounds startled her, but by and large, extremely loud sounds didn't phase her. 

She suggested that day that I refer Tessie for an evaluation, at the very least to check her hearing across different wavelengths.  It could just be that she was used to loud sounds.  But it could also be a cause for concern.

In the days that followed I watched Tessie and continued to fret every time she didn't look at me as I attempted to capture her attention. 

The next week I took James to his early intervention playgroup.  Patch's speech therapist from a few years back was there and I asked her if she could hold Tessie while I signed us in.  I told her about the physical therapist's concerns and she continued to hold Tessie and walk around with her for most of the hour that we were there. 

At the end of playgroup she brought Tessie back to me and finally, and for the first time in the whole hour, Tessie looked at her face and smiled.  She told me that she thought an evaluation was a good idea, because of that lack of eye contact, and I knew that they were both right. 

When James' early interventionist came last week I made the appointment and this week she came out so that I could fill out the paper work and so that she could do the initial part of the evaluation and see if a further evaluation was warranted.  Throughout the hour Tessie seemed to avoid looking at us.  She was happy and calm.  She smiled now and then.  But she studiously seemed to avoid focusing on faces. 

I explained that this was entirely new to me.  Maggie loved smiling into our faces when she was tiny. 

She had me hold Tessie on my lap and try to catch her eye.  Tessie turned her head from side to side and refused to look at me.  We tried different angles but Tessie seemed determined not to look at my face. 

At the end of the hour the therapist told me she was pretty certain that Tessie would qualify based on her refusal to make eye contact.  She managed to catch her eye for a few moments, but then Tessie would immediately look away again.  We scheduled an appointment for rest of the evaluation and I continued to watch Tessie and wonder what was going on with her. 

On Thursday James had PT again, and for the second half of the appointment Tessie sat on my knee.  "She's looking right at me right now," his therapist said.  "This whole time she's been watching me and making great eye contact from across the room."  I brought Tessie closer and from a few feet away she smiled and cooed at the therapist.  "I wonder if it's just a matter of finding the right distance" she said. 

Last night, after failing to get Tessie to look at me for most of the day I put her down and stepped back.  When I was a little over three feet away I saw her face light up.  She looked straight at me and smiled and cooed. 

I stepped forward.  As I stood next to her bassinet her smile faded and she began to look around, focusing mostly on the light on the ceiling.  I bent towards her and there was no sign of recognition on her face.  I stepped back again.  At the same point, a little over three feet away from her, she beamed up at me, again focusing on my face as she smiled hugely.

Moving forward one more time to test the theory again I could see the moment when she lost me and began looking from side to side, clearly not seeing where I was. 

All day today the situation repeated itself.  When I'm near to her she smiles at my voice, but looks around as if she isn't seeing me.  When I take an extra step back she focuses easily on me and makes eye contact. 

And that explains why Paul kept saying she was making eye contact with him.  He's about a foot taller than me and when he stands over her bassinet he's a foot further away.  She can see him more clearly since he's further up, even when he's standing next to her. 

I still find myself surprised every time I move back into her line of vision and I can tell by her expression the exact moment that she sees me.  We were already discussing hearing and vision tests, but now that vision test most definitely seems like it will be a priority. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happy 2nd Birthday James

He is my smiley, silly, cuddle bug. 

But he also has a habit of frowning at the camera, usually right before bursting into a fit of giggles.

Over the years though I've captured quite a few of his frowns and so today, on his second birthday, I had to share them with you.

Happy 2nd Birthday James!  We love you!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Patch's Stroller Life Hack

This afternoon as we headed to the zoo I had no idea that I'd picked something up at the store that would totally make Patrick's day.

It was a large stroller bag hook. 

My sister gave me one a couple of years ago, but I always forget to move it from one stroller to another, so when I saw one today for $5 at Walmart I thought I might as well pick one up so that each of the strollers can have their own hook.  When I unloaded the car I snapped it into place.

Patch saw it and gasped.  "Mommy!?!?!?!  Mommy!!!!!!  You got this for me?!?!?!  Just for me?!?!?!?!  For my birthday?  Is this my birthday present?!?!?!  Thank you Mommy!  Thank you!" 

You see, he thought that I had bought him his very own handle to hold onto the stroller when we were walking. 

Quite often he wants to hold onto the stroller bar that I push, which inevitably results in me tripping over his feet every time he slows down. 

This is the perfect solution.  He proudly held onto it as we walked around for much of the afternoon.  Sometimes he wouldn't hold onto it, but it was perfect for times when I wanted him right next to me. 

And that is Patch's great idea for the day.  I don't think I'll get much use out of the hook as a bag holder but I do think it's going to be used daily as a preschooler wrangling device.

Also here's Tessie being her little Pumpkin self.  I love October.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Who's Who at 3 Months

Tessie is three months old!

And I can never decide who I think she looks like.  Sometimes I think Sadie.  Sometimes Patch. 

Can anyone name that baby in this lineup of 3 month olds?

Grumpy Baby gives himself away with his grumpiness.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Cry Rooms, Nurseries, and a Change of Heart

In the beginning, I was anti-Cry Room. 

Now I should start by admitting that I had no actual Cry Room experience.  In my first almost-decade as a Catholic we'd never belonged to a parish that had a cry room.  I'd sat in confessionals and bride's rooms and in a little room outside of a bathroom.  I'd lingered in vestibules and stood outside in heat and bitter cold and all sorts of temperatures in between.

Sometimes people have asked what Paul was doing during these Masses. Much of the time he would have Maggie and I would have the boys since they cried less when they were with me.  Although over the years we've done different variations of our divide and conquer strategy.
But I'd heard the stories.  Unfortunately, when Cry Rooms exist, some people in some places seem to think that all kids belong in them.  And there can be a lot of pressure on parents to take their children to these rooms, when a child makes even the smallest of peeps.  Which of course, isn't right at all. 

For the last four years, before we made our move, I had spent all but maybe four Masses outside in the vestibule of our old parish, behind big glass doors.  The kids couldn't see very well what was going on inside, which made the seventy to ninety minute Masses feel even longer.

And we had many days that were very, very hard (have you ever been kicked hard in the nose during Mass and known that it was broken again?  I have...) and very, very discouraging and there was a year somewhere in the middle of all this when I really didn't want to go to Mass at all.  When James was a tiny baby, thinking about Sunday made me want to cry. 

I dreaded it, knowing that Patch would be crying and James would be crying and I'd have to fend off other little kids offering Maggie snacks that she was allergic to.     

For the last year I would send Sadie in to sit by herself in the front.  Maggie would start to make loud happy sounds when we went inside, and Patch and James were both at difficult stages as well and someone was always in need of correction.  Wrangling them was a two parent job. 

It wasn't ideal, but it also wasn't as bad as it had been.

But now we are at a parish with a Cry Room.

In my head, when I think those words, I imagine a little melody like choirs of angels singing. 

No one pressured us to use it.  In fact, there was a bit of pressure not to use it.  At our first Mass, Paul asked the lady who opened the door for us if there was a Cry Room.  She said there was, but that we needn't go there.  There was a little chapel off to the side with a glass wall, she explained, please only use the Cry Room if we really needed to. 

Of course, she couldn't have known that we basically always need it. 

We tried the chapel for a solid month.  After a particularly trying day I told Paul that that was it.  We were trying the Cry Room out.

It was nothing like I'd imagined.  The room is off to one side of the altar.  There's a large glass window with a kneeler.  When Sadie, or any of the kids, kneel there they get an up close view of what's going on during Mass.  And even from the neat rows of seats the view isn't bad at all. 

Mass is still chaotic for us.  For anyone reading who doesn't know our family, we have an eight year old (the only person I don't worry about during Mass), a six year old with autism, a not-quite-four year old, an almost-two year old, and a three month old.  That means that there are four kids who might act up/scream their lungs out at any given minute. 

I find myself helping one child or another to behave themselves roughly every sixty seconds during Mass.  Some days it is literally non-stop for the entire Mass.

But for the first time in four years, I'm actually able to be mentally present for a good portion of the Mass.

And more than that, so are the kids.  We can hear and see what's going.  And that's huge. 

Since we've started going to the Cry Room, Maggie's conversations with me have shifted.  Before this change, 98% of our conversations revolved around mermaids.  Now about half the conversation topics she brings up are about Jesus.  She wants to sing about him.  She wants me to help her make the Sign of the Cross.  She says "Father, Son?" and then struggles to copy me when I say "Holy Spirit." 

And more than that, she asks about Mass every single night. 

Even Patch is beginning to behave for a far greater portion of the time than he did before.  At the last Mass he knelt next to Sadie, and this time it wasn't just to try to annoy her. 

Last week the nursery opened it's doors for the year, in the room right next to the Cry Room.  And we dropped the boys off and went through the door to the Cry Room for Mass. 

Now the Cammie of seven years ago would likely be horrified by this.  The Cammie of seven years ago would tell me that children belong in Mass.  And they do.  They really do. 

But the me-of-today also understands that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.  The me-of-today gets that different things are best for different families, and the me-of-today actually believes it when I say it. 

James has been at a stage where, even in the Cry Room, he would cry through a huge portion of Mass. 

Was he getting anything from that, other than an aversion to going anywhere near the parish? Was it helping the other kids to experience Mass with a younger sibling screaming the entire time and two stressed out parents who were at wit's end after trying everything they could to calm him down?

And most of all, could I give Maggie the intensive attention that she needs during Mass to help her grow and learn and feed this blossoming interest and love of God, while dealing with an irate one year old who's throwing himself on the ground and trying to remove a heating vent from the wall? 

Quite simply, for us, the answer was no.

And so we find ourselves turning both to the Cry Room and the nursery, grateful that we have these options right now, when we so desperately need them.

These years have certainly been humbling. 

And so it is that I've come to appreciate the Cry Room immensely.  And the nursery.  And I look forward to going to Mass again, instead of feeling incredible stress in the days that lead up to Sunday, thinking about all the ways that things can go wrong. 

The focus has been shifted back towards the reason we come together for the celebration of the Mass, even if things are still rather hectic and don't look exactly the way I imagined them, back in the days when I knew so much more about being a parent than I know now.