Monday, January 21, 2013

Magic Marker Monday: Lego Love at Last

This is a not a typical Magic Marker Monday post because James was following directions to build something with Legos.

I decided to post this here today because for James, this is a creative project. Despite several attempts to introduce him to Legos, large, small, and kit versions, he's remained politely uninterested. My bare feet and vacuum were grateful. Last Christmas, he received a pair of cool Lego Star Wars jammies from his cousins and uncle. He liked the fabric more than the design.

Some time over the summer, he started to become interested in Lego Star Wars (I am thinking SW Angry Birds on his dad's phone was his Gateway).James became increasingly interested in both Legos and Star Wars. His godmother gave him an awesome Star Wars Leggo advent calendar for Christmas this year. He loved it, but I had to hide it because all the little pieces were immediately lost in the mayhem that was our house.

Then I found a Leggo book with sotries, Lego pieces, and instruction for building cars, helicopters, and other vehicles that James likes. He got it for his birthday. Yesterday, he asked me to help him put it together.

What a sweet feeling, to work together with a feeling of excitement and anticipation. James was so proud, he showed it off to everyone and spend (for him) a long time playing with it.

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunny and Bright

Well, Friday was better, but still had issues. Many were the emails that crossed between the doctor and I. Aside: I like that you can attach files or photos in the messaging system to our pediatrician. Very handy for rashes and showing messy things that should not be brought into a doctor's office.  Friday and Saturday nights, however, were excellent-- full night's sleep for everyone and no more moaning! OMG, the constant moaning does us all in.

Saturday, James was back to eating regular foods. Not his regular amount, but hey, he ate it with relish and it all stayed down. Then came the mystery BM in the afternoon. Neither kid owned up to producing it. After a lengthy parental CSI debate, my husband and I deduced it belonged to James. Hooray!

James was back to jumping on the trampoline and doing more than lying on the sofa with his iPad. I even took him to the gym with me so he could play in Kids' Klub while I worked out, and was told he had a good time. He asked to have his sister's kitten come out and seemed to enjoy the kitten mayhem that ensued.

Today, he is very affectionate, hugging me and having conversations. As I type this, he's doing math and spelling with me on his Magnadoodle. I have noticed that James is talking now, and not largely stimming or asking the same question repeatedly. It's like someone took a lid off and we can see the person inside and interact more with him.  He is being funny on purpose, calling Jack Skellington "Jack Frosting" and renaming challah bread "jolly bread." He's making quiet but thoughtful remarks and requests. We even played together building Leggos, which he's never done before, despite encouragement. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Morning at the Med Center

After another rough night and early morning, I brought James in to see the doctor. I wanted to rule out everything else (e.g., ear or throat infection, stomach bug). Because I wanted one of the first appointments of the morning, we saw a new doctor. She introduced herself to us and told me she'd reviewed James' chart as well as the information coming in for today's visit before asking me about my concerns as she checked James' breathing, ears, and throat. She was very calm, thorough, and quick. She did however, have concerns it might be appendicitis.

Oh God. 

This, this, this, and this flashed through my mind, and I teared up.

I explained as calmly as I could to the doctor that we'd been this route before, and it was rather traumatic and we really didn't want to do another ER stint unless it was absolutely necessary. I give her all kinds of kudos because she did make it a much more positive experience for us, while still taking steps to make sure we were not dealing with appendicitis.

First, she ordered an x-ray of James' digestive system, which could be done on the same floor of the building. She had a wheelchair brought so that James would not have to walk. The x-ray was quick and efficient. James even perked up because he thought the technician was cute. We were soon back in the waiting room, and the new doctor saw us before I could get halfway through a short Winne-the-Pooh book.
This makes sense if you read down to the end.

Next, she showed us BOTH his x-ray, and answered our questions. Because yes, James was interested and asked "Is that me?" I loved how she communicated with us. The image showed some constipation and air in his intestines, as well as a stomach full of even more air. So the diagnosis now leaned more towards constipation. The doctor offered having an enema done down the hall in the Treatment Room and then recommended getting blood drawn to definitely rule out appendicitis. That being far preferable to an ER trip at another facility a mile or so away, I agreed.

Well, the enema triggered nausea and yammying. Not much happened at the other end. I did, however, manage to get a urine sample. There was a bit of a mess. How weird am I to be happy that it happened in a med center and not the car or our house? After it was over, we had no BMs, but a much more relaxed guy.

I did a quick emergency call to his Nana to please bring clean jammies and underwear. While we waited, James was able to lie on a padded gurney and watch a movie, covered by a beach towel from home. The doctor came back to check in. She told me the urine sample had no indicators for appendicitis and asked James to jump up and down on his toes, which he did. She then told me she didn't need a blood test, that James would not have been able to do that if he'd had appendicitis.

I almost kissed her feet, I was so happy. Everything was checked out with a minimum of fuss and delay and a maximum of compassionate assistance. James could go home to rest, and they even sent some suppositories home with us to try later tonight and tomorrow. Good Lord, I hope they work!

This looks like a cool x-ray app for the iPad - I think we'll check it out. Click the image above for more info.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Endurance

Third night of little sleep and a lot of discomfort. I finally broke down and administered an enema this morning. It produced a little result. Encouraging, but I wish it was more immediately helpful.

Our brave guy is on the sofa, trying to keep himself occupied. It still hurts.

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why does his constipation keep coming back and being so bad? I wish I knew.

I keep trying to be calm and patient. And James shows me the meaning of endurance.

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Full Stoppage

James' world has crashed to a halt yet again as a massive bout of constipation lays him low.

Like the previous two instances, we thought at first it was the flu. The absence of a fever and fruitless trips to the bathroom made us realize we were in for another few epic days. And we're still trying to get things moving.

So, no school for James; out weekday routines are scrapped. New things pile up as the backlog ages further and my husband and I try our darndest to make James comfortable and undo the blockage as non-invasively as possible:
  • We use the prescription anti-nausea pills that dissolve quickly in his mouth; it relieves pain and vomiting bouts, and allows him to sleep. 
  • We offer James sippy cups of iced electrolyte water; according to latest bathroom trips, he's hydrated. 
  • We give him milk whenever he asks for it and make sure the Miralax is in there as well; we hope this will prevail and keep us all from the pandemonium that ensues with James after an enema is administered.
  • Bathroom trips are checked for results (a few tiny BMs have started to appear and he's able to pass gas).
  • We help James finish up bathroom trips with disposable wipes and ointment, to keep him clean and comfortable; I keep hoping this will relax him enough to help things along.
  • James is given yogurt squeeze-ups when he requests food (we did try letting him have an apple bar once but that was a mistake). Oh how I wish he took prune juice and that it did not trigger a gag reflex from Hell.
And now, we rest, and hope that tomorrow is a better day.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Magic Marker Monday: The $1 Family Calendar

I used to love buying calendars. For years I'd enjoy my 12 months of Kliban Cats, Impressionists, and romantic illustrations. I think it's safe to say I was a sucker for a good calendar.

Then I my job and life took off in many directions and I started buying the giant kitchen wall calendars.
I added a calendar white board when I started working from a home office.

Now that I need to focus on family and keep a tight grip on household expenses, I have discovered the joys of the $1 Family Calendar!

I buy a $1 pad of paper from the Dollar Store, round up all the stray markers, crayons, and pencils from the kids, and spend an hour or two on the kitchen floor, inking in months, days, and numbers. I used to need a ruler, but now I just trace over old moths and go for it! The kids help by adding their own drawings  and sometimes the days of the week and numbers for the month for a unique family calendar we all can use.

Ooops! Did Mommy mis-abbreviate Thursday?
Kiddo #1 to the rescue!
I get to use the wall mount from the $20 kitchen calendars. Using small binder clips, I attach this year's calendar pad to an old $1 blotter/calendar from Target. Using produce ties and a plastic hook with a sticky back, I am able to hook the calendar onto the wall mount.
January is all fireworky and snowy!
Don't forget your marshmallow on a stick and your s'mores!

$1 Target blotter back, with adhesive hook.

Original $20 wall calendar mount and produce ties.

It may not look suave, but it works and the price is right. Plus, it becomes a family activity, which helps teach the kids about the months, numbers, and seasons. Oh yes, and it helps me keep track of our lives, when I remember to look.

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stormy Play

Winter's here -- dark, cold, windy, and wet. When there's a break in the weather, it's good to get outside. This was especially true over school break.

Here's where we went the day before school started - the park near our house:
Looks balmy and inviting, eh? We were desperate.

Actually, the kids had a ball. We swung on the swings and played with just about every piece of equipment there:
"Wa-hoooooo! I flying!"

Funny voices galore.

Right back at ya!

Heh. Those pants fit him this time last year ...
We had an absolutely fantastic time for half an hour. Then, as I was trying to round them up to go back home, James ran off, slipped, and slid on his backside through the mud. He then ran further off, wailing, to a bench, leaving his shoes stuck in the mud.

I trecked after him, picking my way through the swamp to retrieve his shoes. As I was calming him down, and getting his dripping socks off, two well-meaning people stopped by to "help" James stop crying. Their friendly dog on a leash just made things worse. This is when "Why me?" starts flashing in the back of my brain.

The good news is that I have a lot of situations like this under my belt so I just kind of breathed extra deep, smiled, and thanked the people for their concern and returned focus to James, coaxing him out of his socks, into the Crocks, and over to our car.

The bad news is that as we stopped to pick up his sister, she fell backwards off a ridiculously low (as in about 10 inches) step, whack her head and loosening a tooth (thankfully a baby one).

So it goes. We had baths and showers and dinner. By bed time, all was well again.

As for me, I need a park pick-me-up. Here is is, courtesy of Charlie and Humphrey -- two of my favourite pals from Pat McCormick, KTVU, and my days growing up in the Bay Area ...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Best Gift of All

James' birthday was a good one. Despite it being a school day, it started with presents. We brought his cupcakes, which he helped bake & decorate, to share at school. Then we went to his grandparents' house after school, to celebrate some more and open even more presents. We'll have a party with some friends later this month.

I saw some cute pictures of James and I flipped through my recent downloads. It made me smile to see him so much more aware and happy about his birthday events than in previous years.

There were two photos that especially warmed my heart. They were of James, getting the best gift of all:
Attention and love from Big Sister. She made his card and present herself.

Look at that quiet, happy smile. He played with that all morning and then put it in his room.

These are moments I'll treasure.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Birthday Baker

Guess who's turning 8 tomorrow and baking his own cupcakes to share with his class?

Happy Birthday, Baby. You're my big guy and I am so proud of you. Love, Mom.

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Daydreaming of Better Behaviour

I was reading an article about how different (and better) things could be with moms running the country than our current congress. It had me nodding in agreement because many times, while raising our kids and trying to instill honesty, responsibility, and compassion in the children I am caring for ... there's a bitterness in the back of my mind that comes from knowing that many of the people elected to represent their fellow Americans largely chuck all that out the window, preferring instead to bicker, grandstand, and name call.

Many are the times I read an article describing to me incredibly irresponsible, dishonest, and uncaring behaviours by those who, I am sure, were raised to behave better, and find my hand itching for my phone, so I can call their mothers. Part of me would dearly love to say "Did you know what your son/daughter is doing?" Now, I know that parents are no longer legally responsible for the actions of their adult children. That there are some who get a good upbringing, and chose to follow other paths.

This is an overly simplistic  mom dream of vigilante parenting gone back to my roots. Indulge me.
  • I would love to be able to Pink Slip members of Congress. Capitol Hill would be swamped in a pink snow storm about now.
  • There would be several new Time Out rooms, and they would consist of white walls, a hard chair, and one light bulb. Maybe a desk, where they could write their notes of apology.
  • There would be lots of community service assignments to womens' shelters and rape crisis centers, with lengthy essays turned in afterward. Any spelling or grammar errors would results in corrections being written 50 times each on college ruled binder paper.
  • Insults to the president would trigger mandatory lavatory cleaning at a large public transit agency.
  • Not doing their jobs? No salary for that week.
  • Did well at something? I'll put it (or a photo of it) on my fridge and brag to all.
  • Did you steal or misuse money that was not yours to spend? Pay it all back, and you are so grounded for the amount of time that corresponds to the level of crime. Say hello to the Time Out room, because you will be writing a lot of letters of apology. Also, you are Habitat for Humanity's new poster child for volunteer worker.
  • Shunning and Shaming would be new departments that have control over campaign and election funds. This is an overboard daydream, remember.
Oh, I could go on. But that's more for a Moms' (or Parents') Happy Hour. Meanwhile I am doing my best to show the next generations that getting along, problem solving, and being responsible/accountable are the indeed the "grown up" way to be.

Magic Marker Monday: Social Cookie Time

The holidays came and swamped me. The usual suspects aided and abetted the madness: holiday events, head colds, family birthdays close to major holidays, and attempts to simultaneously clean house / wrap and mail presents / send Christmas cards / and have appropriate thank yous for teachers. This year brought a few extras: IEP and special services fail hell, serious other family illnesses, jet lag from epic used car buying trip, and further reductions in household budget.

Lots of good things happened too, but I was more than ready for a change of pace and a chance to lie low after Christmas and New Year's. The kids, however, were wound up and still excited. James in particular was excited over Christmas, presents, and his sister's birthday. He's actually helping me plan his party for later this month, and he wanted play dates every day. Well, I found a dandy compromise between my desire to curl up with a book/computer under a blanket, listening to my music, and his to DO something and see his friends.

We made cookies and brought them to our family, friends, and neighbours. As always, we were greatly helped out by our dear friend, Trader Joe:

We made a whole box for Christmas dinner with the family, and cleverly brought them in a cute decorative holiday house:

We skipped the sugar frosting, which was runny and messy. Instead, we put sprinkles and cake decoration toppings on some of the unbaked dough. We all agreed the results were simple and delicious. We bagged up many more batches of cookies for taking to our neighbours, and we dropped some more off with our friends.

So not only did James get the entertainment of helping mix up, decorate, and bake something fun, he also chose cookies to give to his friends and we had a good excuse to stop by James' friends' houses and say "Hi" during the vacation. No planning, no commitments, no pressure. At one house, we even enjoyed an impromptu play date. Best of all, James got to experience making something and giving to others, from mid-December through early January. Which is why I think I'll always be calling these Social Cookies in my head for years to come.

I see over at Michelle's that great minds think alike ;-) For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Friday, January 04, 2013

Another "I Don't Get It" Moment

Background: James' big sister had her 10th birthday party yesterday here at our house. This alone is worth a future blog post.

James was utterly delighted. He loves company and kids, and he's gotten to know these particular friends, and they him. It was a very comfortable, relaxed event for all. James wanted to stay with the rest of the kids, watching and reveling in all the action. We kept checking in and everyone seemed fine with this, so we just let them all be.

There were visits to the new birthday kitten (now a stately 4 months old). Several spirited (and loud) games of Super Monkey Ball on the very cool in-home entertainment system their dad rigged for them up out of thrift store (and dump) finds (which could be it's own cool blog right there). Pizza was served during a movie -- Brave, by request of the birthday girl.

About half way through the movie, James started coming up to me, saying "Oh Mommy, I'm so glad you're back!" before hugging me for longer than usual. Took me a bit to connect Queen Eleanor being turned into a bear and me.

You see, about two weeks back, I flew out to New Mexico to pick up and drive back a used car to replace our totaled van. This took about three days -- the first time James has had to do without me since, well that one night his grandmother stayed with both kids so my husband and I could spend a night at a local B&B. That was back in 2007, I think.

Now, during these three days, James was fine. No anxiety, repetitive questions about where I was or when I'd be back and his sleeping at night was fine. I don't know why James connected the dots as he did between my trip and the story of Brave. I do know it is nice to be back home, and that despite James being fine, I was missed.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Being Happy

Don't worry, be happy now ...

That's the song I hear in my head, looking at these pics. It's good to remember when I start worrying too much.

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A New Year's Tradition

We live within an hour of the Pacific ocean and trips to the coast and its beaches are happy events. Making a special New Year's pilgrimage to the Pacific has made for some of the most enjoyable of memories for our  family. In recent years, we haven't been able to make it every year, for various reasons.

Last year I made the trip alone with the kids to with visit friends. This year we celebrated having a car that could make the trip to the coast without needing breaks to recharge it. We investigated a new beach, where the pounding, towering surf made me incredibly nervous for the kids, even as it's raw beauty wowed me. So after lunch and a whole lotta ooohing and ahhhing we piled back in the car and made for our favourite local family cove.

Doran Beach was hopping. I had to wait for 3 people to leave before I found a parking spot. Once we hit the sands, the kids flew to the waterline, where much milder waves crashed and splashed ashore. Our daughter made fast friends with another girl, her shovel (a full-sized garden specimen), and bucket. They spent almost an hour digging a pit and building a sand sofa in it. I adore my girl.

James became one with the surf and sand. It was interesting to watch him walk, his feet and toes as sensitive and fingers and hands, while he held up his actual hand and fingers like sign posts and kept them immobile.

James had a blast, interfacing with the beach by using his feet:

We agreed that this was an excellent start to a New Year. I love that we keep using our Regional Parks pass and membership. What would we do without the ocean?