Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Ugliest Marble Run Ever Aka My Big Brother is Awesome

Big brothers matter.  And Kenson is a pretty good one.  He loves babies and generally has a sweet heart towards his siblings.  He spent yesterday and today home sick though.  A rotten tummy ache all day Monday and Tuesday and then by Tuesday around suppertime a fever meant quite a bit of time just laying around.  But come Wednesday morning he seemed to be back to normal.  Since he had had a fever so late in the day on Tuesday, he still stayed home.  While he was waiting for Zeke to come home from preschool, he decided he wanted to build a marble run for Zeke.  (Because he had heard Zeke talking about a marble run that they made at school.)  He started with some cups, some spoons, an empty toilet paper tube, an empty syrup bottle, and the tubes from our xylophone.  I let him do his thing for a bit but eventually helped him settle on rolled up newspapers, the syrup container, a laundry basket, some pillows and quite a bit of packing tape.  He really wanted to have it ready by noon so it would be a surprise when Zeke got home.  It's super ugly but super sweet...

A few snapshots of Kenson with Kai

He adores him and is probably the one who Kai responds most to other than D or myself.  

Sharing a hat with the baby

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Color Fun Run 5K

Our middle school decided to host a color fun run for their fundraiser this year.  Kenson, Conleigh and Mom did it together.  D has been nursing a strained hamstring muscle for several weeks (ask him to see it; it is super ugly looking) plus someone needed to stay back and watch Zeke and Kai.  They did the runners in 3 groups:  sprinters, joggers, and walkers.  That was nice because there was no way I was going to run all of it, plus I needed a way to keep tabs on Kenson and Conleigh who wanted to run and would be ahead of me.    If you haven't done a color fun run, the general idea is that you run and along the course, powdered colors (much like crushed chalk) are thrown at the participants.  Wearing white ensures maxim color coverage.  The organizers do give you some tips prior to running like to cover your car seats before you get in, to oil your hair beforehand to help the color come out, and to wash your color run clothes as a single load when you are done.  I think Kenson's asthma was bothering him, either from all the color dust or just from a bit of an allergy flare up or cold.  He ran quite a bit of the first lap around and walked the second.  Conleigh, on the other hand, ran the whole way.  A 5K is just a bit over 3 miles so for a 7 year old, running the whole way is a pretty good accomplishment.  Sometimes it is hard to find things that she really "shines" at so seeing her do so well was fun.  (She does a lot of things well but isn't really a stand out at any one particular thing.  And while she is in great physical shape, she gets distracted easily during team sports or frustrated because she doesn't understand the rules or doesn't quite have the skill needed for hitting a baseball or shooting a basketball.)

I know all my friends who are mamas of brown babies are looking at this and just shaking their heads.   Really it wasn't too bad.  I did the double French braids to kind of help limit the amount of hair that was exposed to the color.  Then I oiled it with olive oil before we left.  At home, she rinsed once in the tub, then I shampooed it, conditioned it, and reconditioned it under the shower and I think we got most of it out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Go Spying

1.  Find oversized glasses to help you see better
2.  Use a headband to secure your pen to your head (for easy access)
3.  Grab a notebook to record any observations

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Wow! You're a Big Family!" Controlling the Chaos Tidbit #8-The Bathroom

The bathroom:  toothpaste in the sink, water drops on the mirror, and a toilet that well, looks and smells like two little boys use it.  I won't kid myself and say that my bathroom is clean for longer than maybe the ten minutes right after I have cleaned it.  But I do have a few tricks that help keep the messes down.

1.  Color coded poofs instead of washclothes
My kids do still use washcloths in the morning when they wash their faces but for bathtime, they each have a poof.  I hated finding soggy washclothes mildewing at the bottom of the bathtub.  (Okay maybe not mildewing but a sopping wet washcloth that sits in the tub for a day or so just grosses me out.)  And I hated that the kids couldn't figure out how to wring out a washcloth without making a mess.  So I bought each kid a poof that was the same color as their cup.  (See my post on breakfast.)  A few suction cup hooks on the tub surround and no more wet washclothes.

2.  Caddies for each kid
The boys currently share a caddy but that's because the caddies I have are made with two sections so they might as well share.  The kids put their personal supplies (toothbrush, toothpaste, and hair brushes) in each caddy and it sits on the counter.
These metal caddies are the ones my kids use.  I actually got several of them quite a few years ago when I was teaching full time.   They were Dollar General finds so they were really cheap.

3.  Travel size toothpaste
I think I have finally figured out how to solve the "my children are geniuses, but why on earth can they not squeeze toothpaste out of a tube correctly?" problem.  Travel size toothpastes.  For some reason, they are easier to squeeze than a large size tube and my kids don't goop toothpaste all over the tube and they seem to do better with getting the right amount on their toothbrush which helps with the big globs of toothpaste that end up in the sink and on the counter.  It's not the most budget friendly thing but if you can score a bunch of samples from the dentist or from hotel stays, it helps.  I just give each kid their own tube so I don't have to replace them so often.

4.  Over the door shoe organizers
This is probably my new favorite organizing trick.  I don't have a ton of storage in our bathroom.  The vanity is actually pretty spacious but it only has two drawers and the bottom is just a big open space that kind of turns into an abyss where toilet paper and the plunger go to get forgotten about.  So I grabbed a cheap shoe organizer and used it for all my extra bathroom supplies (like extra razors, extra shampoo, etc.).  It's easy to see what you have and they don't get lost to the abyss.
The only thing I don't love about this is that sometimes it gets kind of heavy and can "thump" against the door.
I think if I used some Command adhesive strips along the edges, I could secure it to the door and prevent the thumping but I've been too lazy to do that. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Linky Love-Perspectives on Birth Families and Foster Care

From Tona Ottinger:

"But to ask “who really wants these kids” is a generalized statement that sensationalizes and moves us to “pity” them. I bet their broken-hearted families do. Even if they are too covered in shame, embarrassment, addiction, or fear to admit it. I bet they want them. Deep in their hearts they wish they were free to live and love and provide for their kids. But they aren’t.

We need to reframe our thinking. We need to think about the bigger picture. We need to lay down our stereotypes of what good parenting is. We need to lay down racial prejudices that get in the way of seeing birth families culture and different ways of living as something that can be celebrated rather than judged. Not all cultures parent the way white evangelical parents do and that does not mean they don’t want or love their kids. (Feels good to finally say that)"

While the author wrote this regarding foster care, this truth is not just about foster care.  It's about teachers who teach kids who come from homes where the choices about tv programs or clothing or behaviors seem questionable.  It's about people who work with at risk kids through mentoring programs who aren't quite sure why Mom or Dad isn't stepping up to the plate.  It's about people who spend their days with kids in domestic violence shelters or homeless shelters who question how a parent lets this happen to their kids.  It's about those who see kids placed for adoption, be it domestic or international, who can't fathom how a birth parent could just "give their child away."

The bottom line is almost every single parent loves their kids.  Their choices may not be the same ones we would make.  Their lifestyle may not be reflective of what we think of when we think of a stable family.  Their actions may seem to indicate apathy.  But parents love their kids; they are loving them the only way they know how.  Even if it's not very pretty.  Even if it's downright ugly.  That waiting child, that messed up mom, that dad who is striking out-it's just not okay to take love out of their family equation.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Decisions, Decisions...How We Decided to do a Toe to Finger Transfer

As you might have read in my previous post on Zeke's Robohand, we are anticipating Zeke having limited usage of his "good" side due to an upcoming surgery.  This surgery is a big deal.  And deciding to do it was a big deal too.

Our initial consultation with Shriner's involved a general physical, x rays, and the quick assessment that Zeke might be a candidate for a toe to finger transfer.  While we went into his adoption knowing that we would take on whatever medical needs he had, we were pretty confident that there would not be much that could be done for his hands surgically.  Add in that we had never even heard of the ability to use a toe to create a finger and we were amazed at what could be done but also quite surprised.  Our second appointment with Shriners involved a more specific discussion regarding what the options would be for Zeke, from prosthetics to a toe to finger transfer.  I had now had a few months to start investigating the options and had list of questions for the doctors and prosthetics team.

However, even then, finding information on the toe to finger transfer was difficult.  As one might imagine, it's not a surgery that is done often.  (At least not in comparison to things like appendectomies or ear tubes.)  So a Google search doesn't yield a ton of results.   Many of the folks in the limb difference forums that I participate in opted not to do the surgery so I couldn't even find a single parent or patient who had decided to do the surgery.  However, for many of those individuals, their fingers and hands looked different than Zeke's.  Many of them had one hand with five fingers and were contemplating the toe to finger transfer to add digits to the opposing hand.  In those same forums are individuals who have limb differences themselves.  Some of them are very strong advocates for not changing one's body and instead embracing how you were born.  Also, much of the information available online is for people who have used the surgery to create a thumb.  Again, not exactly the same as Zeke.

We also knew that regardless of if we decided to do the surgery, Zeke would be fine.  He is so innovate and capable.   We knew that he would thrive regardless of what we decided.

Finally, the surgery is complicated and complex.  It is a 5-6 hours surgery.  Afterwards, because it involves reattaching tiny blood vessels, Zeke will need to be sedated overnight.  The actual hospital stay is approximately 4-5 days.

All of those things represented some big unknowns, some of which were scary and some of which were just kind of confusing and hard to sort out.

The surgery in and of itself has a high success rate (in terms of the toe attaching correctly) and the specialist who recommended it is a highly qualified doctor.  He is a Mayo surgeon, who operates out of Mayo, who is also a teaching professor at Mayo.  But those facts still don't change the fact that you are having to make a choice about altering your child's body, placing him under anesthesia, and allowing a surgery that will cause him pain.

Eventually we decided that some of our reservations were fear based and that while fear can be a good thing, sometimes fear keeps you from doing things that you do need to do.  We tried to approach it from a very objective place, which is really hard when it's your child.

Three things helped us arrive at our choice to go forward with the surgery.
1.  I kept seeing on many forums adults who had limb differences talking about their bodies aging and how because of their limb differences, certain body parts were forced to compensate for the missing parts, resulting in overuse and strain on those parts.  For Zeke, over his lifetime, his thumb and finger will be used much more than most other people's digits.  This surgery will create a third digit which will help to relieve some of that overuse.
2.  We really could not get anyone to specifically answer the question, "What benefits will Zeke gain by having this surgery?"  No one could really give us a list of things he would be able to do because of the addition of a third finger.  So we started brainstorming a list of tasks that we do every day with our hands, things we just do and don't think twice about.  Things like opening a gallon of milk, feeding the baby a bottle, changing a diaper, starting our car, and tying shoes.  And we started brainstorming a list of tasks related to specific jobs, like carrying heavy buckets, using a hammer, and typing on a keyboard.  We then tried to do those tasks with a thumb and half a pointer.  While I know Zeke is used to using what he has and we are not, it did give us a broad idea of what things would probably always be hard and what things would be easier to do with the third finger.  It also helped us to think about what things he may have to have modified overtime.  Even a simple car ignition switch is going to be a challenge for him because he will have to reach across the steering column and try to use the finger and a half to turn the key.  I am not sure if he will have enough strength to do that.  So there is a good chance that without the surgery, every car he would buy would need a push button ignition.  Thinking through this made us realize that perhaps this surgery would enable him to have to make less modifications to things like a car ignition switch.
3.  We also took the time to recognize who it was that was saying this surgery was a good, viable option to increase Zeke's functionality.  It was coming from a hand surgeon who is one of the best in the country.  While listening to our gut and doing our research is important, the reality is as a whole, our nation is kind of a nation of experts.  Because we have so much information at our disposal, we can easily make our educated opinion as just as educated as someone who is a true expert in the field.  It seemed to us that we did need to place some weight on who it was that was recommending this surgery.

So a few weeks ago, Zeke had the first of his pre op procedures:  two MRI's to map the blood vessels in his hand and foot.   Now it's just a matter of a few months before we head to Rochester for the actual surgery date.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lucky Charm

Nope it's not a luck thing...I can sit up on my own!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!