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!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Little Blue aka Zeke's Robohand

Well, it's here.  Ty at Robohand USA is just getting started printing 3 D hands and we had the privelege of being one of the first people to use her services.  Robohand USA is actually located in Atlanta, Georgia.  This meant we needed to make a casting of Zeke's arm.   We used Precious Impressions memory gel to create a mold of Zeke's hand which we then filled with plaster.  Once it was hardened, we took off the gel and mailed the plaster cast of Zeke's hand/forearm.  Then Ty went to work and used our casting to create a hand.

Ty calls this hand "Little Blue"

Now what?  Our decision to look into Robohand for Zeke was not based on our desire for him to have a functioning hand that he would choose to use every day, all day.  That's probably not going to happen.  For many with upper body limb differences, prosthetics can be limiting.  They don't have any sensation to them so while a hand missing fingers or an arm missing a hand may seem to be tricky, covering up that hand or arm with a prosthetic limits the person's ability to actually feel what they are doing.  (ie what they are touching, how they are touching it)  Also, people with limb differences are innovative and creative; I truly believe their brains compensate for those missing parts by creating different pathways than what one might normally use to manipulate objects.  This Robohand has actually kind of reinforced this thought in me.  Zeke has never had more than a thumb and half a finger.  He really has no idea of how fingers work.  He knows how to use what he has to accomplish a task but watching him try to pick things up with the Robohand, it became clear that he really did not know how to use fingers in a traditional way.  He also is so adept at using his left hand (with the fingers) and relies heavily on this hand so it is a big adjustment to get used to having the Robohand.  He often uses his left hand to "feed" items into his Robohand.

Our goal in getting a Robohand was twofold.  We hoped to 1.  to give Zeke experience with a prosthetic hand, to provide him with an opportunity to try something and hopefully decide on a few tasks where having the Robohand might make a big difference in his ability to do the task and
2.  to have an additional help in place for Zeke's surgery in May, when he will be in a cast on his "good side" for a month, without much ability to grasp items.

He was very excited when it came in the mail on Thursday.  He wanted to open the box immediately and spent a good portion of the day putting it on and taking it off, opening and closing it, and just playing around with it.  He told the handful of people who we saw that he got his Robohand in the mail.  He hasn't used it as much Saturday and Sunday but I'm sure some of the novelty has worn off.  He will be taking it with him to preschool and I'm hoping that the occupational therapist at school will be able to work with him using the Robohand.  We also plan to do a bit of "games" around here that will be geared toward practicing with the hand, things like batting a balloon or rolling a ball.

There is also some tweaking to be done to the hand.  Right now, the grip is a bit loose and I'd like to try to see if we can tighten the tension.  The fingers are also a latex dipped plastic so when picking up other plastic items, the fingers don't have a lot of traction and objects can slide out.  To be honest, Zeke has actually been pretty sick the last few days with bronchitis so my ability to evaluate the hand has been kind of limited.  (And D's smack in the middle of soccer so he's not home until 7 or so and I'm on my own with all the kids so that kind of limits things too.)   It's also a bit about trying to balance the reality of what a Robohand really is useful for with our expectations all while taking into account that Zeke will probably be more proficient with more practice.  Regardless, Ty at Robohand is willing to help us troubleshoot and tweak or create to meet Zeke's needs.

So that's the scoop and here's a pic...
Zeke posing for the camera.  I told him I wanted to take a picture of him with the Robohand and he was working on a project so he grabbed the marker and started scribbling.  For him, using the Robohand to draw with is really not a great application.  His fine motor skills on his other side are really good so this really doesn't help him.  But he did think it was fun to be able to draw with that side.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Parenting One Liners

In February, I wrote a bit about using a script with Zeke to help him overcome his fear of swimming lessons.  Really, scripts are just an awesome, no brain involved way to parent, a one line response.  Okay, maybe there is some brain power involved but having a few well rehearsed parenting scripts can literally make your life tons easier.  It gives you a quick response that doesn't involve you overreacting and also can become a bit of a mantra that your children may find themselves repeating as they grow up.

I suppose my years as a teacher might be why I love parenting scripts so much.  Teachers use scripts all the time.  If you've ever wondered how a teacher manages a room full of 6 year olds, scripts are part of the deal.  A good teacher will have scripts to get the class' attention.  Things like "1-2-3, eyes on me!"  Or choral refrains where the teacher says one thing and the class replies back.  The class hears the teacher say, "Goodness gracious!' and then echoes, "Great balls of fire!" That simple echo helps get the class' attention.

Here are a few of my favorites that I say a lot with my kids at home:

For my daughter when she is struggling with feeling loved-"You are loved.  You are special.  You were made by God."

For the moments when someone wants to argue with me-"Do you want an answer or do you want to argue?"  Or "I love you too much to argue with you."

For sibling arguments-"How could you have solved this problem without getting me involved?"  "What did you do when that happened?"  "How can you fix this problem?"  (This one works awesome if you make both kids go sit separately and then give you individual answers.  It makes the child realize that even if he was not the one who created the problem, he can help fix it.)

For inappropriate, sly, or snarky comments-"Helpful, kind or necessary?"  (Meaning if it's not one of those things, then you shouldn't be saying it.)

For a child who picks at others, just to pick-"Peace or a problem?"  (Meaning "are you creating peace or a problem?")

For lots of situations where there is disrespect, lying, rudeness, etc.-"Is that who you want to be?"  (Meaning "do you want to be someone who does _____ or do you want to be someone who does ______________ ?",the opposite of whatever they were doing.)

For kids who ask a thousand questions, especially ones that have already been answered-"What do you think?"  Or "Asked and answered."

Have any favorite one liners you like to use with your kids?  Always looking to add to my collection...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

From Refinement to Testosterone

A few words from Kenson, said within about 30 minutes of each other...

Said gently, with much seriousness-"I can't eat those cucumbers.  They make me ill."

Said while swinging an arm through the air, while balancing half on, half off the chair-"I think I need to go punch something!"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Apparition of a Birth Mom

She's there in the shadows, a wisp of something that occupies the fringes of our spaces.  He hasn't asked about her yet but it's just a matter of time.  Right how he still gets confused and wonders if he grew in my tummy.

Sometimes she shows up when I'm sitting on the edge of the boy's bed, tucking him in, as his arms fly open wide for a bedtime hug and his head flops onto the pillow, the mop of stick straight jet black hair, flopping right along with it.  For a quick moment, I think, "Is her hair as straight and as black as his?"

Sometimes she shows up when I hear the 3 year old counting or recalling letter names or saying big huge words like "catapult", as I am amazed at his progress and in awe that 18 months ago, he spoke only Mandarin.  I can't help but think, "He is so smart!  She would be so proud of how quickly he learns new things."

Sometimes she shows up when I watch him do something people think he shouldn't be able to do, when his 1 1/2 fingers unbutton a shirt or piece a puzzle or brush his teeth.  It's when I watch him innovate and create and strategize about the fairly mundane tasks of life, when I think "He is so clever!  I wonder if she would be surprised at how much he can do."

And sometimes she shows up smack in the middle of his face, in his smile and giggles, as his natural charisma pours out, trickling from his eyes and the upturned corners of his grin.  And that's when I sadly think, "She is missing this-this crazy wild boy with a full of life face who brings joy.  She is missing this."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bedroom Reveal

The last two rooms in the house to be "put together" were the master bathroom and the master bedroom.  I'm still not sure the master bathroom is done as I have a few other things in mind once I can convince the husband to do them for me.  But the bedroom is done.  (And we moved the bassinet into our walk in closet for a variety of reasons so it's finally free of the baby clutter.  Lest you think we have a gigantic walk in closet, the bassinet pretty much fills the whole space.)  We used aqua, red, cream, and black as focus colors. Anyway, thought I'd share a few pics.

When we first got this headboard many years ago, my mom thought it was overkill, I think.
But the footboard had been damaged so we ended up getting the headboard at a reduced price.

Vintage window-not sure if I should say it was free or tell you how much we spent when we replaced the windows in our our previous house since this is one of the leaded windows from there.
It was too far damaged to use as a window so it had to be removed.
The lamp was actually one we had; I just spray painted the base and added a new shade.
The blue candy dish was D's grandma's.  I use it for jewelry.
The table was out of D's grandma's house too.  (Say the magic words-free!)
It had some type of laminate flooring glued onto it so we stripped that off and then I painted it cream with black distressing.

The artwork is Haitian steel drum art that my cousin brought back on her recent trip to Haiti.
The bird lamp I found at Goodwill awhile back.  (Maybe spent $3.)
The nightstand was one I bought at an auction for like $5.
It need refinished and some of the veneer was chipping off so more cream paint with black distressing.

The bedspread is one we've had for several years.
I made the bedskirt.  It's a seersucker type fabric with aqua and flecks of many other colors.

This artwork is actually framed handkerchiefs that were D's grandma's.  I originally bought artwork in square frames at Goodwill with the intention of taking out the artwork and matting the handkerchiefs like a regular picture.  I didn't like how that looked so I instead used an album cover frame from Michael's and used the square frames to frame out that.
Quick hit of black spray paint and they all match.

I made the curtains.  The red side panels were a bargain bin sheer fabric from Hancock Fabrics and were seriously less than $10 for both sets.   The faux shade is just a panel mounted on a tension rod.  We never open our bedroom curtains just because of privacy needs to it seemed silly to spend the time and effort to make them a functioning shade.  They are an aqua and cream damask pattern in cotton.  The light filters in a bit but they keep us from baring all to anyone walking through our backyard.  (Which right now is no one but the friendly woodchuck living under our neighbors garage but at some point, that might change.) 
The drop down desk was another item we got from D's grandma's house.
My last true "fix" for this room would involve the tv cords.  I just need to buy some type of paintable cover for them so I can cover them up with something that matches the wall.

Last summer, right before the baby arrived, D built me these floating shelves.  The silver pieces are all thrift store finds.  The art is Chinese and is an ink painting of the Great Wall of China done with only an artist's fingers and hands (no actual brushes were used).  It's a piece we bought when we were picking up Zeke.

The bench is actually one that goes with our dining room table.   Our harvest table has two benches but we only use one so this one seemed to fit perfect in our bedroom.  The two pillows are actually vintage Ebay finds; I think I got them like ten years ago but love that they still fit with my decor.