Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Two Month Anniversary To Me!

And... I just had my most popular post yet!  Andrew says these are great numbers, so I'm glad the blog is sharing value :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympic Delight!

Monday was the big day!  Taking an early ferry ride left me a full day for exploring.  The outsides of the Olympic pavilions were pretty (I had no desire to wait two hours in line... each)!  So, I enjoyed a lovely stroll along the sea wall, water taxi rides, even some harp street music.  Keeping in mind that the city is at somewhere between 2-3 x it's usual population, moving around Vancouver takes time. Buses, trains, and ferries are all involved in moving the huge crowds of people.  I left myself lots of time, which I needed!  I got to the venue eventually though and had plenty of time to: read in the sunshine, get through security, and then pick my souvenir purchases before the full intensity of the crowds struck.  Then, I saw Olympic ice!  I saw Olympic skating!  It was so breathtakingly beautiful :)  I even thought the right people won.   That night, I keeled over in bed both elated and exhausted after managing the two and half hour commute back via three modes of transportation - bus, train x 2, boat.

Other things to share:

This week's Objectivist Round Up:

Andrew and I practicing our duet in the voice lesson!
Hopefully, this will improve with our practicing.  He kindly helped me post but wanted to indicate it was under mild duress.

Cute antic:
Cameron was getting frustrated with one lego that kept popping off and disciplined it with a cranky, "No!  Don't do that!  You're going to get your name on the board."  (That's one of the measures at school when a kid has been disruptive.  Not a favorite of mine, but it seems to be more of a keeping track than shame issue.  Hmmm.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Naked's Not News

This is more of a musing post because I'm not sure where our parenting practices will end up.  So, as a new parent, it's no big deal for my infant to see me naked.  Changing a dirty shirt, getting into pajamas, I didn't hide from his baby gaze.  Fast forward to toddlerhood and it was helpful for him to see us using the bathroom as part of toilet training.  Again, no big deal for us to help him change dirty clothing or to change our own.  Now, I have a six year old and I would have thought that, by now, nudity would be different.  To my surprise, it's still the same.  Literally, naked's not news.  He can dress and bathe himself, but if we're both ready to rinse off hot tub chemicals at the same time, we'll get into my shower together for two minutes (it's the only one with a hand-held sprayer).  If I'm changing into pajamas and he comes in with a question, I don't duck behind a door or sternly invoke the privacy card (*more later).  Basically, he has complete comfort with the body as something not to be hidden and as something normal.  These interactions have remained consistently positive.

Now, I'm curious when this is going to change?  I can imagine it will get to a point where our current openness is no longer appropriate i.e. a teenager might have a confusing response.  I know the norms in other countries are quite different (nude beaches) and the separation between nudity and sexuality is the cultural norm.  We even have a friend who runs an Alaskan adventure business and they only have one sauna shower for their staff, including teenagers.   That's what's available for all their staff to get clean once a day and being naked is rather essential.  I also remember going to camp where there was a communal shower, but that was divided by gender.  I like that my son has no shame in his body.  I'm so impressed with how much of a non-issue this is for him.  In contrast, my husband spent a significant portion of his childhood without a mom and remembers that even at my son's age he had anxiety and confusion about a woman's body and how it was different (not anatomically, just not part of the normal).

Just to clarify regarding privacy, when my son was much younger and had a natural curiosity about bodies, he learned about which parts of the body are private.  He knows those parts are not to be touched on other people and he knows those parts of his his body are private too.  He has learned to close the bathroom door when we have guests and he is slowly learning about changing in his room during those occasions too.  He understands the concept of privacy and puts it under the category of politeness and respect.  He also understands how some people are closer in relation to him and there are different appropriate interactions.

So, again, I'm musing.  I'm curious when, if ever, did you insist on privacy when changing?  Are the privacy rules different for the parent of the opposite gender?  I'm figuring that my son will make it clear for me, by his behavior, when "naked is news".  Clearly, there is a connection between nudity and sexuality at some point.  I don't want him to be confused when he starts making that connection.  For now, I'll observe and enjoy how purely joyous he feels within his own body.  I just wonder, will it change, or will he maintain this view of the body as a unique part of each person, a separate evaluation from sexual desire?  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Humor: Tool Box

The vast majority of my favorite parenting books, the ones focused on respecting a kid's mind to help them develop independence, mention humor.  Unless you're one of those naturally hysterical folks though, I think it takes a bit of practice and often a little pre-thinking to get started.  How exactly does one use humor as a tool?  So, I wanted to share a few of the ways I've found it effective in lightening my parenting life.

Crossing the road
"Look left.  No zebras.  Look right.  No flamingos."
I've used every animal I can think of from slugs and crabs to elephants and whales and I always get a laugh and a correction.  "No cars!"  It makes this often tedious learning process more playful for everyone and I find he actually looks both ways more often!

Helping with a shoe / zipper / something still tricky for their fingers
"Time for the shoes, they go on the ears." (Placing it on the ears)
This has changed more than one cranky, red, frustrated face into a grin as I get a little foot lifted for help.  It's a wonderful tool for diffusing frustration and gaining cooperation.  I've yet to find a kid who doesn't love to show what they know.

Answering a question when you know they already know the answer
Kid: Where are we going?
Parent: The moon.
A great way to get a giggle and a correction and start a conversation about the next activity.  Just today, my son asked where the breakfast bacon had gone.  I had all sorts of suggestions from the dishwasher to the laundry bin.  He kept saying no and finally put me straight that it went from his mouth through his esophagus into his tummy and then into his intestines... he then proceeded to tell me all about a shark inside his intestines.  I thought we should go get an x-ray, but he informed me it was an invisible shark.

Treating the squirms
Parent: "Can I have your ears?" (grab ears)
Kid: "No!" (+ giggles)
Parent: "Your elbows?" (hopeful expression, grab elbows)
Kid: "No!" (+ giggles and often a new suggestion in response to a disappointed parental expression)
This can go on for fifteen minutes more or less gently depending on kid preferences (I've got a rough and tumbler), plus it's great for teaching body parts too.  My son knew about his clavicles and hips by the time he was three.  It's also wonderful for deep pressure stimulation to joints with kids that have sensory integration difficulties.

Washing hands (the recommendation is to make sure they rinse long enough to sing the abc song)
Parent: A B C D E F Q
Kid: No, G
Parent: A B C D E F G H I M P L M N O W
Kid: No, no, A B C D...
Hands washed.  No fighting. Big smiles.

Brushing teeth (kid's mouth closed)
Parent (singing and brushing): brush, brush, brush the forehead
Kid: no, teeth (mouth closed again)
Parent: brush, brush, brush the cheeks
Kid: no, teeth
Eventually, you get to the teeth and an open mouth and it's honestly much faster and fun than fighting.

Reading practice (if it's just getting over the getting started hump)
Parent (well known book held upside down): Lets see, we start here.  Hmmm, something is wrong with the words.
Kid curiosity and the love of correcting usually takes over, but you can always start reading with gibberish sounding words.  I often respond to the correction with a smile and comment like, "thank you" or "Oh!  Sometimes I get confused."

Food choices for dinner (two real, one fake)
"Would you like hot dogs, hamburgers, or walrus?"
This is another one that clears away the cranky face when you know a stream of "no" responses is lurking.  Of course, if they pick walrus, you can serve up a dramatic pretend plateful and join in the sampling.  They might find they still have room for one of the other choices when done.

These are some ideas that have worked for me, but I'd love to hear how you've made humor work as a parenting tool for you :)

Ski What?

Let's see, nice things to say about skiing.  It's pretty.  Snow is softer to fall on than cement.  Andrew loves it.  People who know what they're doing look so elegant, it's a joy to watch.  There are lots of people who know what they're doing.  There are even enough of them to toboggan those of us who don't down the mountain. 

Honestly, I was having a delightful time enjoying the scenery as I walked down the mountain.  It was snowing gently and so idyllic to stroll, even in ski boots.  I did understand Andrew's desire to get back to the slopes that weren't beyond my skill though when the staff offered a courtesy ride to expedite things.  So, after almost fifteen years, Andrew got me to go skiing with him this Saturday.  While puffy and colorful, none of my injuries are permanent.  I'm glad we shared this experience together and had further evidence of how marvelous our babysitter is too... how many teenagers are willing to be picked up at 6:15AM on a weekend?!?  

Other things to share:

This week's Objectivist Roundup:

Cute antics: 

• pronouncing Brazil, "Brayzil".  (Sounds like a country with lots of donkeys.)
• getting the saying not quite right, "If you've been to one, you've been to one."
• pulling from a movie again to greet me with, "Hey honey."
• and...
As I paused in listening to my history lecture, this is what came floating down the stairs to my ears, "For over a hundred years, steam engines have been used to power trains.  Coal is burned to heat water in a boiler.  Steam from the boiler moves pistons in cylinders."  (This kid just blows me away.  That was part of two hours of private, bedtime reading! I went to his school to help finish his testing and he's at least, 2nd -3rd grade level.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Couple Time

New baby.  Learning a new role.  Information overload!  Everyone has advice, often conflicting, and I'd say the vast majority of parents are motivated, by love of their children, to try to make the best choices.  This post isn't about the choices, but about investing in break time from the potentially overwhelming pressures of the parenting role.  Even though rational parenting can make the career both more delightful and more simple, it's still a challenging endeavor i.e. hard work!

I'm not trying to provide a rationale for taking a break (although that's another worthy topic), I'm just offering some tips for smoothing the process.

Here are some ideas that have worked for me:

1. Find the break provider
Recommendations from friends, teachers, and previous babysitters have helped me in the past.  I've also heard of great success with trading evenings out i.e. a friend watches your kids and then you watch theirs.  Contacting schools that have masters degree programs in child development (or special needs education if your child has a distinctive concern that makes finding a sitter difficult) can be a successful technique as well.  Whether it's grandparents, students, friends, or a paid sitter finding the break provider is step one.  That said, my husband and I have gone six months without a sitter twice while searching  (and treasuring the shorter solo/couple breaks around our son's schedule), so I acknowledge that this can be a difficult step!

2. Coordinating with a sitter
- Start with a supervised play date where you can observe your child and the sitter interacting.
- Give the sitter early notice of dates.
- Find their preferred method of communication!  This one surprised me.  I didn't think it would make much difference, but I've had dependable sitters who only respond to text messages or email or phone calls.
- If you usually go out in the evening, find occasional daytime opportunities so that the bond with your sitter and child remains positive and comfortable.
- Pay them for their transportation time.  That is time they're devoting to you.
- Be positive if they call out.  If they're just unreliable, look for a new sitter.  If they're sick or something is wrong and they are a quality sitter, being supportive makes them much more likely to stay.

3. Make it quality, couple time
This is where I've found the most differences in our practices.  My husband and I look for actions to share!  The idea is to share some way to improve together.  Before kids, we took flute lessons together and had a wonderful time working our way to basic competence.  Then came horseback riding lessons where it was a good thing I started out with more experience, because my husband was a natural (until he developed severe allergies).  Dinner outings are fun and sometimes that just hits the spot.  It is couple-nurturing to have quiet, devoted sharing time.  These were a staple when we just couldn't count on unfractured evening time, but we found we missed that action, growing together, element.  For the last couple months, we've been taking voice lessons together and having an absolutely glorious time singing happy songs from old musicals.  I'm working on this song - click preview for an excerpt from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers .   We're also singing a duet from one of my favorite musicals from childhood youtube  clip from 6:04 - 8:38.  (The movie,The Slipper and the Rose , is the Cinderella story from the prince's point of view.)  

The joy we have found in learning new things and taking growth actions together has been well worth the trials of finding the sitter and it makes every break more exciting!  I'd love to hear what you've done to make your couple time most positive because I'm sure there are techniques I haven't tried :)  

Brief Thyroid Update

For the first time in years, I slept through a winter night without needing an electric blanket.  That was last night.  Since starting this Iodine trial three weeks ago, while still cold, I have definitely been feeling warmer.  The few times I took my temp, it wasn't higher, but I think I'm due for another trial.  This is also the first evening in three weeks that I've had that odd, weary, ill feeling (instead of twice a week) and I haven't been noticing as much hair falling out each morning.  Finally, I've been having no trouble falling asleep and that symptom had been getting particularly exasperating.

So, slight change in plans.  The endocrinologist offered me no assistance that appealed to me (still treating thyroid based on TSH labs and T4 only meds) except that she wants to figure out the cortisol issue (and she did do a quick ultrasound to confirm no change in my thyroid).  So, my plan is to work through the cortisol issue with her.  I have my regular annual appointment with my primary doctor tomorrow and I'll ask her for her help (lab test) to rule out out a reverse T3 issue and test iodine levels.  But, I don't plan to do any thyroid trials until I test my iodine level and I'm thinking that I'd like to give this supplementation another month.  If I keep getting cozier and my symptoms keep getting better, then maybe I just needed a bit of Iodine and I'll be hunky dory soon!

Temper, temper

Tempering chocolate that is!  I gave it my first shot and it was fun :)
According to, "Tempered chocolate is the secret to professional chocolate products. Chocolate that has been tempered is smooth, with a shiny finish and a satisfying snap. If you're planning on making dipped chocolates or molded chocolates, the chocolate will need to be tempered so that it behaves properly and produces candies that are both tasty and beautiful."
A friend and I dipped until the chocolate cooled / thickened with thoroughly tasty results!

Other things to share:
This week's Objectivist Round Up:
An awesome video... love the fire finale:
A kid singing the national anthem with all the wiggles that I know Cameron would have:

Cute antics:
• continuing our discussion about becoming independent with, "First, I'll need to live in a cave."  (Ya, he really doesn't need to start with where human species was becoming independent, but he seems to think he can start there and make it to airplane engineer just fine.  We had a chat about how college can give you a boost past cave men.)
• responding to Andrew mentioning that cleaning the gutters had been on his list for a long time with, "Twenty five years?!?"
• informing me he had a preschool class in his room and then elaborating... they're invisible, only he can see them, there are 10,000 students, he's the king / teacher.  I walked into his room and he mentioned, "You stomped on two of my students."  That sounded bad until he added, "They popped back up."
• ditching Daddy to walk with Andrew's friend instead.  (Andrew responded by taking care of his friend's son, so it was an interesting child-switch hike!)
• sweet story:
I was going through the pictures, labeling away, and I came across one of my Grandma Joy.  Cameron was watching me writing and talking with me and he said, "I miss her."  I was a little surprised at the memory since he was a toddler when she died, and I asked him what he liked about her.  He said thoughtfully, "I laughed a little.  I giggled." 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

All The Brass

It's a little intimidating when your child tells you he wants to be "all the brass"!  Pick an instrument?  Na, he'll do every horn in the orchestra!  Our friend plays trumpet, so I figured it was worth an introductory trial. * see photos

Other things to share:

This week's Objectivist Roundup:

Cute antics:
• knowing where we were going, but asking anyway and having a ball with the response.
Cameron: Where are we going?
Rachel: To the moon
Cameron: (laughing) No, you can't drive there!
Rachel: What would happen if I tried?
He contemplated and then launched into an elaborate explanation of how I didn't have wings or rocket engines... I wish I'd had a tape recorder to catch all the scenarios he imagined!

• continuing his habit of describing his actions / thoughts in detail as he completes a project.  In the social group, they've been trying to get him to get someone's attention first so that they know he's talking to them.  This week they asked him, "Cameron, who are you talking to?"  Apparently, he looked up, looked around, saw no one was paying attention, and answered, "Myself."

The Trumpet Experience:

Listening for the sound

Looking for the sound

Practicing the mouth position

Making sound with the mouth piece

Putting the mouthpiece on the trumpet

Learning how to hold it

Cameron's first notes on a trumpet

He liked it

He liked it a lot

He decided it was OK for Athena to have a try

She gave it a try

He liked it more

and some more!

And to think, I actually asked our friend to bring the trumpet... Cameron had a bit of a change.  If pressed, he used to say he wanted to play the french horn.  Now, trumpet tops the list :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The idiom dictionary

It doesn't take much scanning to get a feel for how many idioms we use.  So, it's quite understandable that children, who are learning the regular meanings for words, get confused when we throw in idiomatic expressions.  Often without realizing that we're saying something quite complicated, we'll pepper the conversation with mystery.   While idioms are particularly challenging for autistic kids due to their varying adherence to concrete thinking, learning idioms is a challenge for every kid and... a fun parenting opportunity too :)

Enter the idiom dictionary!

Every week, I scan one of the sites and pick an idiom that refers to a concept within my son's conceptual grasp.  For example, I'll pick something like "back to square one" and skip things like "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

I write it at the top of the page and write a description along with an example at the bottom of the page.

I search google images for something that can illustrate the idiom and make the idea stick in my son's head.

That's it.  It takes all of ten minutes to do a page and you gradually have a richer and richer dictionary.  (I'm up to something like 50 pages.) I tend to leave a print out of the newest page at his place at the table or somewhere else he'll run across it and I love to hear the glee with which he reads them.  He seems to think people must be kidding if they're saying such silly things, but he's learning!  I occasionally print out the whole thing to share and it's less than two dollars to get a quick binding at an office store.

So, a few examples:

It's easy to see how much fun these can be and how easy it is to personalize them!  Cameron found the elephant ears quite amusing along with seeing pets he knew coming coming out of the sky :)  I've been quite impressed with the usefulness of the tool too.  Frequently, the lessons or component parts of idioms can be used as reference tools for a variety of otherwise unrelated explanations.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hypothyroid Issues: Sharing a Data Point

This blog is mostly for sharing parenting thoughts and fun life moments, but so many of those in my friend network have recently shared their thyroid stories and I like the idea of benefitting from each others' experiences.  So, here goes.

It started 13 years ago when I began feeling constant, mild throat pressure.  I spent two years going to ENT doctors who tried everything from muscle relaxants and acid blockers to steroids and antibiotics, finally one of them performed surgery to remove my lingual tonsils.  No change.  My labs remained normal.  They didn't know what was causing the pressure, but everything they could think of medically tested fine, including an MRI and CT scan.  It remained a mild annoyance.  When I moved to the Seattle area, my new primary care doc ordered an ultrasound which discovered thousands of tiny, "autoimmune" thyroid cysts.  I put autoimmune in quotes because I have no thyroid antibodies.  My lab work was still fine, the throat pressure hadn't changed, but at least I knew what was causing the feeling.  My doc said this was a case of waiting to see what happened because my thyroid was working well.  So, we have chronic throat pressure as symptom number one.

About two years ago, hair stylists started mentioning that my hair was falling out and my husband started noting handfuls of hair on my back after I combed it each morning (symptom number 2).  My hands and feet got more and more cold, and I saw bluish toes for the first time last year.  I was told I had Raynaud's and to keep warm (symptom number 3).  I'm not sure when I started having this odd head ache / sick feeling, but it has gradually progressed to occurring several times a week, although it always resolves with sleep.  I have also had significant difficulty getting to sleep and frequent wakening (although I fall back to sleep easily).  (We'll make that symptoms 4 and 5)  

Six months ago, my doc said my thyroid wasn't officially low, but we could try some T4 to see if it helped.  It didn't.  Over the last few months, thanks to friends reports ( -posted on - OEvolve- and more recently, I've been delving more deeply into the research and, now, I think I've been dealing with thyroid issues for at least 15 years.  I have read both Stop the Thyroid Madness: A Patient Revolution Against Decades of Inferior Treatment and Iodine: Why you need it, Why you can't live without it as well as the findings from multiple respected blogs.  I did a temperature trial and noted that my temperatures were highly variable (not just within one day, but from day to day) and always low (symptom 6, last one).

I wrote my doctor a detailed letter of the trial I wished to undertake which included both desiccated thyroid and cortisol.  She refused to write a prescription for the cortisol.  I am afraid to take the desiccated thyroid without the cortisol because adrenal issues could arise (link).     My lab results indicated freeT3/freeT4 both low normal and I continue to lack any thyroid antibodies.  I have been taking Iodine which seemed to make my temps warmer for the first week, but hasn't done anything since.  I think I may up it from 12.5mg to 18.75 (another half tablet).  

Considering high cortisol was documented, I am now primed with multiple questions for tomorrow's visit to the endocrinologist.  Based on my research, I want to get a ReverseT3 test and repeat freeT3 to see if that ratio indicates an issue.  I want to get an iodine loading test to see if that is a significant issue and the saliva cortisol test which has four collection times since cortisol can vary so much throughout  the day.  Finally, I want to get the opinion of a more mainstream doctor and likely, I will seek a second opinion from a doctor whom I know to be more focused on using compound pharmacies for treatments outside the norms.

So... that's my plan!  I'm sharing another data point and I'm hoping that I'll be reporting back with a full all's-well report.  This has been a stressful two months of research and especially the more frequent illness feeling.  It's very exciting though to be aware of the treatment tools which will hopefully resolve the issue :)