Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dr. Fanta

My best friend had an idea that we could take the children to go to paint some pottery while we were in Park City, Utah on our ski vacation.   It seemed an indoorsy thing to do when we were getting over being outside for so many hours so we called and made arrangements.    We got there and had the entire store to ourselves until just before we left, which was nice.

It turned out we didn’t need much help because painting pottery was pretty simple—even if you couldn’t see what you had and hadn’t painted as in the case of my daughter.   My daughter selected an egg-shaped bowl and painted it in largely pastel colors.   She picked the colors based on my description coupled with the name of the color itself.   So for instance “red” wouldn’t have been as likely to get selected as, “Robin’s Red Splash” would be.

My son worked on his selection with virtually no help.   He picked a ceramic version of a soda can.   He picked colors in red and orange and for a while couldn’t decide if he was going to make a Dr. Pepper can or a Fanta orange can.  In the end he decided to compromise half and half and created what is likely the world’s first ceramic and backwards written, “Dr. Fant” can.  

The finished products were mailed and arrived today.   For dinner my daughter ate her lo mien in her egg bowl and my son drank his water out of his Dr. Fant can.

And yes, we are co-mingling the Amazon Alexa and Google Home Mini.   We’re making them sit beside each other in the hopes they’ll make friends.   They sound enough alike to be sisters separated at birth.

The Big Boy Tiny Girl Entrance and Skill Challenge:  My daughter beat my son four to one in endurance and skill challenges today at their private tumbling class.  She held a handstand for longer, climbed the wall edge back and forth more times and hung on to the rings for more iterations than my son.   My son was a good sport about the whole thing though, especially since he goes to two additional classes per week and this class is her private lesson he comes and joins in for fun.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Flux Capacitor Doorbell

My husband has been working on our doorbell most of the day.   Or rather the part of the day after he slept late.   He’s had a cold and hasn’t been sleeping well lately.   But the Nest Camera Doorbell had arrived and he wanted to get it working.  

In my childhood we had a doorbell.   It was a button outside the house and then a ‘ding dong’ sound played inside from a little box in the hall near the bedrooms.   I didn’t think much about the wiring, the button or the sound, because for the entirety of my childhood it did exactly as it was meant to do—it alerted us when people were at the door.  

Our new house is more complicated.   It didn’t start out complicated, it only grew into complexity out of necessity and new technology.    The first thing we discovered is we couldn’t hear the doorbell.   The chime itself was on the second floor, but we weren’t up there much and our infants or toddlers that lived up there pretty much had no idea what to do about a ding dong sound.    So my husband took steps.

He wired the doorbell sound into the Niles system and accompanying speakers he’d had wired with the house.   That fixed things because two floors down in the basement when the doorbell rang we could hear it.    It turned out even our neighbor could tell when someone rang our doorbell because we initially forgot to turn off the outdoor speakers which were at high volume.  

The hitch with the speaker relay was the delay in the sound.   The circuit would open and my dog would run, barking straight up the stairs.   No one knew until a second or so later that there was some at the door.   In later years we’d just tell people the dog had ESP.

But now your doorbell isn’t complete it would seem unless it has a camera attached that will send a text message to you so you can get up to speed on who’s at your door from your phone or watch while you sit comfortably at your desk on another floor.   Or so the marketing materials would have you believe.

Once the product arrived all that needed to be done was to have my husband do the easy job of hooking it up.   If you’re guessing that we ran into troubles, you would be correct.   Or rather he ran into trouble.   I just gave him the, “I’m sure you can do it, you’re good at all this electrical stuff” from the sidelines.

The problem was the totality of circuitry in the mix.   The original door chime, the wire to the Niles system, the amount of watts going to the different parts of the system.   What was in loop, what wasn’t.  What could be excluded, what had to be involved.   How to get enough  power to get the camera working.   It was a total mess.   My husband at one point had this drawing going on the kitchen counter:

He had to do a Lowes run at that point followed by a period of time in the workshop downstairs.   He emerged looking rather victorious only to have to rethink his electrical schema once again with the new variables factored in:

I remarked that it looked much more flux capacitor-ish and a lot less complicated (less the gigawatts) and that surely he had it licked this time.   He wired it in under the cabinet with the Niles and then I heard him say, “colors?!  There are wire colors?!”

You would think that grey and white would not be the go to colors of Nest for their wires.   Apparently color scheme is all important, even if it’s at the price of clarity.   Fortunately one iPhone light and some wire checks later and he got lucky, getting it right on the first go round.

So now it all works.   Except the holes in the brick on the front porch are slightly off.   He was going to do that tomorrow I think, but there’s a chance I hear the hammer drill running now upstairs.

The Big Boy Update:  Last night my son wanted to put on one of my daughter’s footie pajamas.   They are too small for him but he really wanted to wear it.   He called it his, “Lah-Vay” pajamas.   I didn’t get what he meant until he unzipped the front, splitting the word LOVE on the front of the pajama right down the middle, dividing it into the two syllables he was saying individually.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter must have driven around in her Tesla Model Tiny S car (from Santa) for well over an hour today.   I kept hoping the battery would drain, but it’s got a lot of “range” apparently.    She had a very good time, only hitting one thing once, which thankfully wasn’t any of the cars over for a St. Patrick’s Day party next door.  

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sink Slime

My sink in the bathroom was starting to drain slowly.   It seemed like it went from draining fine to not draining well in a short period of time.   I’d tried to pull out the drain but it didn’t want to come out.   I’d done this before in the past because it looked like it needed cleaning.   It didn’t want to turn or unscrew or rotate in any way and I was usually in a hurry so I planned to come back later.

But I never put much effort into it until I was faced with a non-draining sink.   I tried again on pulling the plug and it wasn’t budging, so I consulted YouTube.   It is amazing how the right ten seconds of video can tell you exactly what you needed to know while showing you how very far off from getting the answer on your own.  

It turned out there was a bolt and then a pull I needed to loosen under the sink and then the drain plug would pull straight out.   My husband was helping while I was under the sink.   He said something along the lines of disgusting, gross, disbelief, nasty, in short, something unpleasant was waiting for me when I got up from the floor.

And it was indeed quite frightening.   I’m careful to keep my long hair out of the sink, but it’s the most heavily used bathroom sink in the house and things do get down there.   So there was hair and some sludge.    I had to go get a two-pronged fork and dig into the drain to pull out what was amassed in there.  

It went on and on and looked somewhat like the largest hairball I’ve ever seen.   But the strangest thing about it was the clear gelatinous ooze attached to the whole thing.   I was worried it was some terribly funky bacteria that had been growing, planning on taking over our house and family, but I think it was something more mundane.

The children’s toothpaste is a colored gel.   They frequently don’t get it evenly dispersed in their mouth so globs end up in the sink.   And those globs are sticky.   I have to wipe them off because they stick and won’t let go from the side of the sink.    I think the toothpaste was getting stuck to the hair and was being leeched of color over time, but didn’t dissolve.

Whatever it was, it’s gone and the sink drains back at it’s normal rate.

The Big Boy Update:   My son does not like it when you ask to talk to him when he’s using the iPad. We talked to him about ways we could communicate with him when he’s on it without him getting upset.   His suggestion was an interesting one, he said, “just push the app exit button”.   We’ll try tomorrow and see if it works.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter said she didn’t have a braille eraser about a week ago.   I ordered one online after having my daughter look very closely at the screen and telling me which one she liked at school.   It came in the mail today and she was very excited.   She gave us a demonstration by spelling her name wrong, erasing the letter and then retyping it.  Then she showed us where the braille eraser could be stored.   It’s quite small, about three inches and looks like this:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Seven Years Is Enough For A Kid

The Big Boy I Wanna Die Statements: My son is having anxiety about a lot of things, school in particular.   We’re meeting on Monday but today in the meantime I was trying to channel Liz in how she helps him feel comfortable enough to talk about his feelings.   I met with some success in so far as he told my husband and me how he was feeling, but I think I got the more negative end of the spectrum.

While asking about school it appears that a lot of anxiety revolves around school, which my son doesn’t want to go to anymore.   He doesn’t want to go to his school specifically, I don’t think he’s opposed to school in general.   When he gets upset he says things like, “I just wanna die.”  Sometimes he elaborates more because we haven’t gotten too terribly upset at this statement which in words is a lot, but for his age means he’s dealign with a lot of stress.

So today he told me, “can my life just stop now?  Seven years is enough for a kid.”   I felt so badly for him.   He told me right after that, “I just don’t like myself.”  

I’ve been trying to do some comparison stories because Liz says he thinks he’s a bad person and no one is going to love him or we’ll withhold affection or love from him if he’s bad.    This morning he got in trouble for dawdling.   I wasn’t nice about it because he had been pushing it.   He complained about being a bad kid.  

So on the car ride home I asked him if I was a bad person if I burned his english muffin?   He said no and I did some equating with needing to work on things or forgetting to do something like take the toast out wasn’t reason to be a bad person.     We extended the example into asking if he’d love me any less if I burnt his toast?   He got the comparison and I think understood.    But in the end he still said, “I just don’t like myself.”

So we have work to do to put his self image back together again and get him going with confidence to focus on his school work.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter asked me what day it was yesterday.   After I told her it was Wednesday she said, “I can’t wait until it’s Sunday.”   What’s so special about Sunday, I asked her?  “Tumbling,” she said quietly.    We’ve not been completely sure how much she likes her private tumbling class.   She would be all over the place if she could just see what the instructor, Zak, is trying to teach her, but she’s doing her best and is learning some and now I know looks forward to class.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Helen and the Bunny

Everyone is affected differently when they hear about my daughter’s vision loss.   Tonight my parents took my daughter and me out to dinner while my husband and son were at Free Running class.  We went to our favorite Sushi and Thai restaurant and had a waitress that’s been serving us since my children were babies.   At one point she offered my daughter a spoon to help her eat her rice and my daughter couldn’t see where the spoon was.   So I decided to say something.

I took the waitress over to the side and did my one minute rundown of what happened two-and-a-half years ago (has it really been that long?)  She was very saddened to hear what had happened.   I did what I always do and put a positive spin on the story, saying my daughter was happy and the vision loss happened at the best time because she was old enough when it happened to have started her life knowing a sighted world but young enough to not know what she’d really lost.

It must have upset our waitress because the next thing I know she had her purse and was down on her knees beside my daughter.   She unclipped a fuzzy plush animal and gave it to my daughter.   She said she’d just come back from a five week stay in Beijing where she visited her mother who had suddenly become ill.   She brought back this bunny and she wanted my daughter to have it.

My daughter hugged it and felt it all over.   We showed her where the ears were and the nose (hidden in the fur) and the four little white paws.   My daughter started playing with it, having it dance.   She asked our waitress what her name was.   How we’ve gone this long without knowing her name, is perhaps a question, but maybe more of a shame since we’ve seen her frequently over many years.

She said her name was Helen and my daughter immediately named the bunny the same, asking Helen if she would be the mommy of the bunny with her.   My daughter hugged Helen, she told Helen she loved her and had the bunny give her kisses.   Helen was smiling a very happy smile along with my daughter’s. 

We got the bill and Helen insisted we not give her any tip for the meal.  Insisted.   Said it was on her this evening.   My daughter is going to sleep with Helen tonight and is planning on taking her on her next trip to Detroit.    We were very touched by Helen’s kindness this evening.   My daughter is sitting on the chair in the living room as I write this with Helen by her side. 

The Big Boy Update:  We have a conference scheduled on Monday with my son’s two teachers, his occupational therapist and play therapist.   Hopefully we can come up with some strategies to help him have less anxiety in the classroom so he can get his work done with more success. 

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter was telling me about the clay fish she was making in art class this week and how they would bring it home after it was fired and they painted it.   She had an interesting insight about humans and animals.   She said, “humans are better than other animals.”  I asked her why and she elaborated, saying, “they can take care of pets.   And then one day the could cook them in a fire and roast them and then eat them.”      

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I’m Behind In Almost Everything

The Big Boy Tiny Girl Thank Goodness We Have Professional Help Update:
My husband and I had a meeting with our play therapist for the children today.   I also had some interesting exchanges with my son and as a result his occupational therapist today as well.   It’s all interesting, and it’s all fixable, but it’s clear and present in the lives of my children right now.  

First, Dhruti, our play therapist said my daughter’s play has dramatically changed.   She was able to visually see some more things, but she couldn’t invest her attention into anything during their session.   She didn’t have an evolving story.   She wasn’t anxious, it was more like, “what’s the point?”  

She thinks my daughter is looking for control but it’s more that she’s bored.   She’s doing a finger drumming thing she describes as caterpillars on her fingers that means she’s restless, she’s bored, she wants something to do but doesn’t know what to do.    So we got homework from Dhruti to help her.

We have some activities we can send my daughter on that we can assign to her that she can do by herself.  Create a list of how many socks you have.   Weighing things to see which potato for dad’s dinner weighs more, making a paper chain for the upcoming birthday at the house, etc.   Things with no consequence—things she can be successful at that will keep her mentally occupied.  

My son is also having his challenges.   I picked him up today to go to his occupational therapist.   On the way to see Liz I had a rare conversation with him in which he gave me insight into his mind.   I asked him if he had had a good day today.   He said yes, only he would have not gotten good marks on, “focus on work during work cycle”.

He told me, “I’m behind in almost everything” which he elaborated to mean where his first year peers were at this point.   He said, “everyone works faster than I do” and then, “they think I get distracted but it’s not that.”   He told me that school was boring—“aside from the Mesozoic era and the one after that”.

And then he said, “I think it would help to see Liz more than once a week.”   Did I just hear a child as to have more occupational therapy?   Sometimes it’s fun, but it’s not always, and he has to think hard and talk about how he feels and what he can do to be successful in the classroom and with his peers when he’s with Liz.  

So I walked into the session and he and I together told Liz all of the above.   And she was proud of him.   She and he had good hour together and at the end we talked about having a parent teacher conference with both Liz and my son there (at the end).   He didn’t want to be in the conference because I think the only other conference he’s been in was one he was told he couldn’t go to a field trip due to behavior.   But he was interested in going to this one, because he’s starting to understand what’s happening in his brain.

He and Liz talked about his amygdala and how it was hijacking his thoughts.    She asked him how he felt at the beginning of work cycle when he had to start work.   He put his hands on his head and spun around quickly twice.   She asked him if that meant he was feeling anxious or unsure.   He nodded.    It’s not intelligence.   It’s not lack of ability to focus.   It’s anxiety that’s causing my son to be, “behind in almost everything”.  

We just got his progress report for the first semester and he’s not behind in almost everything, he’s doing fine.   But he’s judging himself against his peers, which can be a tough thing.   We’ve asked for a conference.  Hopefully with Liz we can help him with his anxiety and he can focus more easily on his work.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

Some Stage of Grieving

I was talking to my friend, Margaret the other day.   She and I talk about all sorts of things, with my daughter being a frequent, recurring topic.   My daughter absolutely loves Margaret.   Margaret has a calm, reassuring manner and my daughter just feels comfortable and happy being with her.

One of the things Margaret and I talk about is scheduling our “foot toilet” (pedicure) date with my daughter.  Schedules have worked against us, with the weekdays being taken up by school and the weekends filled with events for both of us.   But I can assure you, my daughter has most certainly not forgotten about that promise of a pedicure with Margaret.    We’ve told her we haven’t either and she understands being patient is something we all have to work on.

Margaret said something to me the other day when we were talking about my daughter’s vision loss.   I can’t remember if I was talking about discussing the latest with family or how we try to not bring it to the attention of strangers unless it was necessary—basically helping my daughter have the most normal life as possible.

It’s hard to tell the story of how she lost her sight to someone though.   I was on the phone with my insurance agent today, someone I’ve worked with for many years, and she didn’t know.   So I told the story again.   I’m good at the three minute rundown and I always put a positive spin on it because it is a sad thing to hear.   No one wants to hear about a four-year-old suddenly losing her vision and all the medical intervention she’s had to go through.   But I tell it a positive light about how my daughter is very happy (she is) and doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest that she can’t do something we all take for granted.

Margaret said something that struck me though.   She said all of our friends and family are in some stage of grieving over her loss.   I think that’s true, but I hadn’t thought of it in those words.  It’s sad.   It’s a shame.   Will she get any of her sight back?  Unfortunately, no, she hopefully won’t lose more.   It hurts.  And it hurts us all in a way that can only affect an adult who understands the true implications and the scope of the loss.

Am I grieving?  Possibly at times.   Sometimes it’s just a phrase from someone like, “how did I not see that, I must be blind.”  Or a television show that has a close up of an eye in their intro (you wouldn’t believe how many shows have eyes in their intros.)  Maybe it’s hearing about the great time friends had on a vacation that makes no sense for our family because my daughter can’t experience what they did well.  I think that affects all of us who are close to my daughter in our own ways sometimes.

I always remember that my daughter is happy.   She’s killer at braille, can navigate without a cane for the most part now and has friends.   She’ll grow up happy and have a good life, even if it’s a life we can’t imagine because we can see.

The Big Boy Update:  My son was on his iPad last week and I asked him what he was watching.  He said what I thought was, “YouToop”.   I asked him about it and he did in fact think it was YouToop.   I explained that it was YouTube and had to go into a complicated explanation about tube-based televisions because he’s never seen one.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter’s school released early today for inclement weather.   She got home, took her shoes off and put her socks in the laundry basket.   Then she lay on her back with her legs in the air and wiggled her toes around.   I asked her, “how are your toes?”   She informed me, “they’re ready for action”.