The Texture Of Things

The Age of Mystery

March 12th, 2008

We have hit it. We were never quite far from it, probably, but now we are diving headlong into the deep. Let me explain.

The tot has been going to a home-based day care for the past year and a half. One of my many gripes about the day care center she had been at before that was that none of the workers really knew my child. Every day I’d pick her up and she’d be visibly miserable, yet the green photocopied “My Day Today” sheet in her bag would invariably say “Today’s Mood: Happy.” Happy? On what planet?

Anyway, at the home day care I moved her to, the caregiver keeps a communication journal for every child. This is her idea. I had never heard of it, but I swear it has been the best thing ever for two reasons:
1. I know what goes on during the tot’s day there.
2. In order to write anything, the caregiver must observe my child, which has facilitated her getting to know the tot in a meaningful way.

So every day that the tot goes to day care, I write a little note in the book. Something like: “She’s eating cereal for bfast and drinking juice. She hasn’t pooped in two days, so watch out.” Or: “OMG, the pee accidents are all day long lately! Please tell me she does better when she’s there.” Or: “She hasn’t eaten lately, and she’s been whiny. Not sure if she’s coming down with something or if she’s just off.” Or some combination of all of them.

And every day the caregiver writes back with details about what she ate, what she did, any funny things she said, any discipline that had to be dealt out, and if/when she pooped. She’s offered potty training ideas and food ideas and coupons and goodies through this journal. She’s told me who the tot’s buddies are. She’s told me about the times when the tot is having a rough day but pulls out of it. She’s like my spy when I can’t be there.

The journal has been priceless because, for some reason, my normally chatty, verbal daughter has ALWAYS replied “nothing” when asked what she did during the day. Or, and I can’t tell if this is funny or not, she’ll make up something completely false. Usually it’s not that far off from the truth or it would have been true three days ago, but it’s still not what she did that day. So on day care days, the journal provided me the answer in spite of my child.

Then comes preschool. There is a childcare center at my school, and now that the tot appears to be potty trained (everywhere but home, ladies and gentlemen – good lord what is taking so long?), I have started taking her there one of the two days a week I teach. Soon, I’ll bump her up to both days, but I thought a transition in would be nice, at least for me since it involves getting up even earlier.

Dear readers, can you guess what happens when I pick her up after class?

I ask her how her day was.
“Fine.”
I ask her to show me the project she made.
“Okay.” or “I don’t want to.” (I’m not sure what variables effect the different answers.)
I ask her what she did that day.
“Nothing.”
Didn’t she play with her friends?
“No.”
Did she play alone?
“…..”
Did they sing songs? (Trick question – I know they sing songs during circle time.)
“No.”
Did she have fun?
“Let’s go home.”
(At this point, a worker comes over and tells me she had a good day and I weigh in my mind whether I should believe her or not. Probably I will because when I arrived I saw the tot playing happily in the gross motor area.)

And so it begins. The mystery, I mean. As we walked to the car yesterday, I thought, “I may never again know anything about her day,” and it made me a little sad.* I realize this is a step in the separation that every child must go through, but still. It would be cool to know if she cracked any good jokes that day.

.

*HG – I know this sort of thing bugs you about some parents (*cough*mainlywomen*cough*), so you don’t need to get after me about it.

I’m Such a Pantywaist

March 12th, 2008

I mean, seriously – 19? That’s it?

19

House Rules, Revised

March 9th, 2008

Normally, I’m not a rule-bound person. (Stop laughing. Okay, fine, I am a rule-bound person, but I accept that and try to hide it like any other normal person.) That said, there are some changes our current house rules I’d like to propose in light of my new ability to smell anything within a 5-mile radius.

No bad or strong smells allowed. This rule applies to everyone in this house, including me. It can be broken down into several smaller rules that might be easier to keep track of, so I will attempt to list them here.

No dirty dishes
No washing dishes
No use of dish soap for any purpose
No opening of trash can
No trash lying about
No foods or drinks going bad in refrigerator
No disposal of said items if disposal requires opening them before they leave the house

No dust
No dirt
No vacuuming
No dusting

No body odor
No sweaty feet
No farting
No pooping
No peeing
No burping
No bad breath
No bathing
No brushing teeth with toothpaste
No perfume-y soaps, shampoos, conditioners
No aftershave, moisturizer, deodorant
No air fresheners

No cooking
No eating
No drinking (except water – drink that)
No feeding the cats
No cat yawns (bad bad, bad bad bad)
No cat-use of litter box
No going outside litter box (Stripey Cat, I am talking to you)
No cleaning of litter box

.

I think that covers it, but I reserve the right to add to this list as I gag in response to smells not listed.

Bursts of Progress

March 7th, 2008

Over the time we’ve been working with S., our Food Friend, we’ve worked gently toward several goals. The list has evolved, and some of the early goals fell off the list and some have stayed. For instance, one early goal that we retired was noodles because – sweet jeebus – what child doesn’t like pasta? Mine, it turns out. It’s too wet, too wobbly. It was too far-fetched a goal, so we put it on a back, back burner and turned toward some goals we thought were more achievable, like finger painting, self-feeding with utensils, and (target food) breads.

For most kids, time is an all-important ingredient in working through sensory issues, and this is true for the tot. Maybe it’s because the passage of time also brings with it a maturation of her body and brain. Maybe it’s because during this time, HG and I have altered our approaches to food and feeding the tot, as well as our reactions to her reactions. Maybe it’s because these past almost-two years have seen her exposed to so many textures and tactile sensory experiences that she is becoming desensitized – which is what we wanted. Probably it’s a combination of all of these things, and that’s fine, except when people ask me what’s working. (My stock answer, BTW, is “Hell if I know.”)

So here we are. Time has passed. Progress has happened. What I am constantly re-learning is that the tot’s predominant pattern is burst-lull, lull-lull-lull-burst-lull. It’s not just in therapy areas – she did this when she was learning to walk, too. She started to walk. She walked for a few days. Then she wasn’t interested in it anymore. Then a week later, I go in to her bedroom to see just exactly what all this supposed-to-be-naptime ruckus was, and it was the tot. She was staggering back and forth, the length of her crib, with the wildest grin ever. She was practicing in a controlled space.

Of course, you know the words that went through my mind after days of plying her to walk and meeting only resistance: “Why you little shit.” On the outside, I was all wild grins too.

So let’s talk about some bursts.

I’m not sure when it happened (I can say it happened slowly), but the tot is now kind of digging finger painting. She asks to paint almost every day now. I don’t let her, that’s me being Mean Mommy, but the point is that she wants to. And even when I provide brushes and sponges, she always asks to get paint on her hands to make hand prints. This is huge.

The therapeutic point of working on finger painting is for the tactile sensation and the desensitization to mess (for me and her, people) with the hopes that she would tolerate messier foods on her hands as well as art products. On the whole, it is working, particularly in the area of anxiety management. When she reaches tolerance capacity with either paint or wet something on her hand or fingers, she no longer immediately flips out. She uses words to ask me to wipe it off. I, by request of S., dilly dally and talk about gosh, what could we use to wipe it up? Oh, a napkin? Great idea! Now, where can we find one of those? And by this time, she is no longer worried about the paint/food/liquid. She still wants it gone, but she is coping by focusing on solving the problem rather than being overwhelmed by it.

I can’t say that there is any therapeutic reason for working on self-feeding with utensils. That seems to me to be pretty straightforward, so I’ll just share some of my thoughts, bullet-style.

*Honestly, I don’t care how she gets food to her mouth. Certainly she needs to know how to use a fork without putting an eye out (what on earth would you tell the ER doc? “Yes, Doctor, my 15-year-old is just learning to use a fork. What? That’s wrong?”), but when we’re home, I couldn’t care less. If she wants to scoop food up in her fingers and then smack her lips while she licks the mess off her fingers, well dammit, more power to her.
*She doesn’t really like to use utensils, but she almost always wants her own set. I think that is funny. Except when we’re at a restaurant and they only gave us two sets.
*It seems like she should be better at using them because her fine motor skill is pretty good, but really she’s pretty awful still. And the spilling of food off a fork or spoon pisses her off. More practice necessary, I guess.

Lastly, breads. Ah, breads. S. wanted to work toward breads since they presented a medium challenge. The bread group includes bread, toast, waffles, cake-type products, pancakes, breadsticks, etc. Bread is a challenge because it is soft and sometimes chewy. The challenge, S. and I agreed, was not so so great because bread is not (barring the application of another food product) wet, overly sloppy, or squishy (like noodles). Bread is an important target food because it is everywhere. I mean, what does a kid eat for lunch if they won’t touch sandwiches or pizza? And don’t say mac and cheese.

We tried a lot of things, again and again. We tried involving her in prep by playing with bread dough, making shapes, and baking it together. Even once she started touching the bread dough, it was still not enough investment for her to do more than pick up the baked bread and set it down without putting it to her mouth.

One thing that did get her manipulating pancakes, though, has been to make letters for her to play with. She’s into the alphabet and reading right now, and I’ve been using that to at least get her handling the soft pancakes. I don’t think she’s done more than put one to her lips, just to touch, but that is progress too, so we’ll count it.

Then, three or four weeks ago, on a single weekend, she dove headlong into the bread category. Boom. Burst.

That Sunday evening, I wrote an email to S.
“Here is what she ate this weekend:
puppy chow* – chowed the remaining with help of daddy
wheat toast (with butter) (at a restaurant)- three bites
blueberry muffin (gigantic) (at the same restaurant) – many many bites, with a fork
Lego eggo waffle – at least two bites the first time; one or two again last night
Mickey Mouse cheese shape – put teeth marks in the first time; took one small bite, chewed it, swallowed it last night
banana nut muffins (mini muffins from grocery bakery) – she’s had three now: the first she shied away from, the second she picked at, the third (today) she ate the top off of
chocolate no-bake cookies (from grocery bakery) – she really wanted them and managed to push through the texture factor to eat them
oatmeal raisin cookies (soft, from grocery bakery) – she took 1/2 of [HG’s] and wouldn’t give it back
burger king nuggets and fries (slightly more bendy than McD’s) – she’s working on these right now”

(Normally, I don’t send a record of what she eats to S., but holy cow – what a burst! I had to share.)

Since then, well, she’s picked at some toast, eating a bite or two at most. She has picked at a muffin again, but she’s also pushed many away. No more cheese, and we haven’t had the cookies or the puppy chow in the house again since.

It’s hard to know where to go from here. Well, that’s not true. I know that I need to keep presenting her with these foods so that they become familiar, and she’ll start eating them again. But. We’re in the lull phase now, and that is so frustrating. I think that I am like most parents in that I hate to waste food, and that is exactly what happens in the lull phase. The food goes in the trash. But there’s no guaranteed timetable for when the next burst comes, and I sure don’t want to miss it.

*Puppy Chow – we had made it a couple of days before for the first time. She didn’t want it at first, but then… and she’s asked for it twice since then.
Here is the version we made:
1 stick butter
12 oz. jar peanut butter
12 oz. pkg. butterscotch chips
melt these three things together in microwave

stir in large box rice chex
mix well
put in a large paper grocery bag with 1 lb. of powdered sugar and shake well
eat, eat, eat.

Someone promise me there really will be a day when she keeps a single pair of underpants dry all day.

March 3rd, 2008

This is our life right now, except for the “should you be asleep?” part. The tot hasn’t picked up on the bedtime-delaying strategy of potty-demanding. Also, add in a dash of “Do you feel like changing underpants for no good reason? Y–> Soil self.”

2007_11_29_potty_training_manual

Doodle by Lee. The code for this doodle and other doodles you can use on your blog can be found at Doodles.

Many thanks to Lee’s Doodles for speaking the truth.

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