Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The muss & fuss of independence

Two weeks ago I had a little meeting with Maya’s preschool teacher.  I went in just to warn her about a possible issue with an upcoming field trip . . . little did I know that she had some things to discuss with me, too.  If I could sum up her points in one sentence, it would be this:  Maya is smart and capable, but stubborn and kind of a pain in the butt.

(Not that she would ever say that, of course.  I’ve taken license of parental rephrasing.)

Here are some examples:  Maya is capable of walking, and climbing stairs with support, but often refuses.  If it’s time for the class to transition to a different room and Maya doesn’t want to walk, she will simply sit on the floor like a stubborn puppy (with a sly smile).  She is capable of taking her coat off (alone) and putting it on (with assistance), but if she doesn’t feel like complying it takes some serious wrestling maneuvers (which she will either giggle or scream throughout, mood depending).  She can feed herself with a fork (I’ve seen her do an entire waffle without help) or her fingers, but it’s rare that she eats a meal independently, because she’s not really motivated.  If I stab the pieces and hand her the fork, maybe, but if I just leave the plate and fork on her tray she’ll play happily and ignore it until I start feeding her.

The teacher thinks that Maya would be able to keep up with a larger class next year, academically speaking. “She’s so smart” she tells me, and I smile on the outside and on the inside cheer I know, right?! That’s what I’ve thought, too!  But even with a one-to-one, she wouldn’t be able to swing it in a larger class right now because “her behavioral issues are holding her back.”

Hee hee.

This all kind of cracked me up.  Clever, but stubborn and manipulative?  Well, I can relate to that, and get behind it, too.  I guess part of me was secretly (or not so secretly) pleased . . . I’ll take smart and naughty over the alternative, I think.

But another part of me was disappointed with myself.  While talking with the teacher about incentives and sticker charts and self-dressing and feeding and promoting independence a little voice started to whisper to me, It's you--you’re doing it. You’re underestimating her. You’re not pushing her.  You’re making things too easy.

It’s true.  It’s unintentional, but it’s true.

I guess I’ve been so focused on communication stuff that independence has been way on the back burner.  I like her to walk instead of getting carried, but if she refuses to move I pick her up.  Usually we’re rushing somewhere and I don’t have time for fighting.  If she’s not eating by herself, I pop a piece of something into her mouth, lest dinner take an hour and dissolve into a tantrum.  Dressing her, changing her, putting on her coat---these are just things that I’ve always done, quickly and efficiently.  How did I miss the fact that it was time to start turning over the reins?

Since I scraped myself off the floor after my stay in the airport, I’ve been confident that Maya will do whatever she wants to.  I was certain she would walk, and I’m sure that she will speak, too.  I’ve spent a lot of energy thinking about and working towards the big goals, and somehow overlooked when it would be time to teach her the small things. 

I think this must be a normal parenting stage—realizing that your child is able to do some of the stuff that you’ve been doing for them, pushing them to pull up their own pants or wash their own hands or whatever.  But the special needs component adds a layer of complexity, I think. First, because (in my mind, at least) I fiercely want Maya to be independent in as many age appropriate ways as possible, to eliminate as many differences between her and her peers as I can.  And secondly, because she will likely need more practice to master these skills.  Stubborn streak aside, her fine and gross motor issues will make some of these tasks more complicated for her than for other 3-4 year olds.  I have to give her the opportunities to practice and practice and practice.

Since this meeting we’ve had some changes, big and small.  She moved into the big girl bed (which was planned pre-meeting, but the timing was fortuitous).  She’s putting her coat on (with help) and taking it off.  She’s learning to climb into her stroller, and I’m encouraging her to climb onto the couch with me (Encouraging to climb? Madness!). She pulls her pants up and down (mostly) and we’re doing more verbal prompts to eat before offering assistance.  I’m trying to look at her with fresh eyes instead of seeing the little girl that I’m used to doing so much for.

And you know what?  It’s changing her.  She is so proud of herself for being a big girl, trying new things on her own.  The smile when she carries her coat over to her chair and puts it down by herelf is positively gleeful.  There is frustration, but not nearly as much as I had anticipated.

We’re supposed to be working on drinking from a cup and it hasn’t been happening much, mostly because she enjoys dumping cups of liquid more than trying to drink them.  But we’re going to try again today because in the end, the mess will have been worth it.*

*Someone remind me of this later this week when I’m complaining about cleaning up spilled milk, again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Uncommon Sense is up for an award!

I received an email late last night notifying me that Uncommon Sense has been selected as one of the 5 finalists for "Favorite Special-Needs Parenting Blog" in the Reader's Choice Awards!  Thanks, everyone :) 

You can go to this page and check out all 5 of the finalists

Then, head to this voting page and cast a vote!  You can vote once a day from now until March 21st.  There's a little graphic thing where you can also see who's in the lead.  (I also put the little clickable vote icon on the upper right corner of the blog.)

I'm really psyched to have been nominated.  Also, a special thanks to the person whose quote was used to describe my blog, that was really nice to read :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Princess Maya (half-hearted sigh)

Let me start by saying that I blame her school.  (Yes, her lovely, wonderful school that I love.)  This is all their fault.

The Friday before Christmas Maya came home with a little holiday gift (I'm not sure whether it was from her teachers or from the Santa that came to visit the school).  The bag contained a little finger puppet (a dragon, which she called an alligator and adored) and a book. 

This book:

She went bananas over it.  At first I thought it was because of the masks (masks are fun, and we would hold our fingers over our eyes as "masks" as we read) . . . but soon I realized no, it wasn't the mask, it was the princesses.

Princesses! (please imagine me saying princesses! the exact same way Seinfeld says Newman!)

Prior to this book, Maya had never encountered a princess.  We don't really watch tv, we didn't have any princessy books, and the thought of dress up gowns or shoes were laughable given her motor issues.  Here Maya, let's put on layers of poofy dress and plastic kitten heels and run around! 

I was cool with the lack of princesses because, on principle, I don't like them.  They're too thin and too perfect and too appearance oriented and too girly.  I've never been girly.  I love the fact that Maya's favorite things include alligators and dinosaurs, that she doesn't mind dirt.  I didn't want to introduce princesses as a standard of what makes girls good-beauty and dresses and pretty hair (and often, some codependency, it seems).

But damned if she didn't flip her little lid over the princess book.  She would grab my index finger and put my finger on a princess and wait, her code for "Name this, Mommy." And I would say "Belle, Tiana, Ariel" etc . . . and sure enough, now she knows their names.  She's in love with them. (And secretly, I kind of liked that she was into them.  It's very "typical little girl," and I like that if other girls had princess backpacks or whatever Maya would recognize them and share that interest.)

I didn't embrace the princess trend the way I embraced the alligators . . . I didn't want to discourage it, but I didn't want to overly encourage it, either.  We visited the "princess store" (Disney Store) but didn't buy any princess action figures or gear.  

Then we inherited a bag of hand-me-downs filled with princess stuff. A chair, a coat, a hat, cups, etc.  Maya was in heaven . . . and I started to cross over to the dark side.

You may have noticed the princess chair in this picture on the Facebook page:

 . . . as it turns out, it's much easier to get her to sit in one spot (for a snack, or a book) if I can say "Go sit in the princess chair." 

Then there's the coat. When I first saw it I laughed, "Oh my.  She might have to join the Ice Capades if she wears that jacket."  Dave thought she looked like one of the Pink Ladies from Grease.  I thought maybe we would just wear it around the house.

so happy that she wouldn't stand still enough for a picture

 . . . but, as it turns out, she's happy to put on the princess coat and head out the door. (Whereas putting on her normal coat sometimes involves some serious wrestling maneuvers.)

And then there's the princess hat . . .

 . . . aka "the only hat to have ever remained on her head for more than five consectutive minutes."

What can I do?  She's going to love them anyway.  I'm feeling very if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em.

Well, mostly join 'em.  I didn't buy her princess bedding because I knew she would love jungle animal bedding just as much.  We still only have the one princess book.  And I'm going to talk a lot about how the princesses are kind and share and use manners and sit still for their haircuts and  . . .  wait, what now?

Yes, when Maya was unenthused about getting a haircut today I may have leaned over into her stroller and whispered, "Don't you want to go get your haircut like a princess?!

I mean, I may as well make it work to my advantage, right?

Princess Maya, post-haircut

(PS-We also streamed a princess movie last night.  She was over the moon excited (clip below) but lost interest after about 2 minutes.  I think that's a happy compromise.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Maya & the big girl bed

The day has finally arrived! 

(. . . drums a-rolling . . . )

Big girl bed day!!!

After Dave got home today we rushed to convert the crib into a toddler bed:

The crib in its final intact moment.

We got the toddler rail on and stood the crib back up, only to realize there was a big problem.  Poor kid wouldn't stand a chance of not rolling out of bed if the bed was tilted at this angle:

We quickly realized we needed to unscrew the feet from the crib wall we had removed and move them over.  (See the foot in the bottom of that picture?)

Problem solved. And adorable :)

Maya loved it and climbed right in . . .

 . . . and Parker loved that there was a perfect doggie-sized opening!

 After a minute or two she grabbed one of her "magazines" (Lakeshore catalogs) and got to work reading.

But she took a break to say, This is awesome!

With all of that enthusiasm, we weren't sure how bedtime would go down.  It went . . . well, see for yourself.  Here's a little video of her seeing the bed for the first time (this afternoon) and then going to sleep tonight (care of the freaking awesome video monitor that I did indeed buy):


So, right to sleep.  What a champ :) (And how cute was the little pop-up head?  Hee hee.  I love this video monitor already)

Tomorrow morning will be interesting.  It may be an IV coffee drip kind of day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Change is a-comin

Look what arrived today:

That is a toddler bed rail.  Friday night we're converting the crib to a toddler bed.  It's going to be epic.

Maya is now 3 years 8 months old.  She's a big girl.  We've held off on transitioning to a bed under the if it ain't broke don't fix it philosophy.  She loves her crib and she's a great sleeper: she goes in quitely (worst case scenario is a minute or two of fussing), sleeps through the night (11-12 hours), and plays quietly in her crib when she wakes up (we'll hear her chattering, but she'll just flip through books, etc). 

(Don't send hate mail.  We know we're lucky.)

But the time has come.  She's coyly started to lift her leg up when she's standing in the crib, in a hey-maybe-I'll-just-climb-right-out teasing way.  With her, um, lack of coordination any attemps at climbing would land in a very hard fall.  She's just hinting at the idea of scaling the crib, but we're going to nip it in the bud.

Also, and I hate to admit this, but the crib is starting to feel a little like lazy parenting on my part.  It's blessedly easy to have her contained, but she should move into a bed now.  We should Maya-proof her room, and she should learn how to climb out of bed and make us crazy, and she should get to get up in the morning and pull all of her books out of her bookcase and make a big mess.  That's what kids do.  It's only fair.

We're waiting until Friday night because Dave & Maya are both off from school for the next week . . . and if we're going to be losing sleep, then we're all going to lose sleep together, dammit.

We've got a lot of logistical issues to think through: where to stash the fan that runs in her room at night (away from little fingers) and how to hide the cords to the air purifier.  I need to get door locks for her clost (french doors) so that her fingers don't get pinched.  We've got to put down some mats or pillows because I've got a feeling that sooner or later she's going to plummet to the floor. 

The most puzzling question is the door status: she's always slept with the door to her room closed.  It's dark and noise blocking.  I feel like we should keep that consistent (because closed door = bedtime) but I know I'm going to want to be able to peek in on her, and to make sure that she's safe.  I'm thinking about getting a video monitor (we still use a regular baby monitor-with all of our fans and air purifiers I would never hear her without it) but I'm not sure if that's smart parenting or helicopter parenting.  (If I take the plunge and get one I bet we'll see some adorable footage, though.)

I can't wait to see what happens on Friday :)


Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day(ish)

Back in the PM days (that's Pre-Maya) I couldn't have cared less about Valentine's Day.  First, I'm not an overly romantic gal.  Second, the whole forced-day-of-love thing didn't make me warm & fuzzy. 

However, now that Maya's around, I celebrate every day possible.  Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Labor Day, the Ides of March . . . whatever.  Give me an excuse to do something slightly festive and indulge her a bit and I'm on it. 

I was so ready to celebrate with some low-level craftiness*  . . .  Maya, however, embraced her toddlerhood and had no follow-through, so we ended up with "mostly finished low-level crafts."  Eh.

*low-level craftiness means that the projects are fun and kill some time, but aren't Pinterest uploadable. All of my craftiness is low-level.

First project--make valentines for Maya's classmates.

We got off to a strong start: 

 Painting on rolled-out IKEA paper that I had taped to the coffee table.

Right after I took that picture Maya asked to wash her hands, and then the game was over.  Twice she ran back to the paper, put paint on her hands, and then told me again she needed to wash them.  Painting, done.

While she was at school today I cut the painted paper into little hearts.  After school we worked together to glue them onto construction paper squares.  The final step was to add little sparkly hearts, but Maya wandered away and I decided that I wasn't going to sit on the floor gluing hearts by myself, so that was the end of that.

The one on the right is one of 3 valentines that managed to get adorned with shiny hearts.

Next, we baked cookies.  (The low-level craftiness version of "baking" involves boxed cookies from the refrigerated section of the grocery store.) 

She was SO excited to put them on the pan . . .

 . . . and SO excited to watch them cook . . .

 . . . but when it came time to eat them, she just wandered off again.  We're sending them into school tomorrow.  Also, tomorrow is the class's Valentine's Day party and little Miss Maya is going to get all dressed up.  It's going to be adorable :)


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Remember me?

My name is Dana, and I used to write things here.

Hello again :)

Here's what happened:

Maya got sick.  It wasn't anything major, just a virus (fever and coughing), but she had to miss a few days of school because the long, napless school day (7:15-3:15) just isn't fair for a wiped out little girl.  The thing is she wasn't sleep-all-day sick, she was high maintenance sick (cuddle me, scratch my back, turn on the tv, no-don't-leave-sit-with-me).  So I spent most of the daylight hours coddling her and as soon as she was asleep, I was working (a plus of working from home is that I can get in my work whenever I need to). 

She's been back at school since Tuesday and I've been busily trying to restore order to our home and making up some hours for work.  Yesterday I started to eye the blog, much in the same way that a lapsed execiser eyes the gym---Hey there . . . I remember you . . . we used to have good times together, right?  I'm thinking about coming back . . .but not just yet.  Maybe tomorrow.

So this is just a get-back-into-the-gym post.  Just testing the waters. 

Remembering how to sit for a few minutes and write something.
It's nice to be back :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A dose of cuteness

First, a cute story.  The other night as Dave & I were heading to bed he went in to check on her.  She needed a diaper change, so her got her out of the crib and went to work.  For the first time, she was really talking in her sleep (as opposed to that one time she was signing in her sleep).  I could hear her from down the hall---little sweet noises "Ada lala.  A da. Ba ba da." etc.  So super adorable.  Dave said that she never opened her eyes, just kind of chattered a bit and then went right back to sleep.

Second, a cute video.  This one is care of Maya's preschool teacher, and features her holding hands and walking with her new little buddy, Elijah.  (Thanks also to Elijah's mom, who gave permission to share the video here---I always check in with other parents before sharing stuff.)  I think it's hilarious how the women in the background are trying to kind of promote chivalry by asking him to slow down and be gentle because she's a girl :)  (Maya clearly couldn't care less).  And I love whoever says "Come on, woman" because, well, that's exactly what I would have said if I was there!

I think I need to get Elijah to teach me some tricks, because she doesn't hold my hand that easily when we're out and about.