11.27.2009

Four Empathy-Boosting Gift Books

Do people you otherwise love and respect still not get you or your child? Then I heartily recommend gifting them the new book My Baby Rides the Short Bus this holiday season. It is a diverse collection of truth tellings about parenting our wonderful, challenged, and challenging kids. While the stories spill over with love and hope and advocacy, they also illustrate our frustrations with the way other people see and treat both us and our children -- as well as with anyone who has ever said, "I don't know HOW you do it!"

Instead of trying to make us saints, the book shows that we are human. Throw it at the heads of everyone you love this holiday season!

Disclosure: I have a story in My Baby Rides the Short Bus. But so do Jennyalice and thirty other authors.

Three more books with empathy power, and which also make you a thoughtful gifter.

11.26.2009

Facepalm: Deaf Choir on Glee


I was so pleased with Glee's portrayals of people with special needs in the episode Wheels ... and then last night's episode thread about a competing Glee club from a Deaf school dripped patronizing treacle. Blech.

Meloukhia already wrote what I would write so I'll just quote (big lift, but it's a long post citing multiple fails, and this is from the end):
"Glee is finally allowing us to see the Deaf choir performing, I may have to give them some points for trying even though they are doing it very badly.

"And then, to my shock and horror, someone from the glee club started interrupting the Deaf choir to sing. Ok, now, I have not sung in a choir, but I consulted a real live person who has performed in choirs, and I was informed that, no, it is not actually conventional or acceptable to interrupt a choir while they are performing.

"Why was it ok here? How was it inspiring to watch the Deaf choir’s performance being interrupted and co-opted by the glee club? Because the Deaf choir were doing it wrong? Because “the poor impaired folk need normal people to fill in their defects,” as Lauredhel said when we were chatting about this episode?

"I wasn’t inspired or moved by watching the two choirs perform together. I was PISSED. Because it was framed as perfectly acceptable for the glee club to just jump in on another performance. And for this to turn into a Special Learning Experience, look at how they can all sing together and be happy! Yes, folks, totally erasing people with disabilities and not allowing them to perform is Inspiring! [emphasis mine -SR]

"The Deaf choir has been a running joke in this series. (Because everyone knows that Deaf folks can’t sing, or dance!) And now, in the scene where we finally had a chance to see them performing, they were treated with complete disrespect and condescension. They were framed as a failure, until the nice glee club came in and rescued them. But, you know, nice try, Deaf choir!

"Incidentally, check out Gallaudet Dance if you want to see actual Deaf people actually performing and being amazing in the process."
Note: I copied this post - sans Double Facepalm magic - from a comment I made on my original BlogHer Glee post.

11.25.2009

Mostly Thankful, Occasionally Thankless

We have a full house for Thanksgiving. My mom, her dog, siblings, nieces, friends. Support for Leo. A turkey in the fridge, a bag of potatoes, and some fresh cranberries. Not much planned beyond that. Not worried about it. It will all be fine. More than fine -- it will be fun. Or it had better be, because I recently wrote a post for BlogHer about how we're planning a reasonable holiday season. No pressure!

Here is Iz (photo by Barak Yedidia). She is not a little kid anymore. She cares about fashion though not to an irritating degree, yet with an understanding of how to put outfits together. She is smitten but not giddily so with a cute boy at school. The boy likes to hike and talk about science just like her -- dreamy. Oh, and he's totally open about his Asperger's.

She got her first letter grade report card last week. Her math grade was a C+, which was surprising. I told her that grades weren't all that important now, and that as long as she's keeping up with the comprehension, the study skills and top grades will come -- and that maybe she missed turning in an assignment or two (characteristic first trimester behavior for our girl). She insisted that she turned everything in, so I advised her to go talk to her teacher. She did, and a couple of days letter I received an apologetic email from that gentleman, saying that he'd misrecorded Iz's assigments, and that in fact she had an A+ -- the highest grade in her class. Heh.

She is a kicking butt at soccer and is really into it -- she wants to win, yes, but she's mostly interested in improving her skills. Seymour has been taking her down to a local field and teaching her technique, and she's been talking soccer every chance she gets with her Portuguese grandfather, who was a college soccer recruit. Soccer is teaching her the kind of patience she otherwise still struggles with at home (unless she's working through increasingly challenging levels on World of Goo). Without going into details, and while reassuring readers that we practice non-violent parenting, I relate the following exchange:
Squid: "I cannot be in the same room with her right now. I am too exasperated. *Sigh* How do you think Gandhi would parent a girl like that?"
Seymour: "I think he would beat her with a spindle."
Mostly her problems are topical perseverations (what would be called nagging in a typical family) and inability to back away from an argument, and our responding to her even after we've declared a subject closed. We will now follow through on those declarations, and not respond to her relentless rephrasings until she changes the subject in a non-loophole manner. I'll report back.

She does demonstrate a lot of love and empathy and thoughtfulness and consideration for others. Some of that is teaching, most of it is the core sweetness of a good kid. It makes her daily screeching sessions bearable overall, though rarely in the moment.

Last week's birthday boy is doing well with his food tolerance -- I got him to eat a couple of carrot sticks by using M+M chasers, and am optimistic. He makes a disgusted face with every carrot bite, but he did that with apples too, last year. Now he eats apples voluntarily and requires no bribe/reinforcer. Carrots could happen.

He has taken to scavenging through the girls' lunchboxes when he gets home. I don't mind as he uses great language in asking permission at every step, and it's a very engaged social activity that he enjoys. Usually he finds a sandwich crust or two. Yesterday he found an entire half sandwich, out of which he took two enormous bites before I could stop him -- because it was not the standard PB&J, it was tuna fish. Poor Leo who only eats six bland things and never any flesh! He retched but waited until I got a plate to spit it out. Then he asked for lots and lots of water.

He has also been eating homemade garlic bread, which by itself is not terribly nutritious or exciting -- but he's been letting me dip it in increasingly large puddles of tomato sauce beforehand. This, also, bodes well for a potentially expanded diet. Which in turn bodes well for restaurant options and socialization and his happiness, as he will not need to stress out about whether or not his preferred foods are available.

He's still having an accident of the stenchful variety, almost every day. His teacher and I are frustrated. Control doesn't seem to be the issue (he demonstrates excellent control all the time) so Supervisor M and I think it might be behavioral. We will step up the positive reinforcement and attention, and not engage/give eye contact but absolutely have him clean up too during incidents. He's capable of being very independent, and I want him to have the satisfaction that comes with self-care, even during less-than-ideal circumstances.

And here is Mali. She will be five tomorrow. Our friend Badger helped her make the cupcakes for tomorrow's classroom birthday happy time.

Seymour is thrilled that I caught her "Doink?" face and posture. She does this a lot. It is part of the ongoing amusing drama.

She keeps helping herself to lunch at the school cafeteria, saying that "it's free!" Telling her not to do it is not working so far. We may have to put her poster up in the cafeteria with the caption, "Do not give this child food!"

We've realized that Mali's diet is not a whole lot more varied than Leo's. So I've been having her join Leo's food tolerance sessions. She did eat most of a carrot stick along with her brother. I don't know if we'll ever get back to her "tabbouleh baby" openness, but more green and orange foods are needed in her diet.

Two days ago she got the payoff from several weeks of "accidentally" breaking crayons: recycled crayons! Made in mini-muffin tins. I think they came out well, don't you? She and Leo both enjoy using them, as they're easy to hold, and the colors change as you draw.

Her writing suddenly became legible last week, also she started writing out words spontaneously (she's been reading for months, but her writing has been messy and minimal -- as is developmentally appropriate). When she handed me the 50th picture she'd drawn of me wearing a tiara with purple jewels, I noticed a difference: A dedication. She'd very neatly written, "To Momy, from Mali."

She likes books about animals, and Fancy Nancy. Her latest literary treasure is Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken (a review of which is listed on ye olde review blog), but she is also taken by the Fancy Nancy series -- which makes sense, as our sparkly gold and tiara-wearing dress-up lover practically *is* Fancy Nancy.

Probably the funniest thing she does right now is read name tags and greet all grocery store and Costco employees by their first name. And that's the last thing you'll read about Mali as a four year old.

11.23.2009

Our Birthday Boy's Bash

Leo's birthday party was exactly the kind of free-for all bash I predicted. All our kids, all those children, got to run and tumble and jump and play without any weird vibes from anyone in the area. The bouncy house emporium staffers were mellow and helpful, and everyone had a good time. Jennyalice already posted a warm we-love-our-village update about Leelo's party so I'll give you a (mostly) visual tour instead:


I made sure Leo got three of his oral fixations in one cupcakey package: chocolate, forbidden M&Ms, and a nice green straw. He nicely allowed me to share these cupcakes with the other partygoers.



Leo's Dad loved the bouncy slides.


And Leo loved having  his dad on the bouncy slides.


Mali appreciated that some of her brother's friends are her friends, too.

 
Izzy and Mali tried to take down Descartes, who is 6' 5". It was a bit like watching Rebel forces attack At-Ats during the Battle of Hoth.


Leo got his own special birthday chair during Cake Time. Cheeky!


Everyone sang him Happy Birthday. He always loves that. He blew out the candles himself, though there were so many that it took more than one puff.


He was given lots of love from the right...


photo by Jennyalice

...and lots of love from the left. This pretty well summarizes his life. Love all around.

Still can't believe he's nine.

11.19.2009

Goodbye and Good Riddance to the R-Word

Our culture is finally starting to clue in: "retarded" is increasingly off-limits as a casual pejorative. This mindset shift is the result of activism like The R-Word campaign, and as evidenced by last week's epsiode of Glee, it's taking hold. As I wrote for BlogHer:
The word "retarded" was never mentioned once, not even with regards to Becky [who has Down syndrome], even though Glee's writers sub-specialize in creative taunting. I don't know if the writers sidestepped the term because of anti-r-word activism or because it is increasingly simply not done, but it was noticeably absent. Let's hope this omission represents a cultural trend on the upswing.
This is not to say it's not used. But it's also increasingly not tolerated. My friend Emily recently came across a website called "Retarded in Love," and was not alone in letting the blogger know she didn't appreciate her use of the term:
It would be thoughtful of you to change the title of your blog…yes, this probably comes across as uptight oldness or just plain uptight, but people who actually are labeled as retarded cannot defend themselves when someone uses this term for amusement. While the word itself should not be used as a label, it is still, and we all know exactly what it means. It’s painful to people who love someone who is intellectually disabled to see a word like this used for humor by someone who is patently not intellectually disabled. If you must use a term that refers to cognitive deficiency as a result of being overwhelmed by love or made a fool of by love, I suggest “Stupid, ” as in “Stupid in Love.” God knows that’s enough of a norm to avoid being offensive.
Are there circumstances where using the r-word is acceptable? Parents and advocates in the disability and special needs communities have been known to take advantage of its shock value, to effect change, precisely because it's now taboo. In the new collection My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities (in which Jennyalice and I both have stories, which I had to read slowly because almost every story made me cry with knowing, helpless rage, and which you should distribute widely as a holiday gift), Chloe Eudaly describes the desperation that drove her to use the word on her son Henry's transition team -- they wanted to put her previously happily included son in an inappropriate placement: a segregated special ed classroom (you know, like Leo's):
...sensing impending defeat, I dropped the R-bomb ... I pointed out that the best way to learn a language or skill was immersion, and what the self-contained classroom was but retarded immersion?
Or, as another Short Bus author Amber Taylor wrote about her son Brave, who has Down syndrome:
We would get an array of questions and comments along the lines of "When are you going to institutionalize him" and ... "Why isn't he walking yet?" To which I would reply, in my most June Cleaver sort of voice, "Because he's retarded, you ass!" I blurt it out in that way because when a person is being a jerk, and I say "special" or "has needs," "Down syndrome," et cetera, it doesn't seem to sink in. When I blurt out "he's retarded," they get all red-faced and embarrassed, and I enjoy their discomfort.
And finally, there are those who, like The Pioneer Woman, have spent their lives loving someone with cognitive or developmental challenges, and use the word in a purely descriptive fashion. While I wish PW would update her terminology, as I said in that same Glee post:
...I know that The Pioneer Woman uses the word 'retarded,' but her affectionate descriptions of [her brother] Mike -- as just another complicated person who happens to have developmental challenges -- temper her non-malicious use of an outdated label.
The r-word is still around, but it's on its way out. You can help extinguish negative r-word behavior, by politely pointing out its inappropriateness while anticipating some defensiveness. I know you're all strong good smart people with nice thick skin, who understand how important it is to stand up for people like Leo who can't defend themselves. My thanks, in advance.

11.13.2009

Obsessive Compulsive Denial

We had a Leo team meeting today. Me, Supervisor M, Supervisor E, Therapist V -- and Leelo, because I couldn't find anyone to watch him. Having him at our table was fine -- he was willing to do activities during the meeting's first 45 minutes as long as I kept replacing them, and let him count out and eat occasional goldfish.

I received a lot of careful and welcome reminders regarding interaction with Leo --backing off on verbal prompts for activities where the goal is independence (eating slowly, post-toileting hand washing), no verbal interaction during self-injurious behavior but, after a beat, immediate praise of praise-worthy actions, e.g., "You're sitting so nicely! Good job, Leo!"

And we talked about whether he's having his annual November behavioral spiral. He seems less engaged and more giddy, and he's been having toilet accidents at school. The stinky kind, not the wet kind. Every day this week. It's a huge, consternating surprise to us all and especially to me, because it's been so long since he's had a toileting accident of any kind on my watch that I stopped toting backup clothes or wipes. I do think it's a mostly intentional behavior, because he can hold it when needs to -- for instance, for the 30 bathroom-free I-5 miles between announcing his need to go, and reaching Coalinga. Wanting attention, wanting post-bathroom reinforcers, having trouble with transitions,  a sensory layer we've not perceived fuzzing up his internal signals? I don't know if I'd feel comfortable sending him to a new school -- even for one day a week -- if he's having toileting issues.

He's having beyond-stim issues as well. They've piled up slowly, so I wasn't alarmed until Supervisor M gently pointed out the frequency of Leo's spins, his need to trace certain paths between our car and house, and his empty rather than processing based echolalia. She wants us to confer with Leo's behavioral psychiatrist. I suggested that his OCD-like behaviors might be rooted in how much he's grown over the last year while his Risperdol dosage has remained constant, but she quietly reminded me that Risperdol helps with aggressive, not patterned, behaviors.

So it looks like we might be having a November after all. So far it's a milder version than the aggression- and depression-fests of past Novembers, but a November nonetheless. Not enough of a November to derail Leelo's planned Christmas trip to his grandparents' home for the first time in four years, but enough that steps need to be taken, and the worry furrows on my forehead are deepening.

11.12.2009

I Wish We Didn't Know a Flu Victim

Seymour and I took all three kids in for flu shots this morning. I love our medical office -- they are masters of the BAM - DONE! injection. Leo barely had time to freak out, though I was certainly glad Seymour was there to help hold and reassure our boy.

That was the first of many errands. We also had the pleasure of visiting Kristina's gracious mom, and fetching a bag of puzzles freshly couriered from the East Coast. Leo was a patient and good-natured visitor, in contrast to his couch-vaulting and -submarining baby sister.

Then we were off to lunch at our favorite Eritrean restaurant, where Izzy ignored the siren call of vegetarianism by happily sucking marrow out of lamb bones, and Seymour and I went to injera heaven. Leo was content with the lunch we brought for him, and to do small puzzles and dot-to-dots.

We then drove back across the bay to our own town, and I took Mali to a ballet and Jazz dance class at a local studio. Her goal is to dance like Beyoncé, which as a fan of great dancing and Gwen Verdon is fine by me. She thought Ms. Knowles was going to be teaching her class, though -- thankfully her teacher was skilled and cheerful, and Mali enjoyed herself too much to be disappointed. She'll return.

---

When we arrived home, we learned that Leo's and Mali's former preschool director had died from complications of a short but intense bout of the flu -- she had been perfectly well just a few days ago, as members of our church (where she attended) can attest. Both communities are reeling. I can't believe she's gone.

She was one of the smartest, calmest, and most experienced teachers I've known. She always knew how to talk to children and make them feel valued and respected (she was less tolerant with immature parents). She not only allowed but encouraged us to enroll Leo in her preschool, and bring along an aide -- and she took every opportunity to facilitate interactions between Leo and his typical classmates. Even so, she supported our taking Leo out of the school in the middle of his pre-K year, when the play-based lack-of-structure evolved into structured play and no longer suited his abilities.

She retired after (though not because of) Leo's class, but was still active in community educational and mentoring activities. And we still saw her at church. She told Seymour we'd need to "keep an eye" on Mali, after she witnessed our girl read the Welcome words during a recent service (not sure if she was advising caution or attentiveness, as her delivery was deadpan, but she is not someone whose developmental observations of young children should be ignored).

She was so valuable, so respected, and so loved. Our community and our children are poorer without her.

11.11.2009

Review: Liking Myself, and The Mouse, The Monster, and Me

The good people at BlogHer Ads (what a fine, fine crew) let me back on board even though I jumped ship three years ago. Times have changed, and spare blog ad change now seems like a fine idea. But hosting ads means no more reviews on this site, as they could dilute the perceived value of purchased ad space.

The way I see it, I've sold my soul, so I might as well fracture it too. All future reviews will be sequestered in my bloggy horcrux, SquidRosenberg.wordpress.com. My opinions will remain honest, and I won't be reviewing anything I wouldn't purchase for myself or my family.

I've posted a new review, even: all about some really sweet kids' self-help books by Pat Palmer: Liking Myself, and The Mouse, the Monster, and Me. I really do recommend them, especially to kids on the autism spectrum who can articulate their sense of self and how it is affected by social struggles. Pop over to the review site, and sit through some cute videos of Mali reading from the books, to see what else I had to say.

Selling out,

Squid

11.10.2009

Turning Nine on a Ninth in 2009

Leo had such a busy, fun, indulgent, and productive birthday that he asked to go to bed right on time. We even had him declaring that he was nine- rather than eight-years-old by day's end. But before that...

Seymour and I woke him up and presented him with his new Catbus! He was not as immediately overjoyed as I'd hoped, mostly because he didn't want to wake up. But once he realized what we were shoving at him, he was pleased.

Every seat had a cute little butt in it during carpool this morning, which meant that six people sang Leo Happy Birthday while we made the morning drop off rounds. Our cabin music also featured happy birthday songs, by The Jimmies, The Candy Band, and Justin Roberts.

After Leo and I returned home and he got on his bus, I worked for a bit then awaited the behavioralist sent by the regional center. Leo's regional center case worker was pleased by the reduction in Leo's aggressive behaviors since last year, but since his remaining behaviors are still dangerous when they do happen, she offered us a few hours of in-home behavioralist consultation. Supervisor M works at Leo's school almost exclusively, and supervisor E works on his home program rather than doing QA as she used to, so I figured a good pair of QA-like eyeballs might be helpful. Let's hope the regional center reviews the behavioralist's intial report on Leo and grants those hours to us.

Then I scurried off to Leo's school with his sad looking but tasty cake. Before I could make it to his classroom, both his teacher and Supervisor M asked me to walk down the hall and meet with the county director to talk about transitioning Leo to an integrated site. Which I did. We talked for a while, and I think we're going to move him -- ideally, when the new year arrives, Leo will spend one day per week in an autism classroom on a typical elementary campus, where he will get to mingle with neurotypical peers under the watchful eyes of one of the best teachers in the county (and an aide who knows him, of course). If the class works for him, he will transfer fully for fourth grade. The best part: he will have two friends in the class, the children of two of my favorite people!

More scurrying after the meeting, to Leo's classroom. The class staff had covered the tables with festive purple paper, and Supervisor M was there! A huge treat. His teacher even had a candle for him to blow out -- something I'd left at home as I didn't think it would be allowed. Everyone sang Leo Happy Birthday to the best of their abilities and then he blew out the candle (with some assistance from inspired classmates). And Supervisor M got him a solar-powered remote controlled car! How very cool.

Afterwards, I skulked into the neighborhood Starbucks to caffeinate and finish off my work shift. I didn't really want to be there because I am disappointed with that company: I sent their customer support crew an email asking if would be possible to procure my Starbucks straws-obsessed son with autism a case of their straws as a birthday treat, and their bot-like answer was:
No, we don't sell our straws, and furthermore our supplier is confidential. 
Seymour said they had a right to refuse and I understand -- but it seems like a missed opportunity to generate serious social media goodwill while delighting a challenged little boy who doesn't ask for much. I grumpily and defiantly grabbed a big bunch of the longer straws when I left.

Leo's birthday afternoon was about mellowness and watching Totoro while squealing and tossing around his new Catbus. And sometimes even offering it to his little sister while informing her, "It's Catbus!"

We picked up Indian food for dinner, as we'd promised. Leo not only sat patiently and non-violently in the regular non-five-point-harness booster seat next to Mali the entire way there and back, but he accepted that he had to wait until we got home to eat his naan bread. No hitting, no complaining, no whining. Whoa.

We still had to portion out his naan when we got home -- if he ever does learn to reasonably self-regulate his eating, naan will be the final non-bolting test item.

He asked to go to bed, as I mentioned. He also asked me to play him some tunes on the penny whistle, as has become part of our bedtime routine. Many of the songs he loves fit within that seven-note range -- including the Totoro theme song (mostly), Good Night by Laurie Berkner, This Little Light of Mine, and, as we discovered tonight, the Justin Roberts version of Happy Birthday. Afterward, and after only fifteen minutes of giggling in bed, he slid into sleep.

Nine nine nine. My son is nine. I still can't believe it.

11.09.2009

Happy Ninth Birthday Leelo!

Leo in the Shark Cage

Happy birthday beautiful boy!

I am thrilled about what Nine Years Old means for Leo. Our happy, well-adjusted boy has helped us be happy and well-adjusted, too. One year ago I would not have believed such gladness was possible. This is a precious time.

I love that he was excited yet conflicted about going to camp this past weekend. He wanted to go, but he didn't want to be apart from his family -- both positives. He also may have been worried that this was a week-long rather than a weekend-only camp, even though I reassured him that it was the latter. He had a great time, with a great aide, and greeted me at pickup with Spiderman-worthy leaps of joy that ended in a bear hug. He was voted Sweetest Scarecrow during the Harvest Carnival.

I can't wait to greet him when he wakes up, because we got him a new stuffed Catbus for his birthday. I thought was going to be the size of a Chihuahua but no -- more like a portly Jack Russell terrier.  It's huge, and really well made. Leo is going to go out of his mind when he sees it.

I am saddened that Leo's birthday day carrot cake is a pathetic-looking, non-CakeWrecks-worthy fail. I give up on gel decorating tubes! They are sploogy and gush liquid half the time. His cake may be covered in wee rainbow puddles, but it will be delicious and I'm hoping his classmates only care about that. I promise to make a better one for his birthday party, which I am really looking forward to (as I wrote on BlogHer last week). I hope he is too.

There will be green straw snatching runs and naan bread for dinner tonight!

11.05.2009

Mali and the Mathematics of Fibbing

Here's Mali and her friend Trinian, off to shoot dragons and eleven-year-old boys during her friend Merlin's birthday party.  Look at that determined walk -- she had absolutely no fear when it came to battling the older kids with her mini-Nerf gun.

"No fear" has always been her standard operating mode. It's served her well for almost five years. As have bravado and enthusiasm. But she's almost five, she's becoming more tuned into social dynamics, and she's starting to change.

Example: She is starting to fib. About anything. About nothing. When it really doesn't matter. Why? I suspect she's had an epiphany similar that of Ricky Gervais in The Invention of Lying (an excellent and original film, though it fails the Bechdel Test), in that people will believe any reasonable statement, so why not say something that gets a reaction? Like saying she's allergic to bees? Or peanuts? I suspect and hope it's a phase, and am running interference where necessary.

She does not like not being the center of attention. She spends her entire soccer game ("game" possibly being too organized a word) stomping around the field, looking at the ground and scowling as the ball and the rest of her team whizz by. (The coaches, thankfully, mostly ignore her non-sporting behavior.) And she hates the after-care dance class at her school, possibly because there are so many other kids.

I would like her to find an outlet for her energy and coordination, and brought up the possibility of a martial art to Seymour, but he doesn't think it's a good idea for her to learn combat skills. Maybe tap or jazz dancing? I would like to find an activity she likes, that also taps her natural rhythm and energy.

She was out of school for two weeks in the middle of October -- one of the many benefits of her year-round school calendar. What a delightful opportunity for us to bond, given that my youngest is fast approaching five and her souped-up version of four years old is so much fun?


Well, no. I work now. Whoops. I forgot about her upcoming break when I took the job. But I had a plan! I would finish almost all of my work at night, and hang out with her during the day, devotedly.

This plan sort of worked on her first day of break, which was also my 40th birthday and so an excuse to cajole her into a Mini-Me outfit complete with houndstooth check pants. She came with me on errands and we may have even read a book, though I remained preoccupied with my new schedule.

And then we came home from that day's school pickups and errands to find my mother in my house, even though I had talked with her just the day before about how much she was continuing to enjoy her family visit to Vancouver. Seymour had imported her as a birthday surprise! I was so very much beyond surprised that I ran around in a little circle instead of bounding over and hugging her, which she probably would have appreciated a bit more. But yay!

If I was happy to have her visit, Mali was even more so. Our poor third child is a social beast like her grandmother and unlike her  mom, so what a treat to spend the first week of her break playing, baking, dressing up, reading, painting, coloring, and talking talking talking with her beloved grandmother. It was also a relief for me -- I was able to shift some work hours to the day, without feelinglike I was abandoning Mali.

I think Mali wore five different outfits each day while my mom was here. My mom put makeup on her, too, which Mali thought was so dandy that she helped herself to the makeup the following morning. Her version of "eyebrows" (her natural brows, like my mom's, aren't visible) was hit-and-miss, but she put on the mascara perfectly. I still can't do that.

Eventually, and after Seymour, my mom, and Jennyalice threw me a surprise birthday party so fabulous that I'm still pinching myself, my mom left. Then it was just me and Mali again during the day.

I can't say I balanced work and parenting perfectly during the remainder of her break, but we did have a good time, including a trip to San Francisco during which she charmed the cupcakes off the Ferry Building vendors, ran most of the length of the Embarcadero, made friends with or totally irritated half of Seymour's co-workers, and surprised the patrons of Coffee Bar by being a child (love that place, but it is deadly grown up-serious). Did you know that My Little Ponies have magnetic feet that work really well on metal staircases?

I love this kid. I want her to stay just like she is, right now. I worry that I underestimate her, given that she's the third kid and I already taught Izzy and Leelo everything and won't remember what I need to revisit for her, or pay enough attention to where her mind is at. Recently I was wondering if she understood counting and one-to-one correspondence because she kept asking me what 1 + 1 and 2 + 2 equaled, but then after I teased her by answering "6" to "What is 1 + 2?" she looked at me witheringly and said, "No, Mommy, it's half of six." So I guess she gets what to do with numbers.

I hope I continue to get what to do with her, how to help her remain such a  treasure, even as she repeatedly experiments with pushing our buttons. She is one of the best things that has ever happened to our family, and that is a sentiment that needs to be on the public record.

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