I've been thinking about a lot of things since the tragedy last Friday. There's shock, sadness, anger, etc. Wondering why the media gets so many facts wrong. Realizing more than ever our need for the Light of the World, whose birth we will celebrate in a few days.

I can't come up with much of a post about this, so instead I'll point you to a beautiful statement that I just read. Have some tissues handy.

Statement from the family of Josephine Gay

I hear too much about the hygiene hypothesis and allergies. It is not my favorite theory, at least as the media puts it out there. It makes it sound as if my kid has allergies because I keep my house too clean. Although I am hyper-vigilant about hand washing around the Owl, that came after the allergies were diagnosed.

One allergist explained to me that it wasn't how clean my house was, but the fact that kids were not growing up on farms and in rural areas where they would be exposed to all kinds of things we don't have in our suburban home. So that made me feel slightly better. But when I read about studies saying higher-income families have more allergies than lower-income families, and the conclusion drawn is that the hygiene hypothesis must be true, I get irritated. Are they saying that lower income means poor hygiene? So people with less money don't know how to bathe or clean? (I grew up without much money, and my mom made us all clean the house, we even dusted weekly, so the house was pretty darn clean. In contrast, I have a good income now and my house is a pit...)

I wish people would ask questions about whether it may have something to do with the lack of access to good quality health care that lower-income children are not diagnosed with allergies. Maybe they are suffering and feeling sick and don't know why. Or how about talking about the rise in allergies and the changes in our food supply? There were no soy additives in the food I ate as a child. The food that my parents grew up with definitely did not have long lists of ingredients with unpronounceable chemical names.

I've heard similar hygiene theories floated around about autism. Of course there are a million things that are "studied" such as medication, parental age, income, and a long list of other "factors." I always want to scream that correlation is not the same thing as causation. And again, I wonder if the higher income and higher autism rates are related to health care access. People who wait to have kids may have higher income and better insurance. Why are these questions not being studied instead of saying that poor people are messy? It leads us down such desperate paths as infecting children with parasites.

Researchers need to be asking parents what should really be studied. We know, we just don't have time or enough sleep to work on these things right now. So now to decide...should I go clean up my kitchen now while the kids are asleep, or will it do them some good for me to leave the mess....
I am never sure how holidays will turn out, my kids are unpredictable and so are family gatherings. But all seemed to go well this year. Herbie even decided that he liked turkey for the first time ever. Something to be thankful for! And the other at least got a taste in his mouth. Well, he was screaming in protest at the sight of the turkey on his plate, so I took the opportunity to pop a little piece into his mouth. I know, not at all what the feeding therapists recommend. But it made everyone laugh, even the Owl. (Right after he spit it out.) And we are all looking forward to school starting back up on Monday!

The Wise Old Owl is completely obsessed with the Curious George soundtrack. As far as kids' music goes, it's pretty good. Not the annoying kind that you wish you didn't have to listen to. But seriously, anything starts to get old when you listen to it All. The. Time. Well, I have found an upside to his obsession.

Lately, he has started lip syncing to the songs. He doesn't actually sing along, but he is definitely lip syncing all of the words, even the faster songs. It is cute, he really gets into it and has some great facial expressions to go along with the lyrics. I watch him and I can see how if he were actually vocalizing, how he would be mispronouncing things. So I use it as a little bit of speech practice, cuing him to keep his tongue back for the "s" sound and all that, "singing" along with him while modeling proper form. Somehow it seems easier for him to form the words when he doesn't have to put the sound with it.

For a guy who struggles mightily with the rate of his speech--it usually takes awhile for him to form sentences and responses--it is fun to see him "singing" these up-tempo songs. And I am definitely glad that we are no longer in the days of tape players, where I would be spending quite a bit of time rewinding to find the beginnings of songs when a word is missed and the whole thing needs to be started again!

I took the Wise Old Owl with me to vote on election day. Thankfully, Herbie was at school, he would not have stood still while I filled out my ballot, and he wouldn't have cared much about the whole process. But the Owl has been very curious about it ever since all of the yard sign popped up everywhere. He loves to read them and ask who those people are and why there are signs with their names. We talk about the government and who makes the laws. So he thought it was great fun to go vote. (Interestingly, he was quite confused as to why a man was president--in his world, women are the rule makers, instructors, doctors, etc. So it would make sense to him for a woman to run the country. Gotta love that!)

Leading up to the election and in the days ever since, I have heard a lot of judgmental comments about those with differing views. I certainly have strong opinions of my own, but I also know how terrible it feels to be judged by others for the decisions I make. This is all to common regarding my parenting decisions and the way my kids behave. So I don't judge other parents when I see kids acting out, and I am making a conscious effort not to judge others who have the opposite political views from me. Yes, I may disagree, and I may be sad that they think that way, and I may engage in thoughtful conversations. When people try to engage me in angry debates, though, I am just going to take a deep breath and smile. No judgment, no fighting words. I don't have time for that. I would rather express myself by the way that I live and spend my time and energy.

And at the end of the day, I will just remember that God is way bigger than our political process.
Every year I wonder who came up with all these Halloween traditions and why do we have to follow them? But every year we go through with the costumes and trick-or-treating and are rewarded with the joy of huge smiles and laughter from our kids.

This year, I volunteered at both of the boys' classroom parties. The amount of energy in those rooms is amazing, I was exhausted! The Owl was so giddy about wearing his costume, but Herbie, as usual, did not want to put his on, even though he had been excited for weeks leading up to the day and I had made sure to create something sensory friendly so it would not be unpleasant to wear. I coaxed him into it, and it was fun to see his transformation from feeling nervous and awkward to beaming with pride; every time a kid exclaimed that he had a cool costume, a little smile came over his face, getting bigger and bigger as more and more kids commented. I was particularly pleased that this year, both classes had candy-free parties, and none of the kids even seemed to miss the candy. They all know there will be plenty of candy to come from trick-or treating, so who needs it at school! 

They loved trick-or-treating, which is funny to me, since the Owl can't eat any of the candy and Herbie doesn't really like it. I guess it is just exciting to be given candy! Getting the Owl in and out of his wagon at every house was good exercise for me (justifying me eating some of that candy they didn't want anyway). It was irritating, though, to hear the number of people exclaim, "what did you say?" to the Owl when he said, "trick or treat!" Seriously, when a child in costume rings your doorbell on Halloween night, what else do you expect him to say?!?!?!? I know he gets frustrated when people don't understand him, but he really wanted to say "trick or treat" at every house. So he persisted, and the fun of the whole day kept him in a good mood despite people's stupidity.

We got home, dumped out the loot, from which I took a few favorite things and promptly gave the rest to the lucky group of kids who rang the doorbell at that moment. My boys raided the pantry for their favorite candy--Wintergreen Lifesavers--and I gave them each some Nana's No Gluten Ginger cookies, way better than any of that cheap candy anyway! And they went to bed happy and exhausted, counting down the days until they can do it all again.
Our community education department is trialing a new program with high school volunteers to be buddies with kids who need extra support. Special-needs parents probably look at that community education catalog and think, "I wish I could sign my child up for that, but it probably wouldn't go well." I used to get upset about it, then I would realize that my kids don't want to be left in a class without support, so they weren't asking me to sign them up. I didn't worry about it too much. Then came the announcement for the Angry Birds Art class, 4 weekly sessions after school. It sounded right up Herbie's alley! He loves Angry Birds and he loves art. What could be better? In a discussion with some other parents, I commented about how I would love to be able to sign him up. There happened to be someone there who could do something about it who told me to go ahead and register him. I almost wished that I hadn't said anything, I didn't want to set Herbie up for a bad experience. But I went ahead with it, and we got our high school buddy. She has very little experience with kids or special needs, but she has a heart of gold and wants to make this work. It is obviously a high-interest activity, so I am not hugely worried about him not wanting to participate. I mainly wanted him to feel supported and to have an extra set of hands to intervene if he got off track or tried to bolt. And so far, so good! I love seeing his little projects and how excited he is to show them to me. It is awesome that this teenage girl can commit a few hours of her time and make such a huge difference for a child and his family!
It has been six weeks since the Wise Old Owl broke his leg. He initially had a full-leg cast. Then, eleven days ago, he got his cast off and switched to a walking boot. Give it a few days, the orthopedist said, he'll be running around, they always get right back into action. I tried to explain that he had a motor planning disorder and I wasn't so sure, but she was very confident. This is the problem of seeing a specialist who is only looking at one aspect of my child. Although we've been in the facility for an hour and a half, we only get 10 minutes with the orthopedist. All she knows about is bones, not motor planning. So off we were whisked with our walking boot. Eleven days later, he's still not walking.

I've been playing phone tag with the clinic all week. Finally, we got a walker today. I requested it to help him transition from the wheelchair to using his legs again. The nurse on the phone initially sounded concerned that he would need more x-rays and evaluations, kids always walk after getting their casts off. Didn't you hear me say he needed intensive PT to learn how to walk in the first place? Even with absolutely nothing physically wrong with him? She thinks perhaps there is something wrong in how it has healed. Of course I can't say for sure that there is not, but I what I think I really need is someone to help me teach him how to walk. So she says she'll write up orders for the walker so our insurance will cover it, but to call in a week if he's not walking.

So now we have a walker. Who knew they made them so small?? A friend saw it and suggested we put some tennis balls on it, helping me find humor in the midst of my frustration. He seems to like the walker, he managed it pretty well at the library and Walgreens. So we are on the road to re-learning to walk, finally. But I am still wondering, why this huge set-back? He had made such tremendous progress in his motor skills, and now we are back 3 years, or that's what it feels like. I hope the trade-off in improved social skills was worth it. But right now I can't stop thinking that keeping up with all the kids on the playground helps with social skills, too.

Note: I typically leave posts in my draft box for awhile before hitting publish. So after I wrote this, I suddenly found myself humming a song by Sixpence None the Richer - the one called "Trust." It's stuck in my head, probably not by accident. So that is the answer to my worries, He's got it under control. I think I'll go find the CD of that song, which I haven't listened to in years, it's a good one. The song is based on Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Do not lean on your own understanding...easier said than done, but here goes.
For years I feel like speech therapists have been telling me to work on greetings with the Owl. Say hello when you see him in the morning, say good bye when you go upstairs for a minute, intentionally greet everyone you interact with all day, prompt him to say these things, too, or at a minimum to wave. I went through spurts of heeding this advice. It gets old, so I admit that I'd given up on it lately because there are plenty of other things to think about. But all of the sudden, he is saying good-bye to everyone. His teachers at school, his buddies from social skills group, the receptionist at the OT clinic, even me when I just go upstairs for a minute. And it's not just one good bye, it's 7 or 8 in a row. It is super cute and made me stop to realize what a great achievement that is for him, especially after I had let it slide to the bottom of his list of goals. We still need to get him to say hello without maximum prompts, but I am inspired to really work on that again!
I am embarrassed to admit how often I end up yelling at my children. If any of my neighbors walked past my house at 8:30 a.m. any weekday, they would wonder what is going on. We do fine with the morning routine, of course there are reminders to brush teeth and all that, but everyone gets dressed and we theoretically have plenty of time to get Herbie ready for the bus. He'll play happily as he gets ready for his day. The problem starts when I ask him to get his shoes and socks on. I give reminders and tell him only a few more minutes playing, set a timer, etc. But when the time comes, it is complete meltdown time. There's always a bump in the sock that cannot be fixed, the socks go on and off, we try 4 different pairs, and then the bus pulls up. Thankfully, one advantage of riding the mini-bus is that the driver is ready for delays and waits for a few minutes. What on earth would we do if we had to be at the regular bus stop on time??

One day, after all my yelling about putting his socks on and all his yelling about not wanting bumps, the socks and shoes were on and I opened the door and hugged him good bye. Herbie just stood there, not going out to the bus. He took my hand and said, "you walk with me." We walked across the yard, up the bus steps, and he didn't let go of my hand until he sat in his seat. Then he smiled and said good bye.

After all my yelling, he just wanted me to hold his hand to the bus, his way of showing me he wasn't holding it against me, that he still wanted to be with me. When he got home, I gave him a big hug and thanked him for letting me hold his hand in the morning. He just smiled and lingered in the hug. The next morning went a little better, and again he grabbed my hand to walk to the bus. When the bus pulled up at the end of the day, he wasn't getting off, so I walked outside to see what was up. I got on the bus and then he stood up, grabbed my hand, and we walked inside. We have done this a few more times, here and there. It makes me smile, knowing that I always get another chance with him after I mess up, that he still wants to hold my hand.