Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day In The Life: Spring 2014.

One of my favorite bloggers does a "day in the life" post every quarter.  I believe she got the idea from another blogger I now follow.  So, last year I did a 24-hour post when Myra was 1 month old, 2 months old, and 3 months old (but never posted that one because that's when life started to get really miserable and crazy before we knew what was going on with her).  I was reminded of these posts recently, so I decided to get back into them.  

I figured I'd just get it out of the way and do it that next day...so I did.  Had I known how the day was going to go (not a "typical" day at all, yes there is such a thing), I would have picked a different day.  Not necessarily because I have a need to show you all how well every single day goes around here (ha!), but because about 2/3 of the way through the day, I was really sick of being attached to my phone to record all of it.  But, I wasn't about to quit 2/3 through and start over a different day, so this is what you get!  To give Myra some credit, I can actually say I have an awesome sleeper.  She takes two 1-hour naps every day (occasionally skimps on the morning nap, I guess) and sleeps 7pm-7am (or later) without waking up.  Those of you who know me well know we ALL earned this after how awful the first 4 months were.  Those of you who have FPIES kids can probably imagine.  So, although yesterday did not go like that, it does every other day and I am loving it. But, life is life and things happen and yesterday was one of those wonky days, and we survived.

Anyway, our day went a little something like this...

7:15 I woke up, Trevor was already up and had eaten, showered, and was starting his coffee

7:50 Myra up, playing in her crib (I leave her alone for a bit in the morning to give her some alone time.  She usually talks to her doll or the pictures on the walls.)

8:03 Now Myra is whining, Trevor got her quickly before leaving-she was stuck in the crib rails.

8:05 Time for a diaper change, bottle, play on the couch for a little bit.  I turned up the heat because it's COLD.

8:30 We eat (me-coffee and Coco Roos, Myra-canned peaches and freeze dried peaches) We can hear the birds chirping outside and Myra keeps saying "oo oo! oo oo!" It's her default animal sound that started as her version of woof woof but now it means everything an animal could say.  Except "who" which she knows is an owl and "baa" which she knows is a sheep.  

8:52 Both done eating.  I get Myra dressed-I leave her in pajamas for breakfast because she is a messy gal.  While changing her, she says "baby" (she is madly in love with her doll), "people" (when she looks at the people int he pictures on her walls), and "down" (the most recent addition to her vocabulary).

All done! (signing it and says "aahhh")

8:58 Myra plays upstairs. She would rather play with my dirty socks than her actual toys.  Rowdy is up there with us, she tries to give him my dirty socks.  Myra sneezed then said "sneeze" (or "tee!") and signed it.  She also says "Rowdy" frequently ("Row-wee") whenever he is around or she hears him.

Homemade toy - cut a hole in the top of her formula can, she puts stuff (craft poms mostly) in the hole.  Lately she has just been walking/scooting around the house with the thing hanging off her hand though. 

Playing with a turkey baster and her reflection.

9:25 I grab Myra to put her down for a nap so I can shower.  Since she slept so late, she probably isn't going to fall asleep yet, but it's worth a try since we have to leave in less than an hour for the clinic.  Realize she has a "poo poo" diaper (Myra's words) so I change that. She signs "I love you" to me a couple times and says "bye bye" when I pull up her pants.  I remind her we aren't going anywhere yet, it's time for a nap now.

I love our Dropcam.  Certainly not a need, but it's been helpful in letting her fuss for a bit (until she finds her baby) or knowing if she really needs us (stuck in the crib!).

9:59 I am showered and dressed, take a pre makeup selfie. Myra's nap no-go like I thought, but she's content just playing in her crib.  I brush my teeth, get Myra, pack my binder (Myra's food info), snacks, waters for both of us, and a bottle.  When I get to the garage I realize Trevor was kind enough to leave all his stuff from drill this past weekend in front of my car, so I move that then load up.  Myra has a stuffed bear that stays in the car and she asks for it every time I buckle her in.

10:19 We leave for the clinic, I'm totally annoyed by the snow, I check my work voicemail and return calls on the way. Myra yelling "bear bear bear" which sounds a lot like "beer beer beer."

10:27 We arrive at the clinic for Myra's appointment with the dietician.  The goal is to take a close look at her diet thus far and get some information so we can plan her next food trials.  I have a pretty elaborate system of selecting which foods to trial, but we want to make sure we're not missing something.

10:34 All checked in and waiting.  Myra is walking/scooting (she does this half walk where she sits on one foot and scoots with her other leg) around the waiting area, making friends with everyone.  She says "hi!" to people everywhere we go.  

10:42 Called in for our appointment.  I gave her a bottle then let her destroy the room/play with plastic food.

12:02 Appointment over-lots of good information.  Bottom line-we're off to a great start, have some good information about overall toddler serving sizes/daily food group goals, planned next 5 food trials.

12:17 Home, time for lunch.  Sandwich for me, avocado (current food trial) and ham for Myra. 
When Myra is done, she sometimes says "aahhhhh" and holds up her hands (to sign "all done"), but sometimes she just throws her food on the floor.  I'm not sure if she does that because she wants to get rid of it, or if she wants to share with Rowdy (he eats her food off the floor and she likes that). We're working with her to always say all done, but it's work in progress.

12:44 Diaper change, down for nap (Myra signed "I love you" to me 3 times)

12:51 I check/respond to emails, start an episode of Scandal (I'm nearing the end of season 2) while I clean up the kitchen and fold laundry.  I hardly watch any TV (we don't even have TV, but Netflix), but when I do I usually force myself to do something productive while I watch.

1:24 Myra awake, hoping she goes back to sleep

1:28 And she's back asleep...

1:42 I start another episode of Scandal because I'm lazy-finding stuff to tidy (bathroom! eek!) and make myself useful (so I don't feel so lazy).

This is "Trevor's" bathroom, but we both use it.  He cut his hair before drill then left in a hurry and I wasn't down here much all weekend or I probably would have picked up sooner.  The toilet paper situation is intentional as Myra likes to play with it if she can reach it.  Side note: I dropped a whole roll of toilet paper into the toilet, clearly skipping a few important steps, this weekend.

1:47 Our fridge has been acting up.  Luckily it's still covered under the extended warranty we bought.  The service dude checked it out a week or two ago, but some dye in it so he could see where the freon leak is, called this morning to see if he could come by and check it out.  I figured he would call before actually coming, but nope.  So he came, Rowdy barked, Myra woke up not happy...I got her up, she calmed down quickly, we went to play in kitchen and watch the fridge stuff.  We had to completely empty it (freezer has been empty already since it's not working).  Myra was very curious.

2:10 Myra signed "more" (aka "eat" - working on that), so made her a bottle, it will be time for a snack soon

Still very curious about what is happening in our kitchen.

2:32 Well, the verdict is in.  We get a new fridge. The repair man cleaned up, I started moving stuff outside (actually thankful for the cooler temps this week, perfect fridge temp outside right now) and cooked the ground beef we had in there.

Tired girl.  She rubs her doll's pig tails when she's tired, sad, or falling asleep. 

Tired but too late for a nap now.

3:26 Everything moved onto the deck for now. Put cooked beef away. Myra having snack.

3:37 I get the mail (junk-won a prize!!!.......), MPR statement and invite to my great aunt and uncle's 50th anniversary party. Myra not eating much, her day has been totally goofy.

3:45 I'm losing motivation and patience as Myra is losing hers. Time for a change. I clean up from snack and off to the library we go!

Myra gets really excited when we arrive places.  She knows she needs to unbuckle herself, just isn't strong enough to actually do it yet (thankfully!).

4:00 At library.  I got a bird audiobook (new found determination to figure out bird songs) and a few DVDs (JFK because I just finished a book about him, birds, and one about the Presidents because I want to hold my own against my friend's genius son who knows them all!)

4:12 Done at the library, next stop: drop off expired meds at the police department drop box, then I took the scenic route home as I was on the phone with a friend and Myra was having fun singing away in the back seat.  Came home and let Myra make a mess while I finished my conversation.

4:53 My dad stopped by to drop off the tray to Myra's booster chair we forgot at his house yesterday.

5:20 Myra is TIRED.  It will be an early bedtime night, so I get her going on some supper and start some for myself.  I cooked some summer sausage with a little brown sugar (one of Trevor's recipes) just to get started.

Murder of the blueberries

5:41 Trevor home, he cooked egg sandwiches for the two of us.

6:06 All done eating.  Kind of a random supper but our food is all over the place and I don't have the energy to dig through thermal bags on the deck to put something together.

All done.

6:13 Trevor is getting Myra ready for bed while I feed whiny Rowdy.  This boy is so scheduled it makes me bonkers sometimes.  He knows when it is time to eat!

6:18 I bring Myra's bottle to Trevor, take her dirty clothes and spray her shirt with oxi clean (why did we decide to trial blueberries? so messy), then pick up her toys and Rowdy's.

6:22 I finish loading then start dishwasher and get a beer for Trevor and me.  I put Myra's potatoes in the fridge aka the deck (still annoying).

6:26 Trevor is done feeding Myra, brushes her teeth with her. I'm picking up random things while I wait to say good night.

6:29 Myra in bed. (30 min earlier than usual, but she's wiped!)

6:35 Trevor heads downstairs to do physics homework/study, I sit down to finish the episode of Scandal that got interrupted by the whole fridge fiasco (still annoying...still).

6:43 Myra appears to be asleep.  Sometimes if her naps are that screwed up, she gets over tired and struggles to fall asleep so nicely.  Phew!

7:22 Myra whining.  She blindly searches for and finds her baby in the crib, so she'll probably go back to sleep now.

7:31 Myra still whining, I went in sang her a song and put her back down. Have I mentioned I hate when BOTH naps get screwed up. Ended up going in again, rocked her (until she got in my face and said "hi...hi..." then kissed her baby "mmmmmm-MAH!" OOOKAY little girl, time for bed.)  I put her back down and she was quiet right away.

8:05 Check monitor again, Myra definitely asleep

8:19 I sneezed. Ha-this chunk of time would have been empty, had to put something.  In reality, I was just sitting there watching more Scandal while I relaxed a bit.  This is why I force myself to be useful if I'm going to watch TV during the day, so I can do this guilt free at night.  When our nights start out goofy like this, I get stressed out because it reminds me of how crazy (CRAZY!!!) our nights were when Myra was 1, 2, 3, 4 months old.  So I still get a little anxious and agitated until she's actually asleep, which she is now, so I can just relax for a bit.

8:56 I empty the dishwasher, put a few dirty dishes in it.

9:19 I brush my teeth, wash my face, put on pajamas.

9:43 Trevor done studying, asked me to come look at what he's been working on.

9:57 Ahhh... in bed.  I'm listening to Unbroken (audiobook-my new favorite bedtime ritual).  Won't last long before it's sleep time.

And that is a day in the life!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Causes: Autism Awareness Month.

Next up in my Causes series is a post by my friend, Kallie.  She is an Autism Specialist Social Worker and has many years experience working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a variety of roles.  Although she is a mom, her perspective is that of a professional.  Thanks to research and awareness efforts, we are hearing a lot more about ASD, but there are still many misconceptions.  I enjoyed reading and learning more and I hope you all do, too! (If you would like to get in touch with Kallie, please let me know by leaving a comment or clicking the Contact tab at the top of the page and I will be happy to connect you two.)
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder.  There are many misconceptions about cause and onset of ASD...some feel it is due to vaccinations, others to food enzymes, and others due to environmental factors.  There are also a lot of unanswered questions about Autism.  Studies continue to be done to find a common entity for individuals with ASD to see if a 'cure' or preventative action can be taken.  People continue to become concerned about ASD as the numbers seem to rise.  In my opinion, I feel the numbers rise due to the awareness we (professionals and parents) have of ASD.  Kiddos are being diagnosed significantly earlier than in previous years as well as kiddos that are 'higher functioning ASD' or Aspergers.  Some kiddos years ago never received a diagnosis and were just considered 'quirky'.  Now, I think because we have the DSM-IV and the DSM-V with particular criteria including other criteria that previously wouldn't have been considered, we're getting kiddos the diagnoses they need that make sense.
So, great, your child is diagnosed with ASD... now what?  That's where I come into the picture.  In the past I worked with kiddos on the spectrum doing ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) in a center and doing in-home based services.  Now, I am an Autism Specialist Social Worker.  Different roles completely... but helpful non-the-less!  In my opinion, there is nothing better than starting services as soon as possible... the younger the better!  Because kids on the spectrum lack social awareness (part of the diagnosis) it is common to see increased challenging or problem behaviors when something does not go their way.  Sure, I'm guessing a lot of you are thinking, 'well, doesn't every kid throw a fit when they don't get what the want??' Yes!  They do!  The difference here is that typically developing kiddos learn that it is socially unacceptable to throw a fit in public, or without end, as they get older.  (and yes, I realize this is still a struggle for some kids!)  Kids on the spectrum don't learn that.  We (parents, professionals, teachers, paras, therapists) have to teach them how to respond to situations.  We have to provide them with the information they need to know how to process the situation and respond appropriately, or move on to the next activity.  Does that make sense?  I'll give more examples...
Kids/individuals with ASD can only process what they've been given.  Think of the brain (any brain) like a file cabinet or Google.  Brains of individuals with ASD need to be filled with information.  If we were to search their Google, we're only going to get what we've put in it.  You'll find that generalizing one situation (place, time, season) is more challenging.  When there has been one experience in one place... it is hard to carry it to another situation without having experienced it.  When I worked with kids for this process, we'd teach as much as we could of a variety of skills across different settings (community, in-home, center, school, etc.).  If you think of typically developing kids, think of how they respond to things in different settings?  Doing homework at a desk at school is different than doing homework on the bedroom floor at home... Right?  Some kids that have lower functioning abilities and are maybe non-verbal often do really well with a visual schedule.  The more specific and step by step the schedule, the better.  Schedules that use pictures that are of that child and real life situations, make the most sense.  Using visuals and a schedule for everything one possibly can is the best route to go for these kids! 
The last thing that I want to talk about is reinforcement and behavior.  So, as I mentioned, it is not uncommon for children with ASD to have more temper tantrums that typically developing kids.  So how do we teach them and how do we make them stop?  Million dollar question, right?  Here's the answer... reinforcement.  A reinforcer is something that is strong enough to elicit a change in behavior.  This is much different than a motivator (helpful, but not strong enough).  Think of it this way... we go to work because we get paid and can pay bills, buy things, have fun... right?  Money is reinforcement for us to do our jobs, and do them well.  Most of us get paid at least monthly if not more frequently.  So, how are we 'paying' kids to learn?  How are we 'paying' kids to follow a schedule?  I know it sounds like bribery... but would we do our jobs if we weren't getting paid?  My guess is most people would not.  I know that I would not sit at work all day if I was doing it for free... Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but I also have to pay for things!  If we're going to teach kids how to behave, we want to do it with positive intervention.  That means, we are not going to say 'no, stop, don't' unless it is immediate safety related.  We are going to say 'quiet hands' or 'let's walk'.  We are going to provide other alternatives to self injurious behaviors (i.e. a kid who bites his hand when stressed might need a chewy).  We are also going to find reinforcers that will change behavior.  We are going to praise, give tokens, give points, to reward appropriate behavior (the things we want to see) and ignore or simply redirect the behaviors we want to get rid of.  Also, providing 4:1 attention to kiddos for appropriate behaviors is quite an essential. This means that for every negative interaction or redirection (stop, no, don't, do this, etc.) it is crucial to provide 4 positive attention actions/touches/hugs/looks/praise etc.
A lot of kids will learn that 'if I do this, I get this' which works in our benefit and against us.  For example, if a child has a meltdown in the store because Mom said 'no' to a piece of candy, and she gives in to give the candy because she's waiting in line and people are looking at her and it is easier in the moment to just do it... she's unintentionally reinforcing the behavior (yes, we are all guilty of this from time to time... just an example that is easy for most to relate!)  So let's break it down and look at this... child cries, mom says no, child cries more, mom gives in, child stops crying, child gets candy.  A child on the spectrum would likely pair this as being rewarded for having a behavior because that is what they are communicating at that time.  So, accidently what's happening is we are reinforcing the crying to increase or continue when there is a want... even if it just happens once every now and then.  It is kind of like playing the slot machines... we don't often win, but when we do we get a big pay off and it is worth enough to continue to try until it happens again.  This shows us that the candy (or the money from the slot machine) is a strong enough reinforcer that it gets us to continue to behave that way... I sure hope that makes sense!
I could continue to go on and explain more behavior perspectives of working with kiddos (and adults) on the spectrum... and would gladly do so if you have questions :-)  I hope this is helpful to anyone who wants ASD information.  I often get questions about behaviors and how to change them, that is why I decided to write so much about that.  Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you!
Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Date Night & Alpacas.

Just a quick post about our weekend.  On Friday night, Trevor and I headed to Oceanaire in Minneapolis for a date night.  My dad had the easiest babysitting job ever and Myra behaved very well (she slept the whole time he was here).  We were there to celebrate my brother-in-law's birthday (Oceanaire is definitely not in our 'regular night out' budget, but it was a good excuse to use the 'very special occasion' budget).  It was great to get a night to ourselves, enjoy good food and wine, and good company. 

 I got the Hawaii Swordfish

Trevor got the Bigeye Tuna

Rhya and I shared Key Lime Pie

Then on Saturday, Myra and I headed to the Minnesota Alpaca Expo in town (while Trevor slaved away in his study den).  Myra is getting pretty excited about learning animal sounds and her default is "woof woof" so that's what she had on repeat as we walked up and down the aisles of alpacas.  We ran into some friends and family there, too, so that was fun.  (Mostly fun, until a cousin got trampled by an alpaca...but she was okay, scared, but okay.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Children's Museum Fun.

Today we went to the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota with Mari and her girls.  Until last weekend, I didn't know Mankato had one. 

It was easy to find with free and easy parking-my kind of venue.  Myra had fun exploring and the big girls loved showing her all the cool stuff the museum had to offer.

A cool treehouse thing with a ramp and rock climbing wall to get into it.  Once up, there is a pulley system basket...
...a bridge...
plus two rooms, and stairs down to...
a fun tunnel system.
Foam blocks!
There is a basement with more fun.
A water play room
Some pretend areas like a quarry, a grocery store, a pizza place, and...
a veterinary clinic.
Oh, and a dress up area with a stage!
(Yes, Angie, I'm wearing a tutu.)
You have to bring your own cute babies, though.
Only $6 to get in (phew! Myra had just enough money...didn't actually plan that for this photo, but sweet.)
There is more not pictured, plus they're working on a very cool new site!  Myra is worn out and fast asleep now.