Pocketfuls of Sunshine

Archive for September 2008

We were on a walk tonight through the neighborhood. We took our usual route, but each day there is something different to notice. Some days there are so many people out walking that there are mini traffic jams on the sidewalks. Of course, I take up two-thirds of the walkway with the double side-by-side stroller, which doesn’t help for easy passing. Today, though, there weren’t that many people but there were tons of dogs.

Our neighborhood seems to have a ridiculous amount of dogs. At one point today, there were four houses in a row, all with dogs in the backyards. And ALL FOUR were going crazy, barking at one another. As I passed each house, I could hear the owners yelling out their windows. The dogs clearly didn’t care. At least they were barking at one another rather than at me and the children.

There’s one house in particular that has two dogs. When they see me coming, they start yelping in the front bay window. It’s a corner house, so at first I was glad that they would likely stop as I turned the corner and walked by the side of the house. But then I heard it—the ting ting ting of a tag on a collar coming closer and closer. I’ve since figured out that the dogs must have a doggy-door, because as soon we were are out of sight of the window, they come running out the back door and right toward the fence. Inevitably, they bark and go CRAZY just inches from the kids. And poor Bubs looks at them and screams. And today I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually barked at the darn thing. That dog is my nemesis during every walk. But The Bean? She says, “Hieeeeeeee”. It’s almost like a two syllable word. Hi E. It’s cute, really. She doesn’t discriminate. She says hi to little dogs and big, quiet ones and growlers. And this reminds me of another great kid moment.

I used to teach karate to children and adults. Twice a week, I also taught a kindergarten karate class. It wasn’t so much karate as it was discipline and learning how to move in a coordinated fashion. And we talked about right and left, a lot. “The other right hand!” I would tell them. It was a test in patience for me.

Part of class was dedicated to raising awareness about strangers. So I asked the students some questions.

“What would you do if a stranger walked up to you and said that he needed help to find his lost dog?”

All in unison, they yelled back, “Run away! Tell someone!”

“Good! And what if a stranger came up to you and asked you to help him get his kitty out of a tree?”

And although most of the kids responded as I had hoped, one raised his hand and said, “I would go help him find the kitty.”

I was stunned. So I just had to know. “Why would you go with a stranger to get his kitty but not to look for his dog?”

The answer? “Kitties need more help.”

Needless to say, we had quite the class discussion about stranger safety after that one. But I never forgot it. Kids.

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I have been scouring the local paper, library, and parks and recreation offices for a class for The Bean. She is too young for many of the classes, and there’s one that she could take but it falls on a weekday morning. Sounds perfect, right? I was excited at first when I saw the listing, until I noticed the asterisk that noted in big bold letters that NO SIBLINGS were allowed in the peanut gallery. So that class will have to wait until next year, when coincidentally they will both be able to take the same class.

Then I found a Parent and Tot Gymnastics class for children from 18 to 35 months. So we decided to sign up, and the class started today. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed to find that the section before us was jam packed with parents and tots, and it seemed too crowded. Some parents brought the unwelcome siblings, and apparently it was a problem for the instructors. The Bean’s class, however, has about 14 kids in it. Perfect!

Although she can be shy discerning around new people or in new situations, she took right to her new gymnastics class. She made a beeline for the mats and was quickly stepping and climbing her way to the top of the foam towers. She especially loved the hoola hoops, so much so that she began taking them, one by one, from their haphazard places around the room and stock piling them in one place. I redirected her attention to a nearby balance beam and the hoops quickly were moved again by excited children.

I think my favorite moment of the class was the music portion. The instructors said that when the music stopped, every one was to freeze in a particular pose. The kids did this, relatively quietly, except for my Beanie, who stopped moving only to start clapping and yelling, “More! More! More!” in the Boston-esque accent that she has developed seemingly out of nowhere.

She even got two stickers at the end of the class! I don’t know who is more excited for next week’s class, Beans or her proud mama.

How cute and cozy would your little one be wrapped in this blanket? You can win it today!!

The girls over at The Secret is in the Sauce are hosting yet another fabulous giveaway, and it ends tonight! So get in on it while the getting is good! All you have to do is check out Star Looks Boutique. They have some very unique and chic items for babies and kids. Look around and pick your favorite.

Then, go to this blog to leave a comment for Charlotte and let her know which item you just love to pieces!

And if you want two additional entries, post the contest on your blog and link back to The Secret is in the Sauce. It only takes a minute and you could be snuggling with your baby wrapped in this cute blankie!

Check it out and don’t forget to leave a comment here!

I never realized how much money one could spend on a swing set until we started to look for one for our two kiddies. I quickly learned that there are companies that charge hundreds, and even thousands, for sets that include wooden forts, rock climbing walls, trapeze bars, and teeter-totters. Now, I do seem to remember playing on our wooden one with a fort (our second set once we moved into a newer house) quite a bit when I was a child. Yet, when I drive through nearby neighborhoods and see these big wooden monstrosities, I rarely, if ever, see a child monkeying around.

So when we finally decided to buy one, we went with a cheap modest metal set that included two swings, a glider, a trapeze bar, and a small red slide. With a coupon, we paid just over a hundred dollars. We also purchased two infant swings because both Beans and Bubs need them. It looks something like this.

So it isn’t the prettiest swing set I have ever seen. It isn’t the biggest. And it probably won’t last forever. But, the kids love it, which is all that matters. As with big fancy toys, we have learned that children don’t care about brand names or price tags. You can have all the Fisher Price toys in the world, and they will probably gravitate towards a water bottle, a magazine, and a cardboard box for an hour of fun instead.

What I love, though, is the loud squeaking that accompanies both of the swings. From the first time I pushed them in their new swings, I loved that squeak. It instantly took me back to the days of my first yellow metal swingset which was very similar to ours now. I’m sure some neighbors wonder what that screeching, rhythmic noise is every evening after dinner. Well, it’s the sound of a happy child (or two) swinging away. It’s the sound of wild day dreaming. It’s the sound of imagination hard at work while they kick their little legs and pretend they are flying.

So you can keep your big fancy swing sets. I’ll take the little one that was certainly good enough for me as a child and will definitely be enough for my kids too.

Since The Bean’s birth, I am learning to field comments and questions regarding her arm. At first, it was very difficult for me. I had to anticipate what people might say, and I had to learn how I would respond rationally and positively so as to set a good example for The Bean, who will likely be faced with these same questions sooner rather than later.

Now I can answer questions and field comments with less anxiety than I once did. I know what to expect. I know how to handle it. Most days.

There are times when people speak without thinking first how it might sound. There are times when people say things they don’t realize are upsetting. And there are even times, though only a few in number as of yet, when people say things that I never, ever expect an adult would say to the parent of a child born without a hand.

I’ve thought a lot about these times. I ask family and friends, “Why would you EVER say that to somebody? I don’t go around asking someone in a wheelchair, a child no less, what is wrong with her legs. It’s unthinkable!” And my dad summed it up well. People see wheelchairs every day or almost every day. Buildings have been updated to accommodate those in wheelchairs. It is part of every day life.

But it isn’t every day you see a prosthesis.

And you could go your entire life without seeing an infant or a toddler wearing one.

So people speak. Sometimes without thinking. And I’m learning to let those comments ride for now. I’m thinking of how to teach The Bean to react to those comments because, believe it or not, people ask HER directly what happened to her. Um, she can’t talk yet. At least in sentences larger than “I love you.” And I suppose for now, that’s all she needs to know how to say anyway.

Since it isn’t every day you see a prosthesis, you might not have heard of a bipartisan bill that was introduced to the U.S. Senate on Friday. It’s called the “Group Health Plan Prosthetics Parity Act of 2008” and has the support of the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA). The bill is “designed to ensure that amputees covered by employer-paid health insurance are able to access the prosthetic care they need to live full and independent lives.” It proposes that prosthetic care be covered as essential medical care. Seems like a great idea to me.

We are lucky. Our insurance is wonderful and it includes coverage of myoelectric prosthetics. I’ve been told, though, that this is not always the case. Many companies only cover less functional and aesthetic devices such as hooks. Some consider a myoelectric arm a “luxury”, an absolute absurdity to me.

So check out this bill if you are interested. And if you do see a person or a child with a prosthetic, say hello.

Yeah, right.

My first mistake was thinking it would be a quick trip to the store. I know better. Nothing is quick with a 9 month old and a 22 month old.

In those early months after Bubby was born, it took me an hour or more to get out of the house with them. It was more like a choreographed dance than anything. I had to figure out which child would eat first, who needed a nap, and who to put in the car first.

But I have improved. I can get out of the house with a half hour’s lead time (on most days). I’ve reduced the contents of the diaper bag considerably. Heck, I’ve actually done away with the diaper bag and opted for a great Guess purse I found on a clearance rack. I’m sure it was intended to contain something much more stylish, like an alligator wallet or a Versace eyeglass case. As it is, the goldfish and diapers go happily along in my bright pink handbag.

So I thought I would “run” to the grocery store in search of some baking ingredients for those apples we picked yesterday. I needed flour, eggs, sugar, and pie crusts among other things. (Now, before you admonish me for not making the crusts from scratch, consider that I have to cut corners to get things done in the space of the one nap that the children take simultaneously!) So we packed up and headed out.

Now, in my past life, I would have loved a parking lot that didn’t contain shopping carts (or buggies as I call them). However, I now find myself speeding toward any spot with a cart haphazardly positioned nearby. Today, though, there was not a single cart in the parking lot. Not one.

So I reluctantly unloaded The Bean and held her hand as I walked to Bubby’s side of the car. Then I put my diaper bag purse over my right shoulder and unbuckled Bubs. I tossed him onto my right hip, and I grabbed the shopping cart cover in my right hand. I hip-checked the door shut with my left side, hit the lock button on the key fob with my left (who came up with that silly word anyway? FOB. It’s so lame). Then I grabbed The Bean’s hand with my left and we all walked SLOWLY into the store. It was slow enough that I noticed several people passing by with that “Oh that poor girl trying to shop with those two tiny kids” look in their eyes.

Five minutes later, I had them in a cart and off we went. Bubs sat in the front with a shopping cart cover and The Bean sat in the basket of the cart with her sippy and a snack trap of goldfish. Today, she found entertainment with each new item tossed into the cart. It was going well until she had built an imaginary playland around herself and I decided to toss in some tin pie plates that were not welcomed.

“Nonononononononono!” She apparently had other ideas as to where to put the pie plates. Namely, the floor. It was a teachable moment, though, and after some admonishment, she said sorry and it didn’t happen again. Score one for mom!

By the time I had made it through the store, both of the kids were ready to go as it was time for lunch. It wasn’t the smoothest trip to the store I have taken, as there was some fussing, a little cooing, and lots of drool. But it was successful, with one minor exception. I forgot the pie crusts. Oops.

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This weekend has been packed with events in our neck of the woods. We attended a charity sponsored picnic for The Bean. She was born without her left hand, for those readers who may not know, and she benefits from a wonderful charity that provides myolectric arms and occupational therapy sessions for children like Beanie.

I have to admit–I was skeptical about attending the function. Although I wanted to support the charity and meet with representatives from the club, as well as show our gratitude to the therapist and prosthetists that so diligently work with her, it can be difficult and even frustrating to see others who have the same challenges. You see, every family has a story. And every child has her own special circumstances. It can be tough to compare, or rather, NOT to compare the experiences you hear of to those that surround your own child. In the beginning, we wondered, “Will she fight us? Will she want to wear it? Will it be too hard for her to operate?” And when I posed those questions to similar families in the months after her birth, I would inevitably hang up the phone in tears as I processed the conversations about the difficulties that some of the children faced.

Then, we found our charity. We found our answer. We found our hope.

Now, nearly a year and a half later, The Bean wears a myoelectric arm from morning until night, and she uses it well. She can do things that, at the time of her birth, I thought she would never be able to do. She amazes me every day. I could write a book about it. In fact, I already have. But I’ll save that for another day.

So we went to the picnic. And I am SO thankful we went. There were families from near and far, and many had special stories to share. I found some new resources, and I may even have the opportunity to raise awareness for Beanie’s program. Time will tell.

Then today, Ga Ga and Gumpa (as the Bean calls my parents) invited us to the apple orchard. We spent the day picking apples from the trees, taking a hay ride (twice as The Husband snuck on for a second go-around at The Bean’s request), and having fresh doughnuts and apple cider. The kids had a blast, and it was a great way to spend a fall day.

So tomorrow I will head to the grocery store to pick up a few items necessary for baking all things apples. If you are in the neighborhood, swing by and have a slice of pie!