Friday, March 28, 2008

Gustatory Fun and Games

I originally thought that the fact that Gianna is now regularly using a precise and swift pincer grasp to pick up single dog hairs, lint, and the smallest particles known to mankind (anyone? Anyone?) that she would be ready for picking up food and putting it into her mouth. Nursing is obviously no sweat for her, and eating from the spoon of pureed organic goodness that I shove her way is also fairly effortless.

Whole food experiment #1- banana. She likes it as a puree, so she'll perhaps like it as a whole piece of food. While visiting NY, her aunt broke off a piece from her banana, and handed it to her. While Gianna did get the banana to her mouth several times, her aunt likes to eat bananas just as they flip from green to yellow, and so I think the taste was a little too tart. Who knows- I think all bananas are gross. Gianna did find that banana chunks grind nicely into my shirt, and used the banana like sidewalk chalk all over the high chair tray and all over me.

Whole food experiment #2- barley teething biscuits. In general, I try to be as difficult and contrary as possible when it comes to my child. Or so they think. Dear, dear world: my use of cloth diapers and rejection of even the images of bottles has nothing to do with you. Not one thing. So soothe those bruised little emotions, and find something real to be enraged over. In the process of letting my little co-lactivist taste new foods, I had been buying real fruits and veggies and steaming and blending them on my own. This cuts out the Gerber middleman, and I don't have to fear a disgruntled factory worker putting rats or band aids into the grinder. However, I saw a box of teething biscuits, and thought we'd give them a try. Gianna banged it on the high chair and blew on it and looked at me with wide, questioning eyes as if to say, "This isn't the dog's hairbrush. It's also not a zip drive- how am I supposed to want to put it into my mouth?" The biscuit ended up going over the edge of the tray into the dog's eager jaws.

I'm not sure yet what I will try for WFE #3, but it will have to be disguised as a freshly plucked dog whisker for it to even get close to her mouth. Maybe I'll even place the food onto the dog.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Five For Fighting

... is donating money towards autism research and early intervention funding every time THIS VIDEO is viewed. Feel like 4 minutes of autism activism? It's as easy as clicking a button.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fragile Lives, Shattered Dreams

What are we made of? What makes one child grow up to be reasonably functioning, and self-sufficient, and what makes another grow up to be a complete wreck?

By some fortuitous chance (or provincial chance, if you must) each and every teaching job I have had, save some subbing in an upscale high school, has been with kids that we can call "At Risk." "High Risk," even. These are kids who live in poverty and have lived the lives that little punk ghetto wannabes in suburbia think that they wish they were doing. Some of these kids would, in the same breath, tell me about how their cousin "got jacked up, with a knife, and Mrs. Clarateaches, the cops came," and then go on to tell me about their favorite show on the Disney channel. (Rochester, NY- during student teaching). Somehow, these sprouts would come bouncing into my room ready to play, even if they had spent more than two hours that morning kneeling on a concrete floor of their basement as a punishment for God-knows-what (south of Chicago, 2005).

Some of the kids fared worse. My selectively mute Angel-Girl from the Chicago area school faced countless issues, and simply decided to rarely speak. The world could do whatever it wanted to, but it couldn't make her speak unless she absolutely wanted to.

So, you do what you're trained to do, make the reports to the school nurse, social worker, DCFS, and carry on with your day. Have a panic attack on the way home from school and wonder what the hell you are doing in a place that is showing you just how hard it had to have been for your own teachers to make calls about your own fractured life, so many years ago. Then go back and do it all over again. The story ends happily, right? The magical wonderful ways of the Teacher sweep in and save the day, DCFS does their job, and the credits roll. It's all over- right? RIGHT?

Gobs of books and movies have been made about teachers and students and rotten home lives and how just a little hope and encouragement can boost students out of a bad situation. Everyone passes the test, wins the game, goes on to "Just Say No," and the screen fades to black. The collective public sighs a huge sigh of relief, and thanks their lucky stars that all is well. What happens next, though?

External resiliency factors are not to be taken lightly, of course. Supportive adults, community, religious organizations- these are all important in the lives of high risk children. What about the internal resiliency, though? What makes two kids in the same neighborhood, under the same single-mother-working-two-jobs, abusive-rotating-door-of-boyfriends, drugs-and-crime-everywhere circumstances grow up to have two completely different lives? What about the kids in suburbia with the facade going on- two parents, middle-class income, and unspeakable crimes going on behind closed doors- where do they end up? Especially when they are in the same classroom, have the same external resiliency factors, and are given the same opportunities?

The collective society has handed down such a twisted, convaluted message. On one hand, victims have an excuse to perpetuate the cycle of violence in their own lives, because after all, they had horrible things happen to them; and on the other hand, don't ever talk about these things happening. It's just too sad, gross, and terrible, and no one can do anything about it anyways, so can we just change the subject? Please? You can be as disturbed as you want to be, but it's okay, because you're on the Springer show, and it's fun to laugh and be scandalized. Don't worry, we'll add to the insurance kitty; go ahead and take all kinds of drugs. You are the victim, after all. It's easy to cluck our tongues and shake our heads in sorrow when we hear of children on the news suffering acts of crime that would bring an adult to their knees, but then what?

I hold my own baby girl and rock and nurse her to sleep for her nap. In her warm clothes, in her warm house. While I watch her fall asleep, I continue to be haunted by the ghosts of former students. What is my Angel Child doing now, two years later? Is her abusive step-father still in her life? What about my other ones- what are they thinking of when they fall asleep at night? Dear God, did I do enough for them, or did I do enough for me to just get through my day?

Thursday, March 13, 2008


From the moment one becomes pregnant, there are hills to climb. Some of these hills, like finding pants that fit, are pretty easy. Some are straight-up in the air and appear endless, like weeks of prodromal labor that turn into real labor that also lasts forever. Then, ahh. The baby is born, and life continues... be hilly. When the baby arrives, all kinds of hills pop up, and some are full of raging creeks of breastfeeding issues and bracket-y thorn-patches of vaccination decisions, and the occasional student nurse that tries to rip out your Foley catheter without completely deflating the balloon.

It's a sleepless life. For mama and baby. Especially during those times when the baby is going through some sort of developmental leap. Gianna is on the very brink of crawling, and her brain is working so hard, her sleep has taken a giant step backwards. So has mine. I try to think of things in terms of primal necessity- how did this benefit Cave Clara, and Cave Gianna? Perhaps a more awake baby and more awake mama meant that Cave Gianna couldn't all of a sudden put the pieces together and learn to crawl right out of the cave in the middle of the night and hop a mountain lion and disappear into the night.

Outside of cave life, it makes for some interesting days and nights. I swear I saw Yoko Ono drive past me in a Jeep Rubicon today. It's hard to say, though, because I have mentally devolved to somewhere around a mollusk, and have myself a ripping case of aphasia. I tried to have a phone conversation today with my sister about Turbo Tax, and described it as "starry" instead of "easy." At the butcher today, I also accidentally ordered a salmon fillet in the voice I use when talking to Gianna. Which isn't baby-talk, by the way, just higher pitched and super-enunciated. I'm sure I sounded super starry.

I need to just keep putting my feet in front of me. I'm sure sixteen years from now, she will be giving me a whole new level of sleepless nights, so I better savor this while I can. Now to go figure out where the heck I am... this house is kinda nice...

Monday, March 03, 2008

CT Lite

Okay, I've been pushing my agenda quite a bit in recent posts. Time for some fun!

I have some valuable advice that I hope each and every reader takes to heart. Ready?

Never, ever, EVER feed the dog leftover pureed peas. Pureed pees are excellent for the baby, but cause the dog to release toxic, pepper-spray style fumes. Repeatedly. And audibly.

In baby news, Gianna has learned to clap her hands and say, "Ayayayaye!" I don't believe in praising children for every single move they make, but it's too adorable not to join in when she flops herself back to a seated position after some push-ups and claps and grins and says, "Ayayayayaye!" In the march towards mobility, she's been training herself with the determination of a Navy Seal. Her favorite exercise is to use her hands to creep the upper part of her body forward over her legs, and try to flip her feet and legs behind her. I tried it myself, and it's pretty killer. She does this for long stretches of time, and sometimes is successful in scooting a leg or two out from underneath her. This, startling her, causes the whole operation to come to a halt, and Mom has to save the day.

The Brilliant Dogasus has some kind of weird masochism going on. She knows that the baby is working on her pincer grasp, and loves to carefully and precisely pinch small objects between her fingers and yank on them with shocking strength. Yet, she sits very close to the baby, and places her whiskers tantalizingly on the baby's leg, and then rolls her eyes back towards me, and looks pathetic.

"If you don't like it, move," I tell Dogasus. I plant myself beside them, ready to intervene.

"But, I want to smell her," replies the dog. *Snifffff* "She's pulling my whiskers! Tell her 'No!' and put her in a crate." I move Gianna's hand.

Gianna, hand poised for another attack, stares in wide-eyed fascination at the dog, who is missing her chance to move her dang bod. I put my hand over Gianna's, and nudge the dog. "MOVE!"

Sigh. Finally, the dog very slowly inches away from the painful pleasure of the baby pulling out her whiskers and fur, and settles at a safe distance. Only to repeat the same process in about an hour.

Today is a mind-blowing 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so the plan is to go to the fabric store for the makings of Gianna's Spring/Summer wardrobe. I ordered (and quickly received) a cute Finnish sewing magazine with some great patterns, and now I can only pray that I can get enough time to actually do the projects. I think that if I take advantage of naps and Mr. Clarateaches, this may happen!