Thursday, November 27, 2008

blog problems

I follow more blogs than show up ON my blog - and have more people following mine than show up on my blog. They are all in my dashboard, but don't display on my page. Why is this?
Happy Thanksgiving, by the way!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something for which to be Thankful

In the United States, this Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. Along with eating lots of turkey (designated "Fish for a Day" if you're following the Advent Fast), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, lots of food in general, and watching a football game, we're supposed to be thankful for our blessings. For the Pilgrims who first had a harvest feast of thanksgiving, this meant being very, very grateful to God that they were even still alive. For most people nowadays, I think the list of "Things for which to be thankful" tend more towards having family, having friends, and our physical possessions. Health doesn't always make the list, unless you or someone you know has recently recovered from a disease, or dealt with a disability.
I don't know anyone who says, "I am so thankful that I can swallow! I don't have to think about it or anything, I just take a drink and my throat does the rest! Wow!" And so I wanted to share that we have another thing for which to be thankful this Thursday! We had what should be Kittyboy's LAST EVER video swallow study today, and he is totally approved for thin liquids now! He can drink anything he wants without any thickener added whatsoever. He wouldn't cooperate with trying out an open cup, because he was getting hungry and impatient, but Joan, the speech therapist doing the testing, said that's the next step. When he's in a cooperative mood, we can offer him a little medicine cup or little paper cup with something he likes drinking, and let him figure it out on his own.
And we're also thankful that Joan was the SLT on duty at St. John's today, so that she could officially see him off! She was the one who got him started on bottles in the NICU when he was something like three pounds or so. She taught us how to mix and thicken his formula, how to prop him on his side, pace his breathing, watch his color, pound his back when he'd quit breathing, which invariably happened at least once a feeding, and all the complicated things that went into just giving our son a bottle back then. So it was really special that today she got to see him as a big, strong, capable toddler, drinking normal milk through a straw, without needing any accomodations whatsoever.
Add "the ability to swallow safely" to your list of things for which to be thankful. You probably never think about how your tongue, jaw, throat muscles, and epiglottis work together to keep liquid out of your airway and sinuses. You can drink from any bottle, can or jar, without having to put it in a special cup, without having to add anything to make it safer. Next time you're in a store and feel thirsty, be thankful that you can drink from a water fountain as if it's nothing. No one thinks of it, because it's so basic, but every purse I own has at least one packet of thickener in it somewhere, and we always had cups with us, because if we were out somewhere and he was thirsty, we HAD to have something in which to mix, and a straw for him to drink. Water fountains weren't an option. There WERE no options, without thickener and a straw.
At my parents' house, there is a huge container of over-the-counter thickener because on our first Thanksgiving weekend after Kittyboy came home, the unthinkable happened, and we ran out of packets. No thickener, no bottle for the baby.
THAT Thanksgiving, we were thankful for an open Walmart pharmacy that had thickener in stock, because the other option was driving two and a half hours home with him crying to be fed. THIS Thanksgiving, we are thankful that THOSE days are over.
God is good!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Toddler Tantrums, Sleeping, and Sensory Processing

What possesses a child to throw himself down screaming because his mother offered him a snack when he didn't want one? What a TEMPER.
Admittedly, I had just tried to put Kittyboy down for a nap (which I thought he needed, because his temper was a bit over the top), and that hadn't gone well, and it had ended in him screaming nonstop while pounding on his door. THAT means the napping attempt is over. And after that, it had taken 5-10 minutes of holding him very tightly compressed on my lap, folded up sort of, saying, "Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down," while the shrieking subsided to sobbing, and then he started trying to catch his breath between sobs, and then there were about equal amounts of sobbing and gasping, and so on. After he seemed pretty much done, I offered him a snack. He then collapsed to the floor and cried nonstop for another ten minutes or so, then on and off for another ten. I thought he was going to cry himself to sleep on the floor, in which case I'd have let him stay there. He didn't. He eventually decided that his tantrum wasn't worth the bother, since it wasn't getting a reaction. But almost half an hour's worth?
And we're supposed to keep in mind that "children with sensory processing issues can be more easily distressed," more violent WHEN distressed, blah blah blah. Holding him all folded up tightly does calm him down, the deep sensory input. But that doesn't mean the tantrum started from something actually bothering him, so much as just His Will Being Contradicted. I do think the sensory issues may make it more difficult for him to calm down after working himself up, but he does also have a Temper to end all Tempers. I wish there were some way to separate the two - to know when it's a tantrum to be ignored versus when he's worked up enough that he needs outside help to get it together again. I think I'll just keep drawing the line at "Is he stopping to breathe or not?"
And then there are still the unhappy wakeups. I may have found ways to mitigate those, OR I may just be grasping at whatever illogical, inconsequential little thing I find, in the manner of throwing virgins down the volcano and thinking that's what keeps the Fire God from obliterating the island. Continuous shhhhing, rubbing back, while not speaking or touching him or covers in any other way - good. Appears to soothe and calm after a few minutes time. Speaking to him, moving him, making eye contact, or rearranging covers in any way - bad. Speaking to him WHILE making eye contact, taking his covers off and sitting him up all at the same time - disaster. I believe this to by why he used to be SO upset sometimes and whatever I did seemed to make it worse, because of course what I would do is pull off his blankets, pick him up, talk to him, etc, exactly how you are supposed to console a baby. Then I noticed one time that eye contact seemed to distress him more, and then another time that taking his blanket off intensified the crying. So now I've got this list, should he ever take a nap while being babysat and wake up crying - say nothing apart from shushing, and that as rhythmically and soothingly as possible, rub back the same way, don't touch him otherwise even if he's laying awkwardly, don't move blankets, and if he's facing you, don't LOOK at him. And basically, wait for him to stop crying. start moving around, and get up from the bed on his own timetable. There is a sort of logic, taking into account that trouble with sensory processing can make waking up distressing, that perhaps limiting any change or input other than that which is necessary to let him know he is safe really is the way to go. But it's so counter-intuitive!
So the temper and tantrums are worse - the waking up is starting to go more smoothly - I don't know that that's a satisfactory trade-off, but such is the state of things.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"EU decides it has better things to do than ban unattractive produce",8599,1859905,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-healthsci?iid=perma_share
Or at least, that's how the headline SHOULD read. This article is so funny.
I had no idea - did anyone else? - that there are guidelines governing what produce can look like. I just figured the companies growing the food had some special way of regulating how their produce looked - like how apples from the "organic" section might have a bee-sting or two, but you're supposed to wash off ones that AREN'T organic before eating them. I just figured it was one of those trade-offs. I had no idea that in Europe at least, 20% of produce was just thrown away for being funny shaped or the wrong shade of green. Throwing away perfectly good carrots because they grew goofy. That's just beyond me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Knitting, Crocheting... and Toddlers

I am showing my son, not yet two years old, to crochet and knit on a loom. Just hand-over-hand, we do a stitch and then he celebrates by jumping up and down and running off to do something else. And yes, there is a method to my madness.
I read an article in Guideposts Magazine about Ty Pennington, the guy who does Extreme Makeover Home Edition, where he talked about having severe ADHD and how he coped with it. Apparently the frenetic, hyperactive personality I see in the ads for the show (I've never actually watched it) is HIM. He is like that ALL THE TIME. That's just the way he is. As you can imagine, he ran his mother ragged. One day she sent him outside to run around, and he decided he was going to build a treehouse. But not just ANY treehouse, it was going to be the biggest and bestest treehouse EVER!! And he actually did, at the age of ten or twelve or so, both design and BUILD a very complex treehouse, when no one thought he had the focus or ability to do it.
I personally love to have something in my hands at all times. Watching television, visiting family, sitting at Bible Study, I crochet. Or now that I have a knitting loom, knit. And I've often wondered how different classrooms would be if instead of medicating children who won't/can't sit still, the teacher gave them a ball of string and a crochet hook. Cheaper, much more constructive, teaches a skill, no side effects. I really do believe that a LOT of children simply need to move, and 100 years ago when they were running outside and climbing trees during recess, this was not so much a problem. No one started talking about ADHD, SPD, all of that, until the 70s. Part of that is, they didn't have names for them - you just couldn't sit still, or you were just eccentric. But part of it also is that kids with a Need To Move got to MOVE. Now they have less recess, less gym, sometimes NO gym in the higher grades. No wonder Sammy just can't sit still. I wish I had video of Kittyboy in church with no trampoline, swing, etc beforehand, and in church when he's gotten plenty of movement already. Different kid.
Well, I got a knitting loom last night, and was playing around with it this morning. I dropped a stitch, so I took it all off, and Kittyboy sat down to play with the loom. But instead of just waving it around or running his fingers between the pegs, he put it upright in his lap, draped yarn over it, moved the yarn around a little, and then poked at it with the hook. Then he moved the yarn around some more, then poked it with the hook again. What the heck - why not! You can teach any simple thing if you do it enough with their hands in yours!
I'm going to get him his own crochet hook, K size or bigger, and a tiny little loom with maybe six pegs or so and a plastic hook for that. Then, instead of having to keep him off of me when I'm working, he can just take a turn on his own "project". And it only takes a stitch or two before his desire to "help" is satisfied, and he goes off to do something else.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

UIS Sustainability Forum

Leave it to college students to be struggling with the task of defining what it means to "live within your means". That was funny. They actually may not have heard the phrase before. Um.... it means actually saving up for that iPod, laptop, etc. instead of putting it on the credit card!
Okay, #1 - no one, apparently, understands how capitalism WORKS. It does work. It is quite simply the exchange of money for goods and services. There is nothing inherently wrong with profit. It's how people make a living. If someone has a business selling clothing, and sells it for simply the cost of the fabric, thread, etc, then they have no way to keep their business afloat, let alone feed, clothe, and house themselves and their family. There has to be a profit, or they go out of business. Capitalism is not evil, any more than a knife or gun. A gun can be used in a drive-by or to take what isn't yours, or used for self-protection and obtaining food. A gun is an instrument. Capitalism is a system. Nothing more.
#2, It does no good to complain about business practices you think are wrong, if you also think that "Oh, no one can do anything, I can't do anything, it's just the way things are." Capitalism runs on money! OUR money! And WE decide, not anyone else, where our money goes. I vote with my pocketbook every time I see a commercial that rubs me the wrong way and decide that I'm not buying that product (I've done that for about as long as I've been watching commercials). If money runs the economy, which it does, then YOUR money is YOUR power. I am exercising my power as a consumer every time I go to Food Fantasies (tiny little health-food store), Country Market (tiny little local grocery), or the Farmer's Market in the summer, instead of going to a chain grocery, because when I can afford it, which is not always, I ask myself what business actually needs my money. It really is as simple as that. CAPITALISM WORKS! Just ask Kmart. I forget how long ago, I believe it was during my lifetime, they invested in companies connected to pornography. THEY CLOSED STORES because people boycotted. They lost a LOT of money. Capitalism works.
And my gosh, the next person who whines, "Oh, but people won't do this, and people won't do that, and wah wah wah, no one's doing anything," needs a boot to the head. WE are people. YOU are people. One student stood up and asked, rhetorically I believe, "Who here has actually grown their own food?" like that's just unimaginable. Don and I both raised our hands! My garden was not terribly successful this year, but it will be next year. Don and Carey's garden is HUGE, their entire pantry is full of jars. And making our own clothes is another thing that was mentioned as if it were unthinkable. The clothes I've made myself might not be all that well-designed, but if I have to, I can. Skirts are easiest, but I've made shirts. And I'M people! One person doesn't change much, but NO people change NOTHING. I mean, DUH! Change is brought about by one person - plus one person - plus one person - and so on and so forth. It's not about the government having to legislate anything (a government of which we all are constituents), it's about one person and one person and one person times thousands just deciding to live differently.
I've never felt like such an optimist! And I'm NOT an optimist by nature, but I am by contrast to most of the students there.
It was very funny, that at the end of the forum, after Don getting up and talking about Food Not Lawns and pointing out (in a room full of mainly dorm-dwellers) that we're working on putting together people who have land with people who don't (Bill and his square of beans in our yard), we gave away exactly three pamphlets. One went to a faculty member. One guy did stop and talk to us, though, about edible weeds, so that was cool. Hopefully we see him again! After all, that's one person...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Best of Times - The Worst of Times

The happy thing first - I've been taking surveys on, and about a month ago, one of them asked whether I'd be interested in testing a new product. I said sure, then forgot about it completely. Well, yesterday afternoon, what should show up at my door but a package of diapers! Free diapers always make my day!
But now the sad thing. Husband's schedule this last week has been 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Now, I thought the 8:30-5:30 one week and noon-9 the next, back and forth, was bad enough, because sometimes he was home when Kittyboy went to sleep and sometimes he wasn't. Well, there's something worse, and that's having Daddy already gone when he wakes up. We have this tradition, that I didn't realize was REALLY a tradition until this morning, of him cuddling in bed with us when he wakes up. Monday and yesterday, he was okay with he and I just getting up and starting the day, but this morning he decided enough was enough. He pounded on his door, and when I went to let him out, he ran right over to ours and stood waiting. I opened our door, and he fairly RAN over to our bed. Of course, the covers were all heaped up on the other side of the bed, and he scrambled up and pointed! It must be Daddy! And he crawled right over to the blankets and started throwing them every which way, while I was telling him that Daddy was already at work, and wasn't in bed...
After all the blankets were gone, he sat where his daddy should have been, with the saddest look on his face. Then he looked under the pillows, and when Daddy wasn't even hiding THERE, I thought he was going to cry! I thought we BOTH were going to cry! He wasn't tearing up, but he made the most heartbreaking sounds of disappointment you've ever heard.
And we have two more days of this schedule yet to go.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Day for Veterans

My favorite poet for most subjects is Robert Service. He has such an abundance of poems on the subjects of war, soldiers, veterans, and "duty to country in war" (Wikipedia) that it's hard to choose the best, but these two are my favorites.
The Bard of the Yukon, on Veteran's Day.

Victory Stuff
Robert Service
What d’ye think, lad; what d’ye think,
As the roaring crowds go by?
As the banners flare and the brasses blare
And the great guns rend the sky?
As the women laugh like they’d all gone mad,
And the champagne glasses clink:
Oh, you’re grippin’ me hand so tightly, lad,
I’m a-wonderin’: what d’ye think?
D’ye think o’ the boys we used to know,
And how they’d have topped the fun?
Tom and Charlie, and Jack and Joe—
Gone now, every one.
How they’d have cheered as the joy-bells chime,
And they grabbed each girl for a kiss!
And now—they’re rottin’ in Flanders slime,
And they gave their lives—for this.
Or else d’ye think of the many a time
We wished we too was dead,
Up to our knees in the freezin’ grime,
With the fires of hell overhead;
When the youth and the strength of us sapped away,
And we cursed in our rage and pain?
And yet—we haven’t a word to say. . . .
We’re glad. We’d do it again.
I’m scared that they pity us. Come, old boy,
Let’s leave them their flags and their fuss.
We’d surely be hatin’ to spoil their joy
With the sight of such wrecks as us.
Let’s slip away quietly, you and me,
And we’ll talk of our chums out there:
You with your eyes that’ll never see,
Me that’s wheeled in a chair.

The March Of The Dead
Robert Service
The cruel war was over—oh, the triumph was so sweet!
We watched the troops returning, through our tears;
There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet glittering street,
And you scarce could hear the music for the cheers.
And you scarce could see the house-tops for the flags that flew between;
The bells were pealing madly to the sky;
And everyone was shouting for the Soldiers of the Queen,
And the glory of an age was passing by.
And then there came a shadow, swift and sudden, dark and drear;
The bells were silent, not an echo stirred.
The flags were drooping sullenly, the men forgot to cheer;
We waited, and we never spoke a word.
The sky grew darker, darker, till from out the gloomy rack
There came a voice that checked the heart with dread:
“Tear down, tear down your bunting now, and hang up sable black;
They are coming—it’s the Army of the Dead.”
They were coming, they were coming, gaunt and ghastly, sad and slow;
They were coming, all the crimson wrecks of pride;
With faces seared, and cheeks red smeared, and haunting eyes of woe,
And clotted holes the khaki couldn’t hide.
Oh, the clammy brow of anguish! the livid, foam-flecked lips!
The reeling ranks of ruin swept along!
The limb that trailed, the hand that failed, the bloody finger tips!
And oh, the dreary rhythm of their song!
“They left us on the veldt-side, but we felt we couldn’t stop
On this, our England’s crowning festal day;
We’re the men of Magersfontein, we’re the men of Spion Kop,
Colenso—we’re the men who had to pay.
We’re the men who paid the blood-price. Shall the grave be all our gain?
You owe us. Long and heavy is the score.
Then cheer us for our glory now, and cheer us for our pain,
And cheer us as ye never cheered before.”
The folks were white and stricken, and each tongue seemed weighted with lead;
Each heart was clutched in hollow hand of ice;
And every eye was staring at the horror of the dead,
The pity of the men who paid the price.
They were come, were come to mock us, in the first flush of our peace;
Through writhing lips their teeth were all agleam;
They were coming in their thousands—oh, would they never cease!
I closed my eyes, and then—it was a dream.
There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet gleaming street;
The town was mad; a man was like a boy.
A thousand flags were flaming where the sky and city meet;
A thousand bells were thundering the joy.
There was music, mirth and sunshine; but some eyes shone with regret;
And while we stun with cheers our homing braves,
O God, in Thy great mercy, let us nevermore forget
The graves they left behind, the bitter graves.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Musings

I have a lovely, happy pink geranium in my window now, to the right of the computer monitor. I made a plant hanger and had a nail put in the window frame for it and everything, because while it's true my big window with shelves is pretty well taken up, the family room window does have room to hang things. And this is a very pretty plant. Apparently the reason my last one died is that they NEED sun, and my last one was on a shelf across the room. And I was warned by its Freecycling former owner that they do die back somewhat during winter, but come back in force in the spring. I must say, it is pleasant and relaxing to look up from the computer and see growing things - my geranium has two big blooms and many more buds to open, an ivy that was sorely neglected is perking up with sun and water (amazing what a difference those two make!), aloe is thriving on sun and NO water, and the crown-of-thorns is blooming with tiny red flowers like miniature poppies. And those are all framing the monitor - philodendrony things and a jade plant are on the other side of the room.
Regardless of the state of my house, my plants are happy!
Terri-the-Feeding-therapist has given her blessing to try Kittyboy with straight water - as in, turn on the tap, hand him the cup. Exciting and thrilling, and brings to my mind visions of a thickener-less future. Once upon a time, we would just drop a whole box of a hundred or so packets in our trunk when we went on a trip, because to pack too few would have been a true emergency. Out of thickener, baby can't drink - period. The trip this past weekend, by contrast, I think I tossed maybe 8 packets in the diaper bag, because we've been using one for not ever four ounces, as it used to be, but every sixteen, and if I had run out, he could have drank anything carbonated without a problem. The carbonation "wakes up" his mouth and throat. Next week when Terri comes for her November visit, I anticipate we'll be talking swallow study. A swallow study, also called a video swallow, is where they put him in a special high chair in front of an x-ray machine, and take x-ray video of him swallowing liquids with barium in them. The barium shows up on the x-ray, and they can watch where it goes, and see if it leaks into his airway even temorarily in the process of swallowing. That's his whole problem, that his epiglottis hadn't been protecting his airway fast enough. I'm really, really confident that the next swallow study (before Christmas, please?) will give us the green light to quit thickening permenantly. Maybe not to let him use a regular sippy cup (the head-down position he has when drinking through a straw helps protect his airway), but no thickener at all would be a happy Christmas present.
I have three projects in the works for my Etsy store. This afternoon I'm going to have Husband busy taking pictures of what's completed so that I can post them. I've crocheted several pot-holders and have two scarves and another pot-holder in progress. My only problem is convincing myself that they're good enough to actually be SOLD. I get compliments aplenty from friends and family, but what will a stranger think?
I love my Pandora station. I started it with Flogging Molly's "Drunken Lullabies", got wonderful Celtic punk music for a while, then started getting some wussly stuff. Not a fan of the Irish Rovers. They're okay sometimes, but not to follow Dropkick Murphys. It was musical whiplash. I added Metallica's "Whiskey in the Jar" and Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" and then Pandora got the right idea. That station doesn't take much tweaking. My bluegrass station, on the other hand (bluegrass NOT COUNTRY), is almost more trouble than it's worth. The really corny stuff, I don't like. The slow sad stuff, I don't like. I thumbs-upped one acapella gospel song and got inundated with Dolly Parton, all of which I gave thumbs down, and now it's very confused. It doesn't know WHAT I want. Listing songs from the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack helped somewhat but not entirely. I need to find the soundtrack and list as seed groups the people who did the songs I like, because apparently a lot of the songs in it are bluegrass/folk standards. At least half a dozen people have recorded "Man of Constant Sorrow"!
Ah well, I should start on lunch. Kittyboy won't nap forever. And a hungry toddler is not a happy toddler.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A New Sign

This morning in church, I got a humbling, amazing, wonderful surprise. We have been helping our son, hand over hand, to make the sign of the cross since the day he came home from the hospital (literally, because there was a church service we went to the evening of the day he came home). He's gotten to where he will lift his hand to his head if you tell him to cross himself, but nothing further, and of course you don't expect someone not yet two to know when to do that during the service WITHOUT prompting.
This morning, however, when Father said "Thoxa Patri ke Io ke Ayiou Pnevmati" (Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, in Greek) Kittyboy immediately looked up from his book and moved his hand from his forehead to his waist, twice. He did it again the next time. And the next. And for even more shock value, he did it when Father said that in English, too. He even did it a couple times at other points where you're supposed to cross yourself that aren't as obvious - the benefit of a service that repeats things again and again. So he IS already aware somewhat of the pattern of what happens when. Father says this, this, and this, and then we do THIS.
On the one hand, he's been in church almost every Sunday since he was three months old, and of course the basic service never changes - on the other hand, he's not yet two. NOT - YET - TWO.
So not only does he have the up-down part covered, he knows when we do it! All we have to teach him now is the right-left. It IS a rather complicated sign when most baby-signs are one motion.
What a very aware little boy we have. This is the latest in a long list of things inspiring awe and gratitude:
He couldn't drink without thickener when he came home, but has taken Communion all this time without any issues whatsoever.
Church was the first place he slept happily and without trouble - and sometimes even without weight on top of him.
Church was the first place he would be quietly and calmly awake (when he first came home, THE ONLY place - many Sundays I wanted to move into the basement).
It was also the first place he signed something spontaneously - "More".
And icons are his friends. He waves hello at them.
Sometime last year, a visiting priest's wife complimented me on how quiet my baby was in church. Without going into details about how NOT-quiet and UN-calm he was at home, I just said that church was always where he was most relaxed, and she said without hesitation, "That is because he feels the angels!"
Never underestimate the ability of children to comprehend, experience and appreciate that which is unseen. They know far more than we do.

Of Sleepovers and Train Rides

We had a loooong weekend - and it started Thursday!
Thursday, Husband drove us to Bartonville for my mom to pick us up and take us back to my parents' house. Kittyboy, car seat, play pen for sleeping, and stuff for a three-day visit. We would be at their house Thursday, leave on the train Friday for the suburbs to visit cousins and come back that night, and then Saturday Husband would drive up to bring us back. LONG weekend.
Went well, of course - my sister and brother, Auntie K and Uncle S, were thrilled to see their little nephew. And he was thrilled to have his entourage following him from room to room! All went well until it came time to sleep - it took him some time crying first. To be expected, it's a different place, different bed, and no daddy. But then at 10:30, he woke up again - wide awake! NOT going back to sleep! He ran laps of the dining room, he rocked in the rocking chair, he ran some more laps. I took him into MY bed, he would sit quietly until it became apparent that I wasn't going to amuse him, and then he got down to play again. This lasted about an hour before I got the idea of making him his own bed on the floor - he hadn't slept in the playpen since he was still in his crib, so maybe that was part of the problem. Mommy, that's not my bed! I'm a BIG boy! So I folded up blankets and sleeping bags, made a bed, and wrapped him up in a sheet like he's used to. This was followed by crying from him and shushing from me and my mom, and by about midnight, he was asleep enough that she could leave the room and I could lay down. What a night.
The next morning, we got on a train for our First Train Ride Ever. He's barely even SEEN trains, but for one time a month and a half ago that we were at my parents' house (they live two blocks from tracks) and a train went by. Uncle Yan and I pointed at it and signed Train again and again until Kittyboy did it too. But since then, I hadn't talked much about trains or the fact that we'd be riding on one, and the couple trains we'd seen since had been when we were in the car and I couldn't sign. So Friday morning, we were in the train as it was pulling away, and I said "Look, the train's moving now!" and he signed Train!!! He HAD put it together! The thing we were in was the same as the long, slow freight he'd watched a month and a half prior. He is so smart! And he was a very good traveler. I had overpacked my two bags and next time, I know I don't need as much. Just a couple books and his clunky wooden rosary around his neck. He finally has his own children's rosary - mine has been VERY well-loved, and now can be restrung and put up. I surprised him with his on the train, and he was very happy with how bright the colors are! (It hasn't been rained on or sun-bleached... yet). So he had a bright new version of one of his favorite security objects, and very fast scenery going by outside, and "Hop On Pop" to be read over and over and over and over, and that was pretty much all we needed!
My grandparents picked us up, and we had a wonderful visit. His cousins were very happy to see him, and I got to snuggle his cousin JT, who is just 11 months old and SOO precious. He and Kittyboy got along okay, minus some tugs-of-war over that bright and colorful rosary (I think Kittyboy will get him one for Christmas), and so long as I was not physically holding JT. That was Verboten, by order of Kittyboy. We'll be spending a LOT of time with younger babies, and me holding younger babies in his presence, before we have another. The first time I was holding JT in my lap on the floor, my son came up making distressed noises, grabbed his cousin by his shoulders and head, and tried to pull him out of my lap! I told him no and made him let go, and he grabbed my arms to try and pull ME away. It ended up with JT in his mommy's lap crying, and Kittyboy in mine making distressed noises every time his cousin cried. He didn't MEAN to make the baby cry, but I am HIS mommy after all, and it just wasn't fair for me to hold another baby, and couldn't JT understand that?! - is what he was thinking. It was sad. Apparently Kittyboy is quite jealous, and we'll have to work on that. He had a blast, though, watching his girl cousins run around and around and around from the kitchen to the hallway to the livingroom and back. First he was chasing them, then they were chasing him, then he decided they were just too silly for him and came and sat down with me to watch them. It was absolutely hysterical, because he would hear their voices coming closer and fall over laughing before they even came into the room. Their mother and I were laughing so hard, I was crying. It was a blast. When we were leaving, I picked up JT for a goodbye hug, Kittyboy saw that from across the room, and came trotting over making distressed noises again. I gave JT to his mommy and cuddled my boy, and told him that HE is my little boy and nothing changes that, but Mommy can hold other babies too! We've got our work cut out for us before we have another.
He zonked out in my grandparents' car on the way to the train station, and slept from there until our stop. Close to thirty pounds of dead weight on me for an hour and a half. My legs were sore - my back was aching - my arms were DEAD. But at least he slept well that night.
Saturday morning after breakfast, he grabbed his coat, handed it to me, and went to look out the window, so we thought he wanted to go out and play. After the whole long, involved process of getting him ready, his uncle took him out and they came back in again shortly after. All they had done was walk around the car while Kittyboy pulled at the door handles. Methinks he was requesting to go home! He communicates very, very well for not talking. (And his babbling sounds more varied and conversational every day.)
He was sooooooo happy when his daddy came through the door! And this morning, SO happy to wake in his own bed!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Washing Hair Without Shampoo!!

I read about this online, tried it, and now have a lot of shampoo to get rid of!!! It's, like, the one thing that's gone right this week.
You remember those papermache volcanos everyone makes in gradeschool, with the baking soda and vinegar? I bet you didn't know you were concocting a solution with which to wash hair.
The recipe, roughly, is about a tablespoon each of soda and vinegar, let the bubbles die down, add a cup of really warm water from your shower, and pour it on your head, treating it like shampoo. Obviously, you use more than a tablespoon if you have hair like mine. Rinse it out, then pour vinegar over your hair, down to the ends. That's the conditioner.
The idea is that the baking soda/vinegar mixture lifts off dirt, without messing with your scalp's natural oil. The acidity in the vinegar conditioner then seals the hair, helping to fight split ends.
My hair is both my vanity and my enemy. I only wash it once a week, because it takes half a week for it to not be a gigantic mess. About the time it looks and feels like hair, it's time to wash again. Doesn't matter what shampoo I use, anytime I'm getting ready for a special event or something where I want my hair to look NICE, I plan on washing it about three days beforehand. I joked quite regularly about shaving it - one day, the ONLY reason I didn't is that when I had chicken pox, my mom warned me repeatedly that if I scratched, I would have pock marks, so I restricted my scratching to my scalp, because my hair is more than thick enough that no one will ever see. I can only imagine the moonscape that would be uncovered if I shaved it off. I love having my hair long, I love braiding it and stuff, but out of braids it's a mess. Ordinarily, it's either really dry, or heavy and oily. Either way, it's not good. And I have had dandruff since hitting puberty - not the little flakes that fall out, the big thick flaking discs that cling in the hair and won't move.
So last Saturday, I took the soda-vinegar plunge. Risky, I know, because Sunday morning I have to beat it into submission for church. To my astonishment, Sunday morning my hair was... hair. It was brushable, it laid down nicely, I spent the whole day just running my fingers through it, flipping it around, having the time of my life with the fact that this thick, matted mane was behaving. I have had "good hair days" since!!! No more shampoo for me!!! I don't even have the dandruff I used to, I brushed out a bunch of the tiny little flakes Sunday afternoon and now have nothing. Apparently the presence of ANY flakes means that for my scalp, I need to have more vinegar than soda in the mixture, because everyone's pH is different and if the mix is too alkaline, you can have flakes - but if it's just the tiny stuff I can brush out the next day, that's pretty much NOTHING considering what I've put up with for so many years now.
I am SOOOO loving my hair now! EVERYONE should try this, seriously. Do it!!

On Race and Politics

Mr. President-Elect - we seriously do not care what color you are. We didn't vote against you because you're "black" (which you're not, you're biracial), we voted against you because we disagreed with you. Give us the dignity of being citizens who honestly and seriously disagree with your politics, rather than writing us off as racist rednecks who voted "white". We didn't vote white. We voted Republican. It was not a racial victory. It was a Democratic victory.
If you want to actually act presidential, start by getting over your melanin.

Counting Blessings

1. The United States Presidency carries a limit of two terms. (The Governor's office, in Illinois, has no such luck.)
2. Not even Clinton could screw up TOO badly (then again, he was easily distracted...)
3. OBAMA DID NOT WIN BY A LANDSLIDE. He got a landslide of the electoral college, but take it from someone stuck in the People's Republic of Chicago - in real terms, than means nothing. If he is as intelligent as everyone believes him to be, he will humbly take that into account and bear in mind the 46% of people he has to win over. Not 27% - that's the electoral college. I'm talking people who actually voted at polling places.
5. I can say I voted my conscience. Thanks to Illinois, my vote was NOT meaningful, but at least I did not vote for someone whose beliefs personally sicken me.
6. For the most part, we can safely ignore him and keep living our lives as we see fit. My friend Carey's Election Day post was reassuring. We may disagree on whether there ARE differences between the candidates, but she reminded me that whatever happens, we can keep making a difference. We can keep working in our own communities to create the world we want to live in - no matter WHO is in office. Thank you, Carey!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have you thanked your election judge today?

I baked brownies for ours! It's become a tradition, I always take them something. After all, they're right across the street, they have to be up REALLY early, and they've got to spend most of the day bored out of their minds.
This morning, there was a whole row of signs at the hundred-foot mark, which there always is, because that's kind of standard. This afternoon, after we got our free Starbucks coffee for voting, all the signs were down. I thought it was weird for someone to take them when there were still a few hours left, then I saw them in the ditch. All of them. Rather ticked me off, because someone went to all the trouble of putting them up, and someone else had childishly thrown them in the ditch. So I went and grabbed out one of everybody who was running for anything, and started putting them back up on the other side of the road. It's the principle of the thing! I had them far enough over, I KNEW it had to be over a hundred feet away, and I thought the prankster might be slightly more reluctant to grab them off of what would look like private property. Then a neighbor came out to tell me she thought the minister, of all people, was the one who threw them in the ditch. I asked, didn't all the signs pretty much go with the territory of being a polling place, and she said yes! They ARE supposed to be there! So I just scooted them all over far enough they WERE on our property and not the church's, so if it was the minister, he couldn't complain. This lady even knew who all the people were, which I didn't. One guy, I forget who, his dad used to be the mayor way back when. Another one is running for office from Iraq (Recorder or Clerk or something). Pretty cool.
We're not watching a THING this evening except epidodes of TV shows we've saved up for just this night. I'll find out who won in the morning.
I dream of one day living in a world where my vote really DOES count... But for that, we would have to get rid of the electoral college system. Until then, living in the Grand Ol' PRC (People's Republic of Chicago), my vote means jack squat. But hey, I can dream.

So, I've voted!

I want a Sarahcuda t-shirt!
I also put up signs in my yard (we're right across from our polling place), because MY candidates had no signs whatsoever among the many, many other signs along the drive. For that matter, there were no signs for EITHER presidential candidate. Next year, I'm just going to assume that my favorites are under-endorsed and have signs ready the night before. Posterboard, Sharpies, and tomato stakes from my garden!

I pick my battles, because really, everything's fixable. The economy can be fixed - we've weathered worse. The environment can be fixed - even the Exxon Valdez spill was cleaned up with enough time and effort. Corrupt politicians come and go - even Blagojovich has to leave office eventually (he'll probably quit once the state's too broke to pay him).
Only thing that's not fixable is death. That can't be reversed. Forget the fact that Obama thinks anyone who is religious or hunts is just a bitter, misinformed hick (yup, I'm a bitter, misinformed hick!). He doesn't even think a baby alive outside the womb deserves to live if the mother's original INTENT was to abort it. Asked when he thought life began, he said he's not paid enough to decide that - so I guess he errs on the side of infanticide. Better dead than alive and inconveniancing someone.
So remind me why it is I can't kill people who inconvenience ME? I mean, apart from the whole "murder being wrong" thing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

His First Nosebleed

This morning was an adventure. First, we decided that rather than change our clocks, we would just go to Orthros, the first service, in addition to the Liturgy which is all we've made it to since Kittyboy came home. This WAS on purpose, because Fr. Anthony also (just this week) changed Orthros from 9 to 9:30, and Liturgy from 10 to 10:30, so we figured this was a good time to start going to Orthros again - this morning, our unchanged clocks said we had an extra half hour, and next week we'll be striving to get out the door only half an hour earlier than we have been for the past 9 months or so.
It does mean twice as much sitting quietly for Kittyboy though. That might not have been too much of a problem except that his internal clock had NOT changed, and so half an hour into the Liturgy, he thought it was nap-time, and was very cranky. I had the "bright" idea of taking the cranky (because he was SLEEPY) toddler outside to run around. We should not run when sleepy. We stumble and trip. And the toddler took a dive and a little skid on his nose and upper lip.
It was VERY UNHAPPY. He'd scraped his nose, peeled some skin off his lip, and shortly afterwards got his first ever nosebleed. AND he was bleeding from inside his mouth. VERY UNHAPPY.
I wasted a good bit of time trying to staunch the flow, except that he wanted nothing near his injured nose and mouth. He wanted his head back, I wanted it forward to keep the blood out of his sinuses, throat, etc. Husband and another acolyte came down to find out what was wrong. It was very dramatic, blood all down my sleeve and arm, many bloodied napkins, child screaming. I gave up on cleaning and keeping his head down because it was just making him more upset, and I figured the longer he was worked up, the longer he'd keep bleeding. Amazingly there is no blood on his clothing, or my skirt, only my shirt which was kind of blood-colored to begin with, so it shouldn't show, and we even managed to avoid staining his daddy's robe. We cleaned his face off the rest of the way once he'd been happy for a while and it had all dried. He looks like a boxer now - his nose is red all the way up to the bridge, and his lip is swollen. On our way to our car, Husband could follow our blood-trail to where the fall happened.
Kittyboy, Sidewalk Warrior!