Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Do your kid art days look like this?

We're having a lovely time away with family, but I haven't hooked up my camera yet, so here's a couple of photos from late last week to tide us all over.  And I do wonder, is this what everyone's kid's art sessions look like?  Do they?

Because it's kinda messy.

And apparently we have to bathe in the kitchen sink afterwards.  She was playing in here for, I kid you not, 50 minutes Thursday.  And over an hour Friday.

Interpretive sink dance.

All of which means I'm some kind of super-Mum, right?  Right?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hard Work: thinking about the nature of care and parenting

Parenting can be hard labour.  I'm feeling that particularly after my alone-time week as a the only present parent to a three year old, a high needs disabled 12 year old, and a teenager.  With DinnerDad sampling the joys of London, Copenhagen and Milan (care of work), I had the Snail during our regular custody week all on my lonesome.  I've done this once before, last month, while our kitchen was installed (fun!).  Other than that, most of DinnerDad's work trips are in "non-kid" weeks, so it's just Lolly, me, (and sometimes, Smash).  So, a week as the only carer for 3 kids, 2 who are still high dependency, has got me thinking about the nature of care, and what parenting is like, and a whole lot of deep shit stuff.

I don't pretend that one week here and there gives me any insight into being a sole parent, because a) my week "on" with Snail and Smash was finished today when they head to school (and after school, to their mother's), and b) DinnerDad is coming back next week, so it's finite.  But I do wanna pause to say - holy crap that was a lot of work!

The Snail
I think it's a combination of two things.  The sheer physical labour of it all: Snail needs pretty much total care, she needs someone to feed her, dress her, transfer her from her chair to the floor/couch/bed etc, bathe her (including getting her into and out of the bath, drying her, cleaning her teeth, dressing her etc etc), change her bum, wipe her face, hold her cup, pull up her blankets, get her in and out of the car, and so on and so forth ad infinituum.  Lolly is getting pretty independent, but is still in the "get me snacks and drinks" and "help me get dressed" stage, and as I've mentioned before, she's not toileting yet (I think this is at least partly because Snail is still in nappies) so there's changing and wiping involved there, too.

Its just tiring, being IT.  Knowing if you don't do it, no one will.  And then your kids will be dirty, unfed and freeze to death (or something).  On this point, having a Snail is very hard (readers with disabled kids will be agreeing right now).  She's heavy.  She doesn't help at all much.  The worse she gets with seizures and meds, the less she can support her own weight, or walk assisted (and I mean, you stand right behind her taking a lot of her weight, and get her legs going by sheer momentuum, guiding them with your own legs if you have to), or transfer into and out of her chair, or bend her knees to sit down, or help you at all when you're changing her bum (like physically having to drag a nappy up onto a 12 year old with no motor control, hard).  So, yeah, it's physically draining work.

Ms Independent
But it's mentally draining, too, and I think this bit is the kicker. There is something about doing all this for someone when they will NEVER be any different that is a tad soul destroying difficult some days.  It's very different from the care I've done for Lolly, who is "normal," and who I know - and can see day by day - that this time for her will end, that there is, dare I say it, a light at the end of the dependency tunnel.  Don't get me wrong, I've loved doing that care for Lolly.  I'll be sad when she's completely independent.  But it's going to end, all things being equal.  Snail never will.  She'll just go on and on needing the same stuff for the rest of her (my) life.  And getting bigger and bigger.  With me getting older and older.  The same stuff.  Forver.  See what I mean about the soul destroying difficult part?  Look not into the abyss and all that.

The second part (of my meandering point) is how lonely being IT it is.  It's lonely.  Us humans need to debrief, to share with others.  In our society we partner up in pairs (usually) to get this need filled.  Not being able to debrief, to release some of the pressure valve, or just to bore someone stupid with the minutiae of your day (where they have to at least pretend to care) makes things harder.  I mean, I've talked to DinnerDad on the phone, and on Skype, but with all the kids going nuts and things being busy, it's just not the same.  It's lonely.  I think, to some extent, being a parent at home is a tad lonely most of the time, even if you have a present partner, to be honest.

Emo Unicorn is depressing.
Look, this entry is kind of depressing.  I think on this stuff a lot: what makes it hard to care for a disabled child?  What is full-time parenting all about?  How do we cope with disability in our lives forevermore?  What effects does it have on us as a family, as individuals?  I don't have the answers, but considering the questions, and considering them in public (given the general silence that exists about disability in our society) is something.  Isn't it?

[image source]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


DinnerDad has reached the advanced (and probably decrepit) age of 42

I can only assume he now knows the meaning of life.  Or IS the meaning of life.  Or something. 

As he is away in London on this hallowed occasion, I have decided to proclaim his birthday on this blog.  Happy birthday, husband!  We miss you, somewhat.  Also, there are presents.  

Colourblind? :D

Fun at the Park

We went to a friend's first birthday party recently at a local park.  Lolly was cute.  Here are too many photos to commemorate that.  As you were.

A glimpse of a creature rarely captured on film, Me!
Walking with DinnerDad.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Apps for your iThings - Special Needs Edition

I write a fair bit about Apps for our various iThings (Pod, Pad, Phone).  While we don't have a dedicated iPad for Snail yet (we're working on it!), I do have a collection of Apps that Snail loves to play with on my iPad.

A couple of notes - Snail is limited to very simple Apps, single touch or two choices only, really.  We'll be working more on choices between two options once we get the iPad and work it into her school and therapy curriculum.  So, if you're reading this and have a special needs child, the Apps here are fitting into a pretty limited range.  Snail is very intellectually affected, and is worse since seizures and meds over the past few years.  She gets (few) days where choosing is possible, and many where we can scarcely interest her at all in anything (or she is asleep the whole day). With that in mind, here are some Apps she's enjoyed.

Toddler Counting.  This is a fun, simple as anything app where, as you might suspect from it's title, things get counted.  Lolly has got a lot out of this one, and Snail loves it, too.  A simple touch, and the things on the screen are counted aloud.  It moves on automatically to the next screen when finished.  You can set it to stick to numbers under 10.  This app cracks Snail up, every time.  She finds it hilarious, and it consistently gets her to touch the screen and keep engaged [with pauses for bouts of laughter].  She is not great at aiming at the numbers, but the app seems fairly forgiving with where you touch.

Sparkabilities 1 and 2.  These are just fabulous.  See the Sparkabilities site for their principles and DVDs, too.  They respond to single touch to move the simple "story" forward.  They are bright and interesting, and use simple words, most of which Snail can say.  Lolly still likes them!  Awesome.  There is a "find it" section Snail can't do, the prompt (shown below) is a tad small, and these days her focus is not that great :(.

Verbal Victor is a great App for augmentative communication.  You basically make photo options for your child and recording your voice underneath them.  There's a range of options, and being able to record your own message is just fab.  Their site and instructions are here

A couple of site recommendations.  I like Babies with iPads (thought I hate the name, as Snail is 12 and it just makes me sad that she can't do most of the "Babies" apps, *sigh*).  The reviews and information is great, and they also collect donations and give away iPads to special needs kids, which is a great, direct way to give a bit of money!  Spectronics has comprehensive lists of apps and prices.

My other App reviews are here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

From the Shelves: Numbers, numbers, everywhere...

Lolly is crazy about numbers at the moment.  Lolly got these wonderful Lauri puzzles from Nanna for Lolly's birthday (she also got the tall stacker blocks, which are cool). 

Number puzzles:
The number train:

Numbers are definitely fun. Lolly likes to count everything, and is pretty reliable up to 10.

[I also covet the Lauri loctagons, phonic alphabet kit, horse farm play set, alphabet puzzle board, lacing set...they have so much awesomeness!]

Friday, May 20, 2011

On alone time, but not in a good way...

From his last trip to Copenhagen.
DinnerDad is off overseas again for work *le sigh* and I have a houseful of childlers!  He is in London, Copenhagen and Milan for two weeks.  As I may have complained stated during his last trip, I firmly regard 35 hours in transit in business class with free gourmet food, movies, sleep in a cool pod, and NO KIDS to look after to be just this side of heaven. He may have muttered some hastily stifled disagreement, I couldn't quite make it out...  Perhaps the two days of free time on his arrival in Milan will soothe those travel woes.  There better be a good present *trails off muttering* 

 It's very odd timing, in all the years we've been together, he's only been away in a Snail week maybe three times.  And now we've had two months in a row with him away a full week in a Snail week.  Thank the powers that be, that's it for this year.  While he's often away when we don't have Snail, when Snail is here, it's exhausting, being the only grown up.  I geared up this week by washing everything not tied down, stocking up on meals and food of all kinds, filling the car with petrol, and generally getting crap organised so all I have to do is dress, bathe, feed, and maintain the girls.  Or that's the plan. 

At least this trip I don't have NO KITCHEN and am not then getting the kitchen installed during that week.  That was fun.  Or something.  We ate creatively that week!

Anyhoo, after the Snail has her week with me, Lolly and I are off on an exciting holiday with Nanna and Pop, and my sister Jubes (who is a rather special Air Force Graduate very soon!).  Can't wait for family lurv.  Though I did have to buy some warm clothes.  We're not really into the heavy jackets and what-not here in the sub-tropics.  Apparently it's cold there!

Nanna, Lolly, Smash, Me and Pop on our recent trip.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Colleges Crossing 4 months on from the floods

We live very near Colleges Crossing, which is a bend of the Brisbane River, and was flooded spectacularly during the January flooding.  Our area was flooded in for a few days during the flood, on the second day Lolly and I went for a look at the floodwaters.

Here's the view of Colleges Crossing on the 12th January:

I drive past there regularly, it's always sobering to go through there as it's still so devastated.  Here's a shot from just after Colleges opened again in late January (blurry phone while driving, don't try this at home).

This weekend, we headed down for a closer look, and to water our dog...

The whole shape of the river bed is different, all the bushes and small tress, and almost all of the big trees are gone, there are only four large trees remaining in the park, the 100+ year old fig near the cafe was knocked down and killed.

The white structure to the right is what's left of the cafe sails.

Tree survivor looks lonely.

The amount of wreckage in the form of huge mountains of woodchips and gravel/dirt is pretty jaw dropping.  They basically cleared the park and mulched everything.

This is the balcony of the house (right) and the cafe sails (left).
What's left of the shelter supports.  Just wow.
The trees along the other side of the river are slowly recovering, but are still spectacularly wrecked - this is looking towards where the road crosses the river (you can see why this crossing floods at the drop of...well...rain).

Excuse the muddy droplet on the lens! Photgraphy fail!
 This is where the playground was.

Sad face :(

Part of it landed here on the bank.

It will be a long time before the park is anything like it's former beauty, though every weekend there are more and more people still using it.

Also, my dog is cute.
Swimming through the sunlight.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Car love

I got these ubiquitous stickers for my birthday this year, DinnerDad had to order the wheelchair girl and turtle specially! 

We love our Kia Grand Carnival...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to say Goodnight, by Lolly

Me:  "Goodnight, Lolly."

Lolly:  "Goodnight Mummy Octonaut!" 

Me: "Goodnight Lolly Octonaut!"

Lolly: "No!  I'm Kwazii Octonaut!"

Me: "Okay, Goodnight, Kwazii Octonaut!"

Lolly:  "And you're Captain Barnacles, he's the boss bear of the Octopod.  You're Captain Barnacles Mummy, boss bear of the house!"

Me: "Yes, yes I am."

Lolly: "Goodnight, Captain Barnacles Octonaut Mummy!"

Me:  "Goodnight."

[Those without three year olds may wish to check out the Octonauts here, the gorgeous original book series, and an episode on YouTube, here.]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More iPod/iPad Apps for Kids!

Lolly is now a month over 3 years old.  She's constantly changing her use of our iThings, she uses an iPod, and our iPads, mostly mine, which is now crammed so full of kids apps I can scarcely fit my own stuff on there.  Thank the iPad gods for folders!  Here's what she's chosing lately:

Nosy Crow's awesome retelling of the Three Little Pigs.  This is interactive fairy-tale fun at it's best.  Quirky art, great animation, and a fun story, you can tickle the pigs, there's a range of voice responses from every character, and lots of interactive bits as a natural part of the story.  The tale is re-told with a great sense of humour and fun.  Highly recommended!  Lolly and I are looking forward to the other apps Nosy Crow has slated for the rest of the year.  The one drawback I have is the usual gendered stuff, the "female" pig is a tad girly, and there's a couple of typical tropes there about how she can't build and likes to decorate.  Honestly, it's not that hard to leave this stuff out when you're building an app like this, it doesn't add anything.  *shakes fist*

Unfortunately, Lolly is more than obsessed with Outfit7's money pit Apps "Talking *Everything*" (Talking Hippo, Dino, Cat, Giraffe and so on ad nauseum).  Some are free but ask for in-App purchases.  I'm loving that Lolly's common chat now includes "we're not buying food for that Giraffe!"  My favourite of this lot is the one aimed more at kids, Talking Hippo. If you haven't had the joy that is the Talking-Shit Apps, they basically "listen" and repeat what they "hear" via the mic on the iThing, in a variety of amusing voices.  They have basic interaction, you can touch the screen and interact with the character, for example you can give the Hippo food, a dummy (sigh), a balloon, and make a butterfly appear.  This is totally awesome, really.  And Lolly LOVES them.  Can I repeat that again for effect: LOVES them.  I have come out out of the study to see her with her Talking Hippo propped up on the couch "watching" Octonauts on the TV with her.  Now that's a sight from *the future* - my kid interacting with her touch screen responsive talking virtual pet.

What I object to here are the in-App ads, cross advertising for the millions of other Talking-Shit apps, and on some of them, the violence. Talking T-Rex attacks another dinosaur, you can "hit" Talking Tomcat and knock him over, that kind of thing.  Arguably, most of these Talking-shit apps aren't for kids, but, let's be realistic, you advertise them inside the kids apps, most kids are going to want the talking dino/cat/whatever as well.  Lolly loves to open them up one after the other and listen to different voices.  I'd rather the kid rated versions stuck to advertising the kid rated apps, or that there was a parent-controlled way of setting preferences, or that you could choose to pay a dollar more to get a version that didn't have the cross-version ads in them.  But, I do think these are great Apps for kids.  Lolly still looks so amazed and full of wonder to hear the Hippo talking back to her, and she can chat to it for ages.  Worth a go, with the ad-based limitations in mind.

The final App for today is the fabulous and hilarious My Underwear.  Thumb Arcade have produced a great new app for kids with four games.  Adorable drawings and animation, and easy to control games, Lolly has been chosing this nearly every time since we got it a couple of weeks ago.  There's underwear matching, a memory match game, a paint-your-underwear paint game, and a hungry undie-eating monster game.  And the music is infectious and awesome.  DO give this one a go, it's worth it!  And I love that Thumb Arcade have given us all four in one game, rather than rorting parents for four separate games.  That is extra awesome. 

Oh okay one more, we have recently been crazy here about You Tube (can you spell, *Mummy learning parental controls frantically*?), and discovered Eric Herman's the Elephant Song.  Which has an App (basically just the song, a bit of interaction, and a puzzle game.  Worth it, though, this song is just great, and Herman's got heaps of other kids music that doesn't make me want to poke out my eye.  Try 'em out on YouTube.  The pirate song is a particular fave here, and the whole family is also dancing like they've got ants in their pants...

Enjoy!  And do let me know in comments if you try any of these out on your own iThing!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

First Day at School!

Yes, you read it right, we're doing Montessori education round these parts, so our small person is off to school at three.  As attachment parenting crazy hippies people, this has been a hard thing to do.  Three is little.  She still needs me.   Anyhoo, I do love Montessori as an educational philosophy, so we're giving it a try, despite misgivings about how young she is to start.    

Washing up at "Nido"
Lolly and I have been doing the infant and toddler program at her Montessori School on and off for quite a while, these sessions are where I'd attend with her for 2 and a half hours.  But now, she's starting what is often called Cycle 1, which is the class for the 3-6 year group.  At the school we've chosen, she starts with 3 hour sessions in the mornings, building up to every weekday.  Now, neither of us are ready for that action, so we did a couple of hour long sessions last week to start her off, and that went well, so she did two three hour sessions this week. 

Her:  School!!  Hooray!  Can I go again now!!  Well, not quite.  She did just fine when she was there (so her teachers tell me), but on the second day of the longer session she didn't want to go in.  Not upset with tears, just a bit sad and shy.  She had some sad on the way home on her first 3 hour day, and has been...errr...emotionally creative (!!) ever since, but that's normal, it's literally the only time she's been out of the care of either DinnerDad or Nanna or me since she was born (!!).  So it's going to take some adjustment.  We've done our two days this week, and are doing two next week, too.  My plan is to do 2-3 days a week for this term.  Which is more like kindergarten usually is here, than full time school. 
But, to the point: photos!  Here she is on her first ever day....

And after her second day....