Archive for August, 2005

Mix Equal Parts Cornstarch and Water, Add Food Coloring

August 11, 2005 @ 7:02 am | Filed under: Art, Fun Learning Stuff

What you will get:

• A very dusty kitchen;
• Very dusty children;
• Cool sidewalk paint.

Bubble Gum Math

August 9, 2005 @ 6:35 am | Filed under: Fun Learning Stuff, Math

A while back, Wonderboy’s OT gave me a booklet to read about something called “Suck-Swallow-Breathe Synchrony.” At first glance, I wouldn’t have expected it to revitalize the study of math in my home, but that is exactly what has happened.

The booklet describes how the coordinating of these three actions—sucking, swallowing, and breathing—is the brain’s first major task after a baby is born. Successful “SSB Synchrony” lays the groundwork for umpteen other developmental milestones down the road. The entire discussion was fascinating, but what really jumped out at me was the description of how, later in life, the brain uses SSB synchrony as a tension reliever or to help focus on other tasks. This is why Michael Jordan sticks out his tongue when he’s playing basketball. This is why people chew on pens, mints, and fingernails. This (I now realize) is why I seem to be incapable of writing a novel without consuming vast quantities of gummy bears or gumballs. I always thought it had to do with being a sugar junkie. I now understand that it’s about the chewing—it helps my brain to concentrate on the work.

Adults, the booklet explained, quite unconsciously avail themselves of the concentration aid provided by oral stimulation. I am reminded of the editorial meetings of my past: almost everyone at the table had something to sip, munch, or chew. Kids gnaw pencils in school, but gum isn’t usually allowed, for obvious and logical reasons. But our OT told about how she used to work in a school for the deaf, and when she convinced the parents to allow the kids access to pretzels and gummy worms while they did their schoolwork, productivity skyrocketed. A child who would normally have spent 45 minutes struggling through a page of math was now finishing his work in 10 minutes.

My kids, having heard snippets of this conversation, immediately saw the possibilities.

“Let’s test the theory!” cried Jane, my junior scientist.

“Mommy, where’s some gum?” asked Rose, wasting no time. “Let’s all do some math and see if it works.”

“I want to do math too!” wailed Beanie, who, being only four, hasn’t yet climbed on the family Math-U-See bandwagon.

“Mom will make up some problems for you,” reassured practical Rose.

And so began a routine that now occurs several times a week, unprompted by me. The kids get out math books, and that’s my cue to produce some gum. They chomp contentedly and work with impressive concentration. Whether the Impressive Concentration is indeed the effect of the gum, or whether it is the effect of the desire to continue getting gum (heretofore a rare luxury), I cannot say. And I don’t much care.

Truth be told, Jane is one of those people who loves numbers and patterns and mathematical puzzles and formulas. She is working through her great-uncle’s latest college math textbook for fun. I know, I know, it seems weird to me too. But then, when I look at a window with twelve panes, I see twelve rectangles, or maybe thirteen, counting the whole window. Jane sees—oh, I don’t know how many—my brain went numb after she passed the two dozenth rectangle. (Maybe I needed some gum.) She has That Kind of Brain. So really, I’m not sure how much additional assistance the bubble gum is giving her. But what the hey. It cracks me up to hear the girls literally beg me to “let them” do some math. Gee, I’m such a nice mommy—I always say yes.

Stranger Than Fiction

August 4, 2005 @ 5:23 pm | Filed under: Special Needs Children, Wonderboy

Wonderboy has been dominating this blog lately. I realize he doesn’t exactly fit the mostly-literary theme I’ve got going here, but I can’t help it. Who can pass up material this rich?

This kid of mine, this kid of mine. What will he come up with next?

So Tuesday, as you know, was his surgery to repair a hernia (again) and remove his sticky-out tailbone that was making it hard for him to sit, poor guy, and was posing a risk of skin infection to boot. As I wrote in my last entry, the procedures went swimmingly and we got him home in record time. (Scott has a more detailed recap on his blog. But be warned: his language in this one is not for the kiddies. Don’t blame him. It’s the anesthesia.)

Yesterday morning Wonderboy woke up, turned toward me in bed, and smiled. “You seem to be feeling better,” I said. “Hey, buddy, maybe today will be a little more mellow.”

That’s when I saw the blood oozing out of his ear.

Just a little. A spot of red on the sheet, a clump of dried blood in the ear, and when I wiped that out, a bit of red oozing out of the canal. Had he just scratched himself? Or was it something to do with his ear tube? I couldn’t tell.

I called the doctor’s office and left a message for the wonderful new doc who is covering for our other wonderful family doc while the latter is on vacation this week. I love these folks. We’ve seen every doctor in the practice—numerous times—and they’re all great. Sharp, good communicators, efficient, cooperative. Plus their office is only three minutes from my front door. I can never move out of this house.

Anyway, I left a message for Dr. L. But I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit for her call, because what was I going to do? Put Wonderboy in the car on his sore bottom? Even for a three-minute ride, that’d be torture. Mainly I wanted to see what the doc thought about putting in his hearing aid on that side. Not a good idea, I assumed.

All the rest of yesterday and all this morning, there was no new blood. Just a scratch, I figured. At this point in our parenting career, with the track record our kids have got, optimism is probably nothing more than gussied-up stubbornness, but what the heck. It works for me.

This afternoon when there was still no more bleeding, I decided to try putting in his hearing aid. Took it back out and—oh yes—there was new blood on the ear mold. That must have been one heck of a fingernail, kid, thought I (stubbornly).

Called the doc again. She was just getting off work for the day and asked if I wanted to bring him in tomorrow. “Only if you really think you need to see him,” I said. “I hate to sit him in the carseat so soon, you know?”

And then, in a turn of events more surprising than anything Wonderboy has thrown our way, she said, “Tell you what. I’ll stop by your house on my way home.”

Yes, folks, after all these years: our first house call. This is a momentous day!

She swings by with her trusty otoscope. Looks in his ear. Oh dear. Looks like the tube is not where it belongs. “Embedded” is the word she used. This is not good. This is not a fingernail scratch. This is, maybe, possibly, cause for another surgical procedure. WELL, YEAH, MAYBE NOT, insists the Stubborn Optimist. Scott speculates about the efficacy of a pair of tweezers.

It means, at the least, a trip to the ENT—whose office is forty minutes away. Wonderboy ain’t going for that ride anytime soon. We all decide that (barring more oozing from the ear) this little problem can wait until his rear end is sit-on-able.

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of more odd news,” says the doctor ruefully. Odd news: this is the perfect phrase for our boy. He is Odd News personified. Which I guess makes me the Bearer of Odd News, not Dr. L.

So that’s where we are. But, you know, for us it really WAS a pretty mellow day.

Yesterday Was the Big Day

August 3, 2005 @ 6:59 am | Filed under: Special Needs Children, Wonderboy

Many thanks to all of you who who sent notes of concern and well wishes for Wonderboy. His surgery (hernia repair and tailbone removal) yesterday went very well. We were home earlier than expected, and he seems to be feeling all right. He was groggy and wobbly last night but today he’s steadier on his feet. It will be a while before he can sit comfortably, of course. He keeps forgetting this and squats down en route to a sit, and then halfway down he’ll remember that it hurts and he’ll just stand there in the half squat, glaring fiercely. This is hilarious and I have several times insulted him by laughing. His bottom may recover more quickly than his pride.

I dare not speculate as to what excitement he will provide us with next.

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