Finished Objects Sunday

Okay, so round-up of the recently finished projects.

I actually finished my Ginny’s Cardigan a couple of weeks ago and have been wearing it, but I finally got around to adding the buttons. I chose an assortment of vintage glass buttons I bought at a local button-only store.  They have that sort of magical feeling that one might expect from a Harry Potter-inspired knit with an owl-motif on the back.

Ginny's Cardigan

Ginny's Cardigan

Next up, a pair of socks, also finished some time ago.  I started these in November when I was in San Francisco and I used the instructions I got in Kate Atherley‘s custom sock class.  I wasn’t thrilled with the yarn – the colours “pooled” a bit on the leg.  But I was really happy with the fit!

Socks

And last, but definitely not least, I whipped up this project in about a week, and even improvised my own pattern for it! I wanted to showcase my Rain City knits rainbow pack that I bought a few months ago.  I hope the full-length-now, three-quarter-length-later sleeves means the twins will get some longer-term use out of this.

Rainbow Sweater

And just for fun, both the twins in Rain City knits sweaters. Don’t hate me, but we had a crazy (for March) sunny day yesterday. It’s cool and grey again today if that makes you East Coasters feel better.

Two Little Girls in Rain City Knits

Four Kids

Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to have four kids, and all I can say is that it is completely insane. The kind of person who should have four kids should thrive on chaos and also be completely organized. I am not sure I am that person.

P does not know any other children who have three siblings. He actually could not think of a friend at his school who had more than one sibling. I am sure there are swaths of the country where four or more kids is no big deal, but in my urban neighbourhood the cheese stands alone.

My oldest two are very self-sufficient, which makes things easier. I remember thinking my oldest child was a tough toddler. He was a colicky baby, but now that I’ve had the experience of three more, I realise he was a breeze. My second child is a fairly intense child and has multiple tantrums a day, sometimes over very innocuous things like “you smiled” or “you didn’t remember where that photograph was taken” or “you can’t tell me the plot of a film that I saw with someone else and that you’ve never seen.” She is also very sweet and loving and creative. She thrives one-on-one, so we try to carve those opportunities for her – but they are mostly snatched – a grocery trip here or a coffee date there.

B is a more intense version of her older sister. She is the kind of toddler who needs to keep busy and who is always asking for her coat and shoes to be put on in the hopes you will get her outside. She is also much more physical and adventurous than either of her older siblings were, which is very cute but also frightening. She is very demanding. Perhaps that’s not a personality trait, but just a survival instinct when you have three siblings.

C and B could not be more different, as C is super easy-going. She has a huge smile for everyone she knows, unlike her twin who is invariably suspicious. But C is also very physically dependent and has a limited tolerance for her various seating/walking/standing contraptions and an even more limited tolerance for hanging on the floor, so she spends a lot of time in our arms. Which then, understandably, makes B annoyed and more demanding.

I have no idea what the point of this post is, except that I feel like a lot of people, when they ask if you have four children, expect you to say that it’s fantastic in every way. It is fantastic in many ways. It is also very hard at times. There are many, many things I enjoyed doing before I had children which I have no time to do. I started exercising again recently and I realized the only way to do it is to set my alarm before my kids get up, and they get up early! It won’t always be this hard. I’m sure once we get a few years further along it will be much easier. But there are a crazy few years before you get there, and we are right in the thick of them. I guess it’s all relative though – I thought have two kids was hard. And it was at the time.

Thinking Back

I don’t go backward on this blog very often – that is I don’t read old posts about where I hoped C would be by now.  I think if I told myself last spring that by this time C would not be sitting yet, would not be crawling yet, and would not yet be able to hold a bottle, last-spring me would have been very disappointed. And yet, this-year me is much more at peace with it all.

For one thing, that’s because I know the things she can do.  Like she can talk! Yesterday, it was the sweet sound of “Mama, mama” in the morning. There’s also baba (bottle), go, uppa (pick me up), no, mo’ (more), huggy (hug), and a handful of others. I mean, a year ago, yes I hoped she’d be sitting but I also didn’t know if she’d be verbal. As it turns out, by the “standardized test” she is more or less on track for language. One thing I should admit, is that I choose to believe standardized tests mainly when they are favourable. When they are not, I dismiss them. She is a bit behind because she has less coordination over her mouth, but she said enough, or nodded enough, or looked at the right picture in the book enough, that they scored her as typical both receptively and expressively.

CP is a condition with a huge spectrum from “independent in every way” to “dependent in every way.” Last year we did not know where on that spectrum she would be.  Last-year-me thought that was the cruel thing about a CP, because you had NO idea. But this-year-me thinks that maybe it’s a good thing because you have a little time to come to terms with it all. We still don’t exactly know where on the spectrum she is, but it seems to matter less.

One interesting thing about her language, which is different from EVERY other toddler I know, is that she is far more likely to say “yes” (she nods) than “no.” But I guess no one says “no” to C. No one says “NO! Don’t touch that oven door!” or “NO! Don’t wear the cereal bowl full of milk as a hat” or “No… you can’t have the cellphone.” B hears “No” dozens of times a day, and she reciprocates. C rarely hears it, and when she does her lip buckles because she’s so astonished you’d ever refuse her.

And since I talk about her talking, here she is. If you told me last week that she’d be stringing syllables together like this, I wouldnt have believed it.

Talking

Vacation

If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed that we’re away this week. Traveling with four children is a bit insane but we have an extra grown up on hand to help out. We’re staying in Maui, which somehow felt manageable with four kids. We’re not on the ocean — most beach hotels become unaffordable with four kids — but we have a very sweet little rental in a cute town and we’ve been exploring the beaches, towns and forests. And we can hear the surf through the windows of this little old plantation style home.

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Expectations

This American Life had a story recently about how people’s expectations can actually significantly affect behaviours. For example, if you are told that an animal is of low intelligence, that animal will actually perform more poorly on seemingly objective tests than an animal you think is smart. The same sorts of effects have been shown on humans. Another mother has done an excellent summary of the podcast, though I do recommend you listen to it.

The idea that people’s expectations affect you is actually a terrifying prospect when you have a child with a highly visible disability. But I have seen this in action with C. C is assessed by quite a few medical professionals, and often when she’s being “tested” she’ll often blink passively and smile. On the other hand, when she’s with the therapists who actually have expectations and goals, who sometimes think she’s capable of more than I do, she can perform. When we’re with friends who know her social little personality, they interact with her and she calls out “Hi!” and respond with a nod or a “Naaah” to questions. When we meet new people, many of them seem to assume that since she is quite physically involved, she is not very aware. And she reflects that back – or rather, she reflects nothing back.

I realised too that the way that I interact with C is very different than her siblings. When she does something, it’s a marvellous feat with many cheers. When B does something, I’m more restrained, because it’s expected of a typical child. I’ve been trying to tone this down – instead of cheering like I’m at the Olympics, I’m experimenting with being a bit more directive, and just a bit more… normal. “C’mon, pick up the spoon.” “Help me put on your shoes.” Sometimes these aren’t even things I think she can do – and she surprises me. Today I put a drink in front of her and said “Here you go.” She grabbed the mug and brought it to her mouth. Not much got in, but it’s a start. And I noticed that after encouraging her to help with her shoes a few times, she now reaches for the straps without prompting.

This idea about expectations also makes you question many other assumptions about disability. For example, as CP parents we are often told that by age five or so, CP is “decided.” If you’re considered moderately or highly involved you don’t get better.  If anything it gets worse. The brain is less plastic. And yet, there are many anecdotal stories of people experiencing improvements from brain injuries even in adulthood. The same reporters who did the story on This American Life have a new podcast, and one of the first episodes is about a boy who, after an illness, went into a coma-like state. His parents were told he had the intelligence of a three-month old. And yet, after years of living like that, he emerged and made a tremendous recovery. The common factor in these apparent miracles is that the individual met someone who didn’t have preconceived notions of what they could achieve.

Toys for a child with cerebral palsy

When you have a typical child, you get them toys, and you don’t really think about how much learning they do through play. You don’t realise that the blocks are teaching spatial awareness, that those annoying toys with 100 buttons are teaching cause-and-effect, and the shape sorter is teaching object permanence. But when your child can’t play with those toys, you notice.

I thought I’d do a little round-up of some toys that have worked well for C, whose arms and hands are fairly “involved.” At a year and a half, things like passing a toy from one hand to another, bringing her hands to midline, or even releasing something from her grasp are skills she has not yet mastered. All of these are my personal suggestions and there are no affiliate links.

1. Pen and paper:

I might not have thought to try this except that her sisters love drawing. With some assistance to get it in her hand, and a little coaxing, she got the idea of dragging it across paper and making a mark.  We bought giant crayons at a local art store, but turns out she prefers the regular markers.  We tape her paper down with painter’s tape to keep them in place. When summer comes and we can be outside, and the girls can hang out in their diapers and wash off in the kids pool, I’ll probably experiment with paints too. The idea of cleaning up that mess in winter is restraining me for the time being.

2. Magformers

Anything magnetic is great for C. These little tiles are fun because she can pull them apart and together and they sort of make things without too much effort. They also encourage her to bring her hands together as they make a satisfying sound when they clack together. The ones we have are called Magformers, but I’m also familiar with Magnatiles which are great toys too.

Magformers.

3. Fishing toys

There’s a magnet theme here. She can hold on to this rod, and with some assistance, get the satisfaction of “catching” a fish. We have a lovely Djeco brand one, which has a very pretty, and sturdy, box and is nice in its simplicity. But there are zillions of variations on this toy.

Fishing toy

4. Drums, xylophones and musical toys

Our occupational therapist brought a drum over once for C, and we immediately ran out and got one as it was one of the very first toys that got her moving her arm. It’s a bit awkward to place in front of her unless you are sitting with her, but smaller xylophones and musical toys can be left on her tray. Anything that makes a noise is hugely satisfying.
She also love little toy pianos with many keys.

5. Balls!

Balls have always been hugely motivating for C. She can rest on them, roll them, and lately even pick them up with two arms – a huge achievement for someone who finds two-handed play to be a challenge. I also have a stuffed square block which she can pick up and which rolls a bit, but not so much that it falls off her tray.

6. Books, books, books

Every child should have books, but especially a child with poor motor skills. She may not be able to access lots of toys, but you can reach the whole world through books. Board books are also sturdy and stay put, and the pages don’t require much coordination to bat open.

Some Finished Objects

I’ve been a little remiss in documenting some of my finished knitting, just in case it seems like I knit all the time without ever actually completing anything. (It does feel that way sometime!)

In no particular order, let’s start with Miss C in her Abate sweater. I made it in Rain City Knits Yarn, which is this fabulous neon coloured yarn. This particular one has been discontinued, though I still, happily, have another skein. The colour way, “Graffiti” (still available in other Rain City yarns, I think!) makes me think of candies and cupcakes. It was hard to get the colour right on that photo – the green tub and neon yarn seemed to confuse the white balance settings on my camera. I made this with B in mind, although they mostly share clothes. But B was not in a modelling mood.

C wearing her Abate sweater

Next up, an Owl I knit for P, as owls are a bit of theme at P’s school. There was also a Bunny for M, but the photo was blurry, so we’ll save that for another time. Both were made in Cascade 220 and used less than a skein. The patterns (free on Purl Soho’s site) were designed for bulky wool but they worked out nicely in a smaller weight. The Owl was made with leftovers from my Frosted Alpine Hat actually, which was yet to be properly photographed. Hopefully Miss M didn’t lose it before I could take a proper picture.

Owl

And last, but not least, Coda! I finished this sweater before Christmas and have been wearing it quite a lot. Brooklyn Tweed seems a bit scratchy when you work with it, but I find it very soft and wearable next to the skin. I love this colour (Camper) too.

Coda

Stares

Do you ever catch yourself staring at a child who looks a little different than you do? Maybe they are moving in a strange way, or there’s something unusual about their features. I know I do, which is why I shouldn’t hold it against anyone. But all the same, it is uncomfortable to be on the receiving end.

I think the stares started a few months ago when we had the girls in swimming lessons. C could barely lift her head when she was lying on those floating mats. Other toddlers in the class were balancing on them and doing flips. We still take her swimming frequently, and while keeping her head up is not such an issue, we still get stared at as we coach her with unusual enthusiasm to do mundane things like reach for a ball.

Interestingly, the only time we do not get stared at is when people are using the accessible shower. I have never once gotten to use the accessible shower stall, which has an extra bench, a hand shower and a little more space. The bench would be very useful for washing C, who is quite heavy, and cannot sit or be propped on the hip as easily as her sister. Whenever I’m waiting, that shower is invariably being used by someone who is washing every part of her body, leaving the conditioner in for the allotted six minutes, and possibly even laundering her swimsuit. It’s guaranteed that this person will never once make eye contact or notice that your child is a little different. I did confront someone on this once, but confronting someone in a shower stall is never a pleasant experience, so I’ve mostly sent C to shower with J who finds her easier to maneuvre in the cramped little non-accessible stalls.

The other week I was at a local coffee shop and C was grinning away at someone. He waved at her and asked her to wave, which of course she did not. Then he asked me if she could wave and I said she could not. Since just answering “No” feels a little abrupt, I said it was because of cerebral palsy and smiled in a way to make sure he knew that I was not bothered by it. And then he politely asked me what cerebral palsy was, and waved a few times more and went on his merry way.

Probably a week later I was there again (I drink a lot of coffee. I have four children.) There was a starer. She was not a waver. She just stared. At C, and her orthotics and then at her again. And when I stared back she’d look away for a moment and then continue to stare. I considered confrontation but she was also taking pictures of Garfield cartoons in the newspaper with her phone, and I was not sure I wanted to confront a lover of Garfield. As we left, I noticed that she had a cane tucked under the table. She was not of an age where one would typically use a cane – she was younger than I am. And so perhaps she has what C has? Some milder version? Then again, it still doesn’t give her the right to stare, does it?

A little late, but a wreath

Did I ever show you this wreath that I made? It’s a little late now but it’s the only piece of Christmas decor I’ve kept up. Since it’s white I feel like it can pass for Winter decor and I might just keep it up until the thaw.

It’s from a Purl Soho kit, like the advent calendar I made last year, and was not that hard to put together. I found the instructions assumed a little more knowledge than the advent calendar did, but still nothing a novice couldn’t handle.

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