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Archive for December, 2011

the joy of family

Just another quick thank you to all of our family and friends for being amazingly supportive, kind and loving.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to show Blitzen the many configurations of our family and how we love and care for each other, everyone in our own special ways.

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therapeutic pets

We have just gotten 2 pets (I am sure folks are commenting now without even reading the rest of this post!).

Andrew and I had a dog for many years — 16 — and when he died 2 years ago we decided to take a break from animal caregiving.  Then we moved into a no pets allowed apartment where we are now breaking the rules a little bit because we have gotten not a dog, not a cat, not a parakeet, but 2 little guinea pigs.

The lovely rescue pigs arrived today much to the delight of Blitzen who has been researching the creatures for the past several weeks, making lists of what they like to eat, reciting countless facts about guinea care, saving her money to purchase toys, and watching youtube video after youtube video about the adorable, fluffy, little rodents.

She has invited Dasher and Dancer (her sisters) to come visit the pigs and admire their cage.  She is very proud of the cage and its elements and has given several of our family members a tour of the contents since we set it up early this morning.

Now these little guineas won’t be able to help Blitzen the way real, trained, therapeutic animals would but we’ve already seen her open up in so many ways.  She has worked hard to learn about these furry critters and pledged to care for and love them, to treat them with kindness and respect.  The rescue organization had quite the lengthy contract that all 3 of us had to sign.  We talked about what was required of us and how much work it would be to become responsible guinea pig owners.  Now Andrew and I are well aware that a month from now, we could be regretting this decision — this slightly stinky, slightly sheddy, slightly noisey and undoubtedly some amount of work decision.

But I hope that the real live guineas will have the same focusing, relaxing impact now that they are living in Blitzen’s bedroom as they have had in the planning stage.  Over the past weeks, many a restless bedtime has been conquered by just thinking about sitting quietly and petting our pigs, about their soft fur and warm, little animal-ness, planning in a concrete way for their arrival in our home.  Many a meltdown avoided by the suggestion that we study more about these pets.  And I think that the act of caring for these animals will contribute greatly to her self of importance and self-worth.  So we’re taking a chance and looking forward to documenting the impact of what might be the world’s first therapeutic guinea pigs.

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Welcome, Guinea Pigs

Rodents in the house.  Two rescued guinea pigs.

Blitzen has spent six weeks reading, researching, making lists, watching guinea pig videos, and making videos about guinea pig care.  She has been nurturing and caring for her baby dolls.  We have no doubt that she’ll be a responsible, empathetic 8-year-old guinea pig owner.

“Don’t worry, girls.  It’s hard to move to a new home, but I’m going to take good care of you forever.” — Blitzen to Irene and Lucy, five minutes after meeting them.

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oh well, oh well

In a moment of extraordinary clarity, Blitzen whispered to me, “I can’t sleep.  My brain keeps saying ‘Oh well, oh well, you’ll never have anything.”  So, first of all, how heartbreaking is that, and secondly, what an amazing breakthrough.  To know that her brain is telling her something that she doesn’t want it to and then to feel brave enough to share it with me.

Wow.

As Andrew pointed out, no matter where Blitzen goes in this life, and I hope this bright, creative, amazing child goes very far, there will always be this nasty, nagging, little part of her brain saying ‘oh well, oh well’.  I am hoping that someday, sometimes, her brain just says ‘oh yes, oh yes, you have have everything’.

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Injuries

Blitzen is often one of the walking wounded.  Any bump, tap, knock or scrape is reason for great turmoil and melodrama.  She took a pretty nasty tumble from her scooter today – thank you, helmet – and I am certain that it really hurt.  She cried, we comforted (no blood or at this point any perceivable bruise or scratch) but she wailed for many minutes that she couldn’t walk, probably never would again, etc.  So she scored a piggy back ride out of the park.  We stopped to regroup and luckily, after some discussion, she decided that she could make it to the subway on her own.

On the occassion of another injury, she did say to me, comically, ” No, it really hurts. I am not faking like usual”.  I know these injuries are many things – a cry for attention, a desire to be cuddled and cared for when she is too afraid or shy to ask.  And she also knows nothing but drama.  When you disagree with someone, you yell or you hit or you leave.  When you are hurt, surely the end is near, and there is not recourse but to sob uncontrollably as they rush you to the hospital.

And it is tough to know, exactly, how to manage these episodes because they are so layered.  I’ve always been the first one to tell any niece, nephew, small underage friend to ‘just shake it off, you are tough’ and keep on moving.  But it is more difficult with Blitzen because I know that she cannot regulate her own emotions and often, really and truly, just has no idea what she is feeling so she makes it all up to match what she thinks other people are expecting.

So, for now, I am packing bandaids in my purse, offering short piggyback rides, readily applying ice packs and hoping that soon we’ll be able to identify some of the more basic feelings – hunger, thirst, pain – without reenacting a scene from a Sarah Bernhardt movie.

 

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#1)  After Blitzen opened a handful of presents from us, she wanted to give us a present.  Instead of artwork or a note, she decided to read/tell us a story.  Not just any story,  A Visitor’s Guide to Ancient Rome, which had been presented to her by the author the day before.  Blitzen’s lively version of Roman life, based on cartoon illustrations, may presage a future as a college professor.

#2)  We went to church with Nana.  I loved it, and am considering giving up my dream of being a rock & roll front man (inspired by Bruce Springsteen and Bono) for being a Baptist preacher (inspired by Rev. Forbes and Rev. Williams).

Blitzen was into it for the first hour.  Hours two and three were a new testament to the brilliance of Carrie Ann.  Armed with just a pen and paper, Carrie invented silent drawing games, word games, strategy games and entertainments worthy of an amen.

#3) Blitzen made a scrumptious heart-shaped pizza for dinner.  (An aside: imagine our conversation with Nana when she asked what our Christmas plans were.  We didn’t mention church, family or friends, just baking artisinal pizzas.  Yes, we are a living stereotype.)

#4)

#4)  At bedtime, Blitzen packed her new ice skates, a sweater and two extra pairs of socks in her bag and hung it from the front door.  “This is so we won’t forget anything when we go skating in the morning.”

The ability to anticipate future gratification and thoughtfully organize and plan for it is a major milestone in maturity.   When Blitzen woke up this morning, she confidently carried the bag to the rink, laced up her new skates, waved to us and stepped gingerly onto the ice.

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Ok, so we’ve got presents, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of so many family and friends, we’ve got “mad presents” to quote Blitzen.  We’ve got family, ours and hers.  We’ve got no school and therefore a different and more difficult schedule.  We’ve got some sweet treats.  What we do not have yet is a meltdown.

Andrew has already checked the basement for pods, none found, so alien possession is not the reason that we have had 3 (count them, 3!!!) blissfully meltdown free days.  As you all know, I was bracing for the worst.  Now, it is coming, I know that it is.  We will have drama at some point this week.

But what a gift to Blitzen, what a gift to us, to be able to share a quiet, restful, joyous holiday together.  Exhale…..

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Blitzen and Christmas talk

We read the Grinch this week.  I asked Blitzen if she knew about the Grinch.  Her reply “The Grinch is mean, he stole Christmas but all the people sang ‘whoo-whoo-whoo’ and then he gave Christmas back”.

We have a lovely (and large for us) tree.  Blitzen wanted to know the story behind each ornament and we actually have a story for just about every one.  She had a couple of visitors from the agency this week and she proudly showed them the ornaments, recalling the stories or what she liked about each one “Andrew made this when he was little”, “This is the best Santa ornament”, etc, etc.

This evening, we made a plan to leave out a cookie (decorated lovingly by Blitzen) and some milk. I suggested that we leave a carrot for the reindeer and was curtly informed that the reindeer stay outside.

Blitzen also decided that a cookie wasn’t much of a gift so she chose 2 ornaments (Santa themed ones) from the tree, put them in a gift bag and placed them right next to the cookie and milk, explaining that one was for Santa and the other for Mrs. Claus for their tree.

At bedtime tonight, there was lots of Santa talk.  We started with the cookie – would he take just one bite or eat it all?  At first, she thought probably just a bite because he would have lots of cookies throughout the night. But then upon reflection, it was decided that he would be pretty hungry after bringing in all her presents and would need to eat it all.

I was also informed that he definitely lives at the North Pole, not Antartica where it is too cold even for polar bears.  Also, if I want to find Santa’s house, I should look for the candy canes that the elves put out.

All day she has been talking about how she would go right to sleep so that Santa could come.  Before she fell asleep, she reminded me that I needed to turn out all the lights when I went to bed so he knew that we were sleeping.

Now all this Santa talk would not be my natural inclination, none of this comes from Andrew and me.  But damn, the kid wants to believe so badly.  I can’t even count the number of times that she asked about her gifts — would there be a lot of presents under the tree?  will there be a Baby Alive because she has wanted one her whole life?  Rest assured, there will be a Baby Alive!

Before drifting off tonight, she plaintively asked “He is real, right?”

She is a little gift obsessed and I guess most kids are.  But we are a tiny bit  nervous (I mean hugely, tremendously terrified)  about what happens after the last gift is opened tomorrow.  The upside of this is that, on more than one occassion today, she said “This present is so great, I want to open it again tomorrow”.  And we dutifully put the item back in the box and under the tree.  Maybe we can get a couple of days out of the recycled gifts before the let down takes hold.

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Not so Happy Feet

Ok, the kid loves tv.  We’re not huge fans of large amounts of screen time for small people, but hey, a little can’t hurt, right? She is addicted to all the usual animated stuff, of course, and we’ve rented a few films.  I didn’t used to hate kiddie movies.  But it is astonishing how 6 (I think it is 6?) short weeks can completely change your perspective on the world.  Now I see how scary and disheartening these stories can be.  They all seem to feature some outcast, abandoned by family and friends — best case scenario, they are just lost and stranded far from home. Often these characters get singled out because they are different or weird or cursed or whatever.  I know what you’re thinking — hey, there is a moral to the story, everybody comes together in the end, the difference proves to be the character’s greatest strength, yadayadayada.

Yes, that might be true but what if you never get to the end because your kid starts crying when the “oh we sing so great and you can only dance and therefore we hate you” mean-ass penguins kick the loner penguin off the iceberg and the unhappy little fellow is left, floating sadly in the sea with no love and no support?  Seriously, how does a foster kid process that?  It is kind of heartbreaking to witness.

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The boyfriend

Yes, folks, you heard it right.  She recently announced that she has a boyfriend.  She decorated the invitation to her bday party extra special with lots of drawings.

And being the mama, I had to ask — why do you like him?

She kind of shrugged.

I asked — is he smart?

Oh yes, he is as smart as me.

I asked — does he like school?

Yes, he has fun at school.

I asked — is he nice to you?

Yes, we play together all the time.

He sounds pretty special, I said.  Let’s just hope he is not some 8 year old heartbreaker, I thought.

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