Saturday, June 30, 2007

Special needs playgroup

Finally last Sunday we made it to the playgroup for the parents and kids of special needs who are on this local email list.

We all had a wonderful time. Another kid with CP who was aged five came over to me. Instant recognition. When Little T was busy elsewhere he wanted me to play with him. I had a loads of fun with him. I knew how to encourage him. When to offer a hand. That a hand on the back is reassuring while allowing him to do it himself. We ran the same sort of trotting run that Little T does. We laughed.

Little T also played on the 4 seat teeter toter which is the best PT and OT device EVER. Two hands required and lots of bouncing.

Friday, June 29, 2007

More riding

Yesterday I trotted almost the entire time. Something I would not have thought possible a few weeks ago. I now have riding pants which helps a lot.

Louie Louie my horse would hang his head down sometimes both to get a bit of rest and to test how tired I was getting. If I shifted my weight forward because I couldn't handle the way his weight shifted then he stopped but most of the time I just kept on going. Louie also likes slowing down at the gate and so I had to remind him that no we weren't stopping there.

I'm working on sitting up which I don't do a lot of the time and putting my shoulders back. It made my shoulders quite sore. My legs are long most of the time and my back is supple and so are my hands.

I find each time I ride now different muscles get sore. My instructor says it's because I'm learning.

I find also we're shifting into a new balance where I have more confidence so I'm leading Louie around. I am better about shifting my balance when we turn so he doesn't slow down when we turn. He can anticipate that I am asking him to turn as I'm turning him more by shifting my weight than pulling his reins.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My working partnership with my horse

I'm in a therapeutic riding class with two other women with special needs (and a third who hasn't been showing up lately so I have a lot less to say about her.) These two women ride these other two horses and they work wonderfully together. These horses wouldn't work for me. These women are paraplegic so they need horses that are very steady and slow. They literally need to be hoisted onto the horse with three other people in order to mount. The horse needs to be lined up exactly so sometimes the horse has to go through the mounting blocks several times. The horse I ride tolerates this but he's not great at waiting without a rider on his back. With a rider he'll wait until the cows come home but until he gets a rider he's a bit impatient waiting for someone to please ride him. He need to be walked around and around and around. Other horses don't mind just standing there waiting. In fact they seem to rather enjoy it.

I can mount a horse pretty quickly. I need a horse that can trot and later canter. I also need a horse that is responsive but yet also gives me feedback on how I'm doing. I have a movement disorder so I sometimes jerk so I need a horse that doesn't mind that. Another horse is responsive but also twitches every time I jerk. It makes me nervous so that horse is not a good match.

The horse I'm riding now is a great match for me. After a few times he got to understand what my jerks were and ignored them. As he ignored them I relaxed more and jerked less. I tend to grip too tightly and this horse slows down in response. Other horses pull back with their heads. This is what horses "should do" as pulling too hard does hurt them. And it's a great response for someone else but for me it just leads to a negative feedback loop where I pull tighter. When I loosened my grip and moved my reins with the horse the horse went faster. It taught me fairly quickly to have softer hands and bend my elbows. My instructor had been telling me for months and I'd been steadily improving but there's nothing like direct feedback.

I'm sitting on a blanket so the horse is in close contact with me. He's sensitive to how tired I'm getting or how nervous I feel and will slow down if he feels those things. The horse is "not supposed" to do this. He's "supposed" to stop or slow down when I say so but it worked really well for me when I was learning to trot. I tend to push myself too much. He started out trotting slower which was less comfortable for him but he trots faster now as I can handle it better. This gives me a great sense of security and trust in the horse. I feel more confident. And I've learned a lot faster.

For these two other women this horse wouldn't be a great match as they have little feeling in their lower body and so can not respond to the horse in that area. This horse also tends to trip sometimes quite badly when he's not paying attention. It's never been more than a minor annoyance to me as I can feel when he's about to trip and compensate but for these women they could fall off. And in fact the tripping also lets me know that I need to engage him more and make him use his shoulders which is another weakness I have.

In the first class where I could trot for longer distances I encounted this problem with this other horse that this woman doesn't usually ride. This mare doesn't like my horse a gelding who apparently herds mares in his free time. If my horse got too close then her horse would stop. Did this woman or anyone yell at me and tell me I needed to control my horse better? Or did someone tell this woman who can't kick the horse that she should never allow her horse to stop. Of course not. Someone simply gently pointed out the problem to me. It took me a few tries to get the distance right and learn how to control my horse at a faster speed but we worked it out.

My instructor told me this horse used to ride with a girl who had brain cancer and he took care of her in much the same way. Even though fortunately I don't have brain cancer we're similar enough in the way we ride that he understands what I need.

This horse has strengths and weakness and so do I. This horse is a great match for me and a wonderful horse in the program. But I would not recommend this horse to everyone. For another person with different needs this horse would be absolutely terrible. For me he's absolutely wonderful. He has taught me so much in the few weeks I've ridden him than I've learned from riding other horses in the past 9 months. I really love this horse. He was in a demonstration show with another rider and I felt so extremely proud of him.

I hope this horse and I will be riding together for a while. But if I ride another horse I will have to learn to ride him or her and she or he will have to learn to be my rider. Some horses will be a great match and some won't.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lead paint hazard for Thomas and Friends wooden railway toys

The CPSC web site lists all the trains included in the recall.

I'm outraged that toys so heavily marketed and EXPENSIVE contain lead paint.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Special K's first loose tooth

Special K has a loose tooth. I'm afraid that C and my initial reaction was "Isn't she too young to have a loose tooth?" A little anxiety as I google "age lose teeth"

The first entry was alarming about a 5 year old losing her teeth and the answer was "Something's wrong with her teeth. Check with a dentist."

Second entry was more soothing and said kids lose their first tooth about 5-6. Special K turned 5 in April. And it's from Parents magazine which would seem a more reliable source.

So no need to panic.

But I still think she's too young.

For her first couple years I was in such a hurry for her to grow up. Now I'm constantly thinking "Slow down! It's too fast!" But of course she grows at her own pace.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

First swimming lesson

Today Little T had his first swimming lesson along with Special K. He wanted me with him in the water. I forgot my bathing suit. So I just stepped in with my clothes. He kicked a lot and had a wonderful time. Special K had initial trouble with the kick board but the lessons from last summer seem to be coming back.

The pool was a warm 90 degrees. Outside was alternately warm and freezing when the wind blew.

I climbed out soggy and wet and a couple people stared. There wasn't really anything to stare at since I fortunately wore clothes that were not see-through when wet. Wet clothes are not a big deal since I was going right home. Slightly cold though.

Somehow this seems a strange metaphor for my life. I am never quite prepared and yet I plunge in anyway.

Reading is scary and unregulated

When my daughter turned four she asked begged me to learn to read. I'm a big reader myself. I had this inkling that maybe it was kinda young but she was really eager. We started off kinda haltingly as I tried phonics without success. Then we figured out she was more of a sight reader. By the time she turned five she could pick up a picture book and read it.

She also wanted to learn to write so I got her some writing workbooks. Through writing she's learning phonics. I found the workbooks vary a lot in quality. Some have directions that *I* found hard to understand. I recommend Spectrum which you can buy at Amazon or Borders.

Now she's a reader. She reads to herself all the time. She goes to the library and checks out tons of books. She really prefers books "with a picture on every page" aka picture books. As I've discovered the reading level on picture books varies a great deal and she can read all of them.

I've also discovered that I can no longer read my email in front of my daughter. No I don't get porn or anything but the odd Cialis ad makes it through my spam filter. Once my daughter walked up to the screen at just the right moment as I was deleting spam. She asked "Mommy why are you getting email about pills?" Long pause while I try to think of a truthful answer that doesn't get into much detail. "Well honey it's a commercial (we've talked about commercials before) They think I might want those pills but I really don't need them." "Oh" she said and walked away. Now I don't read email in front of her unless I know who it's from and what it's about.

The other day I talked to a librarian about my daughter's sticking to picture books. I wondered if it was okay. She said "Sure. Picture books go all the way from preschool to sixth grade in both reading level and content." I nodded my head. The librarian gave me a really serious look. She said "You need to be careful with these early readers. They can start reading subject matter that they have no idea how to deal with." I nodded my head thinking of Cialis. She looked even more serious. "You need to read the book before you let her read it."

I must have looked confused. I do watch an episode of every show I allow my kids to watch. I vetoed "Jon and Kate plus Eight" because those parents just snipe at each other constantly. They just seem so stressed to have eight kids with no other help. But picture books? I mean they're just picture books. Right?

The librarian walked me over to the picture book section. She gave me this book called The Tin Heart. The cover had a sweet picture of two girls and a tin heart with two pieces. I skimmed the beginning of the book. It started out innocently enough. Two girls in the Civil War. The father of one made a tin heart and gave each of the girls half of the heart. It talked a lot about their impending separation. All sweet and sad. Just at my daughter's level.

Then suddenly with no warning in the middle of the book.....runaway slaves. Now I understand slavery is part of the Civil War and part of our nation's history. And someday I will explain slaves to my daughter. And genocide. And torture. And Vietnam. And Guantanamo. But she's only five. She's still having trouble with the concept of "I won't be your friend anymore."

To say I was shocked is compare slavery to "I won't be your friend anymore." I was calling my husband on the phone as soon as I was home alone and babbling incoherently to him. It's not that I think picture books must cover subject matter appropriate to a five year old. It's that I expected there to be some warning. Some indication that the content is other than for preschoolers.

For example another book called Team Mates had on the cover an African American man in a baseball uniform and a white man in a baseball uniform. On the back it contained words like "segregation" and the "Negro Baseball Leagues". I skimmed that book and it talked about segregation and how there were two leagues and such. Nothing about slavery. As the sister of a special needs brother my daughter already unfortunately knows that sometimes people are mean to other people just because of the way they look or act. I told her she could read that one with a grownup.

Anyway I want to thank that librarian for giving me an education. You can bet that I'll be reading skimming all my daughter's books until I feel she's old enough to deal with any subject matter that might come up.

Even chapter books that feature sweet photos of a fluffy dog are not five-year-old safe. The back merely said it was about a dog from the pound and some sort of mystery. Midway through the book another dog dies. I asked my daughter if she wanted to read a book about a dog that dies. "No" she said firmly. That book went away too.

I'm also a little angry. I ask myself why books for kids aren't rated. I personally find reading and then imagining something to be infinitely more scary than anything I could watch or hear. I think it's because books are undervalued.

Don't get me wrong. I think the rating system for visual and aural media is far from perfect. I still have to watch/hear it before I'll give it to my daughter. However right there on the cover I have a good idea of what I might be getting into. I don't have to go halfway through before I realize "not appropriate".

Crossposted to Silicon Valley Moms Blog