School District Night at the Avalanche Game

Last night my family went to the Avalanche game. It was a night sponsored by our school district. Basically the local sports teams make tickets more affordable for families in the school district and the district gets some money out of it to benefit our schools. We get fliers about one every few months. I have had friends that have gone to Lacrosse, Soccer and Basketball. We haven’t attended one yet, because they haven’t been at a good time for us, but I decided to try it out. It was a great experience and I will be taking advantage of as many sports nights I can.

The deal: We purchased tickets at $22 a piece. There isn’t a limit on how many you can buy so we took one child, two parents, a grandparent and an uncle. The tickets aren’t assigned until later, but the venue promises it will be in the $41 to $123 seat range. You basically reserve a spot with your school and the schools with the most people buying get the best seats. If you don’t purchase by a certain date you will only get upper level seats – you won’t be seated with your school. This is all explained ahead of time and is spelled out pretty well on the flier we received.

On to the game. My son really enjoys seeing sports in real life. You get the sights and sounds and textures of the game. You get the excitement of people jumping up and screaming, and of cheering with the crowd and of dancing with the kind of cute “older lady” down the aisle who thinks it’s funny you are copying her moves. (she wasn’t old – just in her 20’s) We had great seats. I looked them up afterward and they go for $103 per seat. Again, we paid $22. We saw everything. We saw the blood in the fist fights. We could feel the slams on the glass reverberate up to us. We also happened to go on Military Appreciation Night, so we saw some touching tributes to our military, including a paratrooper who dropped into Normandy on June 5, 1944. It was so nice to see so much support for our military.

And what an amazing game to see. It was fairly high scoring as far as hockey games go. The Avs played the Tampa Bay Lightning and won 5-4. There were two major fist fights and a lot of really aggressive, fast play. My son was able to see well enough to really follow the puck and see the passing and scoring. He totally got into the game. At the between period intermissions they drop coupons or t-shirts on parachutes and my son got one of the t-shirts, so he was super excited. Apparently my husband who was getting a beer saw that happen on the TV in the lobby as well.

BUT the best part of the night as far as I was concerned was the hat trick. I’ve never seen one at a game I watched in real life and it’s hard to put into words the excitement in the arena when that happened. A hat trick in hockey is when one player scores 3 goals in one game. That’s no small feat in such a fast paced and low scoring game. The player who accomplished this was Nathan MacKinnon – a 19-year-old who now has the distinction of being the youngest in Avalanche history to do so. Joe Sakic being the only one younger by a few days for the entire NHL.

The craziness that ensued was awesome and my son truly enjoyed it. Everyone in the stands went crazy. The players went crazy. People were screaming and jumping up and down and hugging and dancing. Within seconds the entire rink was covered with people’s hats and it was really cool to see the “ice girls” cleaning them all up as the team celebrated. I truly enjoyed the night and so did everyone who was with us.

I wanted to research on whether or not other districts do the same thing and here in Denver, CO I found that most of the districts do have different sponsored sports nights. Check in your area and take advantage of them if you can. It was an awesome night.

464169218_fullSize

Nathan MacKinnon scores a hat trick.

(Photo by http://avalanche.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=754684&cmpid=rss-knabenbauer – read more about the player and the game here.)

Guns

Sometimes things happen in your periphery that make you stop and think. Make you truly wonder how you feel about a particular subject, make you stop and decide what side of the fence you are on.

I have been around guns most of my life. I was raised around guns – my family did small amounts of hunting, we had small rifles. I went hunting a few times, my brothers went hunting, though none of them liked it much. I had an uncle who had a pheasant farm for a while for hunting. My community was a hunting type community. I never felt badly about hunting or people who hunted. I have eaten dear and elk and other types of game meat. I like it. My husband has a pistol. He needed it when he was working on armored trucks and now he just uses it to shoot once in a while – go to the firing range and shoot. I am careful about the gun safety since I have a son, but not overly so. I am comfortable around a gun. We keep our gun locked in a digital safe, with the ammunition in a different place. I don’t discourage my husband from teaching our son about the gun, and it’s danger/uses. I think it’s important for all the people in the house to know about any gun the family owns and how to be safe around it. He has showed him how it works, how to load it, how to make sure it isn’t loaded and doesn’t have a round in the chamber. I have encouraged him to take him to the firing range soon to let him see the power a gun carries and let him get his curiosity out about this thing we have in our house. I think he is big enough physically as well as mature enough now to go try it out with his dad in a safe setting. I am not anti gun in general by any means.

Lately, though, I have wondered what I really believe about guns in the general population. Last night there was a news clip about a shooting in a Portland Mall right before I went to bed. I didn’t hear the whole story about how many people were wounded, etc until this morning. This summer there was a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Co not 15 min from my home. I have been reading a book which has at it’s beginning and as a recurring theme the Columbine shootings. I lived here in the Denver area then, and remember the horror of watching that – the terror of it’s unfolding on the TV before me. The feeling of shock and anger and sadness in our community is still fresh in my mind and heart. I have watched since then for years as every year another school or college or church or mall or theater is attacked by gun wielding “madmen”.

Last night as I lay in bed thinking about all of these things I decided I need to think about what my position on guns and the general population is.

I do not know if this will be the first in a series of posts yet or not. I will say I am researching as I write – I am looking at facts. Numbers, statistics, meaningful and measurable things. I am formulating opinion as I go along. Let me just say right up front that I don’t know WHAT the solution is right now. I don’t know HOW we change this problem, but I do think it needs to change and that we as a population need to change it. I hope to find some answers in this discovery process. Answers I can be a part of.

Violence in America is an epidemic and gun violence is a big part of that. Compared to other industrial countries, an American child under the age of 15 is 5 times more likely to be murdered, 2 times more likely to commit suicide, and 12 times more likely to die of a gun related death.

On average 24 people in the US are killed every day by people with guns. This does not include suicides or accidental shootings. It is one person being shot by another person. If we include all of the accidents and suicides and attempted suicides and the cases where police officers are forced to shoot someone, that number increases to 268 people a day.

268 people a day are shot by a gun in America.

Shockingly (to me) according to the Brady Campaign, “Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.” That’s compared to the 23 most wealthy countries in the world. (Obviously places like Darfur and the Sudan have more gun deaths, I assume.) This fact floored me.

So, what goes into this whole “Americans with guns and violence” equation?

First – why do people own guns in America? 1. For hunting. If you own guns for hunting you only need to own rifles or shot guns. No one needs a pistol or a semi auto gun for hunting. I have read the forums with people arguing that semi autos have a place among hunters. I don’t buy it. If you can’t shoot it with a rifle or shotgun, you don’t need to be hunting it. People shot bears and moose and caribou for hundreds of years with regular rifles. If our forefathers could kill all of the meat their family needed for the year with a musket, we can shoot animals we mostly shoot for sport with a rifle. There is no reason to own a semi auto for hunting. That is my opinion and I am sticking to it. 2. Protection. This is where the pistols come in. People feel that pistols are more powerful and more easily accessed in an emergency. Also, they are easier to carry with you. 3. For sport. Some people keep guns for hunting as a sport (not to eat), some people skeet shoot or target shoot. This is a common reason for owning guns. Especially the big, semi auto guns and the pistols.

Let me get the hunting part out of the way first. According to several gun owner organizations, between 11 and 15% of Americans report being active in hunting. That certainly can’t account for the enormous number of guns out in our population. I feel people should be able to hunt for food if they want. Really, I don’t mind trophy hunting all that much, I don’t see it as necessary, but there are a lot of things we do that aren’t necessary. I’d like to see people who hunt use the meat for food and leave the trophy part out of it. That being said, am not really in huge opposition to it. I think hunting helps keep elk, deer and other populations down, and I think it is good for our ecology. I think rifles should be used in hunting and I think that if used/stored properly, hunting rifles are fairly “safe” type of guns. In fact, hunting rifles and other long barrel guns make up less than half of the gun deaths in our country per year and are mostly accidental deaths, not homicides and suicides.

I was surprised to find out that in homicides from 1976 to 2004 in the US handguns were used more than 2 times as often (some years 3 times as often) as other types of guns (including assault riffles), more than 2 times as often as knives, more than 3 times as often as “other methods” and more than 5 times as often as “blunt objects”. Some years the handguns were used up to 8 times more than other methods. I know that if someone wants to kill another person, “they will find a way”. I also think that guns make killing another person easier. They put some distance, some anonymity, between the victim and the killer. They take away the up close and personal part of the killing usually. They make it an easier split second decision.

Now, let me address the home protection part. I think people have a right to protect their homes and their families. I also think that guns are rarely used in this type of protection. (By rarely I mean comparing how many people say they own a gun for protection, and how many of those people actually USE the gun for protection.) The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence states on their website:

“DID YOU KNOW? On the whole, guns are more likely to raise the risk of injury than to confer protection.

  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide (11x),criminal assault or homicide (7x), or unintentional shooting death or injury (4x) than to be used in a self-defense shooting. (Kellermann, 1998, p. 263)
  • Guns are used to intimidate and threaten 4 to 6 times more often than they are used to thwart crime (Hemenway, p. 269).
  • Every year there are only about 200 legally justified self-defense homicides by private citizens (FBI, Expanded Homicide Data, Table 15) compared with over 30,000 gun deaths (NCIPC).
  • A 2009 study found that people in possession of a gun are 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault (Branas).”

Those statistics say a lot to me. If less than .6% of all deadly shootings are legally justified self defense, I would say that self defense is really a negligible part of this equation. I would also go on to say that it is a poor excuse for owning a gun. IF there were to be some sort of foreign invasion on our soil (the type that includes large numbers of people coming into our country by foot or car which we could actually shoot at), or IF there were to be some sort of zombie apocalypse, or IF there were some sort of “post apocalyptic fall of society” then yes – guns would be useful as protection. Except with the zombies. Everyone knows shooting zombies doesn’t stop them. Unless it’s in the head. (A little humor in this serious blog post.)

I would like to address the issue of guns as recreation. I suppose I really don’t have a problem with this part either. Though the kinds of guns generally used in recreation are the kinds often used in crimes.

The problems we have, then, become criminals owning or finding a way to get guns into their possession, people using guns they already have in a crime, and domestic violence/home accidents.

Obviously, making gun safety and education a priority in homes that have guns is an important factor. This would cut down on the accidents. Domestic violence involving guns is a much more complicated matter and will have to be an entirely different post, I suppose. But needless to say there are things we can do to help prevent domestic violence in general, including incidents involving guns.

The guns which most often used to commit crimes? Handguns, as we have already established, are the type of guns most often used in crimes. So… how do we keep handguns out of the hands of people who use them for killing?

Now, I am not one of those people who think that rounding up all the guns and taking them away is a good idea. I am not naive enough to think that the criminal element will not still retain the ability to purchase/locate guns and I am not naive enough to think that there wouldn’t be major fall out from something like this. I know that in studies done on the Australian gun ban and buy back, it has shown to not be extremely effective in reducing  the number of gun related homicides and crimes. There has been a healthy decline in the rate of suicides in general and gun relates suicides in particular. But there are still guns in the population and people still die by gun violence. I do think something has to be done here in the US to lower the rate of gun related crimes and deaths. So what is that something?

I think we need to look at gun violence as a bigger picture. Why are Americans so violent in general? Why do we have such high homicide rates? Why do we have people walking into malls and theaters and schools killing each other? Why do we have children killing other children? Why do we have children being bullied so terribly that they kill themselves? Why do we have strangers walking into public places shooting at people that they have never even met before? These aren’t all robberies gone bad or home invasions turned murder or abusive husbands being shot or one child being angry at another child or group of children. These are very often random killings committed by Americans who don’t even know each other, without an explanation as to the reason. Why? Why are we so violent.

I would like to mention 2 things in the wake of those questions I posed above. First, we are a violent country. We have always chosen war over peace. We were birthed in war. The Europeans slaughtered Native Americans and African slaves. They fought against their own mother country for the right to be a separate nation. Less than 100 years after becoming a country we were at war with ourselves. We have fought many wars since then and I am sure will continue to fight more. We go off attacking other nations, trying to democratize them, saying they are a threat to us, saying the way they do things is wrong. We go to war to help others, sometimes without them asking for our help. We go to war over things like oil and land and control. We go to war claiming that our way of life is the best way and everyone else needs to do it our way, all the while having our own problems here at home that need to be addressed. We are a warring country. We teach our children to fight, we use words that are violence based when talking about most things. Our entertainment is more violent than not, even in the children’s entertainment. Movies, games, music and more all condone and promote violence. We tell our children “stand up for yourselves”, “be brave”, “don’t let yourself be picked on”. While I tell my son these same things I realize only now that they are violence based. Fighting is the solution for my 6 year old boy? Being brave at night in his room alone is the solution? Where does it end? We war with everyone and everything that even slightly resembles a threat. And yet, even war has changed – become faceless and less personal. We have unmanned planes and weapons that go into battle that are controlled by someone no where near the strike zone. We used to fight face to face and hand to hand, looking into the eyes of dying men and women, but now more often than not, it is impersonal, at a distance, and more deadly with the stronger, faster, better weapons we have. Then we bring those soldiers home and expect them to go back to real life without help. And our returning soldiers now have a suicide rate unparalleled to any other group of soldiers in our history.

Second – we are an easily frightened people. Easily frightened people are not only easily controlled, but also easily spurred to violence. Part of the problem with violence in this country is the fear we all have. Fear that the government is “taking over”, fear that the violence is coming to our home, fear that people of a different race or class are coming for us, fear that poverty will take us over. (*one thing that would help our violence problem would be for us to work on our poverty, race, and class issues) Michael Moore spoke about our fear in a very well written post after the Aurora shootings:

“What are we so afraid of that we need to have 300 million guns in our homes? Who do we think is going to hurt us? Why are most of these guns in white suburban and rural homes? Maybe we should fix our race problem and our poverty problem (again, number one in the industrialized world) and then maybe there would be fewer frustrated, frightened, angry people reaching for the gun in the drawer. Maybe we would take better care of each other.”

We are a violent people. I don’t think anyone can deny that. Look at the statistics. We have the most violent crimes in all of the free world. The most homicides, the most gun violence.

In my readings I came upon the best answer I have found yet. I believe, after reading a lot about this, that he thing we need to change is the way we look at this phenomenon. We need to change our perspective. We need to look at this violence as a human health issue. As a disease that can be treated. I don’t believe that guns should be ripped from the hands of “well meaning citizens”. I do believe that there needs to be a lot of changes made. Do we make it harder for people with a mental illness, a past record of violence, a previous attempt at harming someone with a weapon to get a hold of guns? How do we decide what needs to be changed and when and where to make those changes?

If we take a step back and look at gun violence in a public health approach, it becomes more cut and dried. It becomes less emotional. People stop freaking out that there is “so much gun violence” and that “someone is going to take their guns away” and start looking at the causes, repercussions, and treatments of the epidemic. (Let me note here, I think looking at all violence from the perspective of a public health approach would help as well, but since gun violence is the topic of this piece, I will focus on that here.)

I don’t believe the answer is going to come to us in a drastic way. I don’t believe taking guns away, banning guns, dramatically changing gun laws will help. I believe the answer is going to come in subtle, scientific ways.

On of the doctors who found himself treating victims of the Sikh temple shooting last year has written in the Wisconsin Medical Journal about the gun violence epidemic. He says that just because it is becoming the norm doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. Dr Hargarten has stated that looking at it as a public health issue is the way to go. I think I like his (and many others) way of thinking.

“Unlike almost all other consumer products, there is no national product safety oversight of firearms,” he wrote in the Wisconsin Medical Journal. Why is this? We are so afraid of loosing our right to own guns that we don’t even want to make sure the products are safely made? We don’t want them to go through the same testing and oversight as a car or a child’s toy? This is our first step. To make sure that guns are being produced properly and safely.

If we look at the issue as a “public health issue” there are certain classifications we look at. It gives us a scientific method to follow. Some of the things to look at are as follows:

“_”Host” factors: (for example) What makes someone more likely to shoot, or someone more likely to be a victim. One recent study found firearm owners were more likely than those with no firearms at home to binge drink or to drink and drive, and other research has tied alcohol and gun violence. That suggests that people with driving under the influence convictions should be barred from buying a gun, Wintemute said.

_Product features: Which firearms are most dangerous and why. Manufacturers could be pressured to fix design defects that let guns go off accidentally, and to add technology that allows only the owner of the gun to fire it (many police officers and others are shot with their own weapons). Bans on assault weapons and multiple magazines that allow rapid and repeat firing are other possible steps.

_”Environmental” risk factors: What conditions allow or contribute to shootings. Gun shops must do background checks and refuse to sell firearms to people convicted of felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors, but those convicted of other violent misdemeanors can buy whatever they want. The rules also don’t apply to private sales, which one study estimates as 40 percent of the market.

_Disease patterns, observing how a problem spreads. Gun ownership – a precursor to gun violence – can spread “much like an infectious disease circulates,” said Daniel Webster, a health policy expert and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore.” “There’s sort of a contagion phenomenon” after a shooting, where people feel they need to have a gun for protection or retaliation, he said.”

That was evident in the wake of the Colorado movie-theater shootings. Reports came up around the nation of people bringing guns to “Batman” movies. After Columbine some teachers reported thinking teachers should have conceal and carry permits.

The above examples are just a very few of the things we can look into and find answers in. Subtle changes can make a difference. Treatments to health epidemics often come in the form of education and prevention as well. For example, the spread of HIV slowed down dramatically when how the disease was spread was discovered, and education about how to prevent the spread was widely distributed.

If we take a logically based approach there is actually a lot we can study and use to make gun violence decrease. If we stop freaking out about our second amendment rights and our NEED to have a gun, we could do a lot of good. If we stop freaking out about “the enormity” of it all and stop trying to ban all weapons and work WITH gun owners and gun sellers and gun organizations, we could learn a lot. We could study how guns get into the hands of people like the theater shooting perpetrator or the columbine kids (their 18 year old friend went to a gun show and bought them – no background check, no wait time), and we could make gun laws based on how they are bought/procured and by whom. (why do private sellers not have to do background checks? What happens to guns that are in evidence lockers around the country? How do illegal gun runners operate and what can we do to stop them?) We could study what kind of people are more likely to commit gun violence, we could increase our violence prevention tactics.

I feel like I have started to find an answer here among my research.

We, as Americans, have a gun violence problem. A handgun violence problem to be more specific. We, as Americans, want that to decrease without loosing the rights of the majority of people. We, as Americans, don’t have a crystal ball to see what might happen in the future, but if the last 20 years is any indication, gun violence will continue to rise.

I would like to finish this part of my journey into “how I feel about guns” by saying this: I know that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” but really, how many of those people would kill with a different weapon? There are plenty of estimates on this, some say as high as 85% of violent crimes and 80% of suicides by gun would not happen without access to a gun. In other words, when asked if they would have tried the same thing without a gun, perpetrators said no – up to 85% of them. Yes, violence happens without guns every day. A small town close to where I grew up (Casper Wyoming) was recently devastated by a suicide murder in which the perpetrator shot 2 other people with a bow and arrow before turning the weapon on himself. I ask you this, would the Aurora theatre shooter been able to kill or hurt so many people in such a short amount of time without the weapons he had? If he had a knife or bow and arrow, would all of those people be dead or injured? I don’t believe so and I doubt you do either.

Only we can change the violence in our country – only we can heal this epidemic of gun violence. Please, stand with me to stop the dramatic extremes in our opinions about guns, look logically at the problem, and find ways to fix it. We can all play a part. Leave the emotions at the door and look at it through the eyes of scientists and doctors and public health nurses and help to heal this disease.

More reading:

http://www.bradycampaign.org/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-moore/its-the-guns-_b_1700218.html

http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_21292776/treat-gun-violence-public-health-issue-experts-say

https://fishjello.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/death-and-life-in-america/

 

****EDIT: in talking with some like minded friends about this article it seemed to me that I had left something unclear in it. I don’t think anyone needs to have a military grade weapon in their possession unless they are active military/police force. There are plenty of very responsible gun owners out there who take the time and care to store and use their weapons carefully. But there are some people who don’t. Weapons end up in the hands of criminals all the time – through home invasions or store robberies. These guns, when used in mass shootings such as the Aurora shooting, are more damaging and much easier to use to hit a large number of moving targets. The gun the Aurora shooter used first was an Ar-15 assault rifle which can expend up to 50 rounds per minute. This gun would have been illegal to buy from the early 1990’s until 2004. This year he was able to buy it with no problem. My biggest problem with a gun like that is this: during a mass shooting like this a shot gun, a handgun, a normal hunting rifle, etc – they all have to be aimed and fired and reloaded. This man just shot and moved the gun, pointing it into the crowd. He didn’t have to take time to aim or time to reload. These things may seem trivial, but it could have given some people a chance to run, escape, hide more, try to get away from the bullets. The rounds this gun uses are also very powerful. They shot completely through the wall of the theater into the theater next door and wounded and killed people there. Those walls have sound containing panels and everything. That is a pretty powerful round I think.

I have to admit, I used to think that taking these weapons out of the hands of the majority of the population would do the most good. I don’t anymore. I think it’s part of the equation that needs to be addressed, but it also happens to be a small part of the equation. Hand guns seem to be the weapons most often used in gun violence, and while it might help with the mass shootings we have seen, it won’t help with the other 200 + people shot on a daily basis.

Food Therapy

My son is a picky eater. I know what you are thinking – all little kids are picky. This is beyond that. He eats 3 meals: spaghetti with marinara, eggo blueberry waffles, and dominos cheese pizza. That’s it. Everything else he eats are sides – cheese, frozen gogurts, fruit, cucumbers, crackers, etc. It had become a problem. He wasn’t getting the nutrients he needed, even with vitamin supplements. I grind meat up in his spaghetti sauce with the Cuisinart and make special cookies that have beans and nuts pureed in them to help with iron and protein. I read every parenting magazine that claimed to be able to “help you feed your picky child.” And those magazines made me feel like a failure. These people were talking about edamame and humus. I can’t even get my child to eat pancakes.

My in laws made me feel like a failure. Their toddlers were walking around eating dried fish with bones in it at barbeques. My son wouldn’t eat the cucumbers if they weren’t cut right. Most of them force feed their child as a toddler. I don’t agree with that – I am not going to sit and hold my son down and force feed him. In fact, when we were in Russia I got very angry with my MIL for doing that. I don’t think it’s healthy. But still, my son wasn’t eating anything and I didn’t know what to do. I knew what I didn’t want to do, but I couldn’t fix this problem.

I was at my wit’s end and I didn’t know what else to do. Now, my son has sensory issues – his main problem with foods is texture, smell, and taste. (I know – that’s all of it.) I had read about food therapy and decided we needed to ask his doctor. At his last well check I asked about it. She referred us to the children’s hospital, they did an evaluation on him, and we got into the food therapy clinic. In food therapy an OT helps figure out what the issues are, and how to fix them.

He has always kind of had feeding issues. He had a hard time learning to nurse, and then I had to stop breastfeeding due to cancer treatments and he had a hard time with any nipples except a certain type. He never got past the newborn nipple – he would gag and spit up and cry with the nipples with more flow. He ate baby food pretty well. But I was really sick and couldn’t make fresh food most of the time, so we just used jar foods and while those are healthy, they weren’t the same flavors as what we normally eat. I wish I had just ground up our food for him. Getting him off baby food to solid food was very stressful for him. At one point he really ate well – pretty much every thing I gave him, but then he started eliminating foods and it became a struggle I couldn’t deal with. In fact, I got so frustrated with meal times that I just gave up. I stopped making family meals since my husband came home late (and later his mom came and she makes the foods he prefers). I stopped eating at the table with him, we just ate in front of the TV. I stopped trying to get him to eat other foods. I just couldn’t handle the frustration. We adapted to him instead of continuing to challenge him and get him to eat more things.

So, food therapy – I have had some questions from friends about what we do. I am not an OT, and having someone to go work with, having someplace that isn’t home to do this work has helped a lot. He fights less with her than he does with me. But I will share what we do, what we have changed, and what our techniques are at home.

First the new rules: 1. we eat at the table as a family. Right now that usually just means me and my son except when his dad is off. His grandparents eat on their own schedule after work and such. 2. I choose what to serve, he chooses what to eat. I don’t force him or struggle too much with him about what he eats. Every meal has SOMETHING he prefers so he doesn’t go hungry. 3. We put the food on the table and pass it around (or in our case serve ourselves from the bowls) – “family style”. We both put some of everything on the table on our plates. It can just sit there if he doesn’t want to eat it, but I try to have him spear it with a toothpick or something. He at least looks at it and smells it. I have gone back to divided plates for him (like toddler plates with dividers) because that makes it much easier for him – not such bad anxiety over foods contaminating “his” food. 4. Eat on a schedule. He isn’t allowed to graze. I always just gave him a snack when he wanted one. He isn’t allowed to just eat when he wants. He eats breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and a snack if he needs it. He has adapted well to that and I rarely have to say “you need to wait for snack” anymore. If it’s within half an hour and he is starving I am flexible with the time, as long as he isn’t just walking around eating small snacks all day.  5. change the way you talk about food. Correct statements like “that’s yucky” or “I don’t like that” to “I am still learning about this food.” And even with you, don’t turn up your nose to something at a restaurant, or at a friend’s house. Be positive about food. If it is something completely new, we use the phrase “that surprised our tongue. Remember, our tongue has to try a new food 10 times before it knows if it likes it or not.” Also when anxiety arises, saying “you don’t have to try it, we are just LEARNING about it.” Eventually you get to the point where you have to push more and then we stop just learning about it.These types of phrases helps disperse the anxiety.We also say “I think your eyes are tricking you” if he doesn’t want to eat it when he just looks at it. Our biggest rule is “you don’t have to eat it, but we are going to learn about it.”

Desensitization: Kids like my son need some help to get over the struggle with foods. He has so much anxiety around foods. So we do it in steps, we let him get to know the foods before he actually tastes them, and we take it slow.

Some of the things we do for him to get used to food was hard for me at first. It’s messy. It’s not pretty. It’s everything you don’t want in table manners. The therapist said some families just play with food at snack and say dinner is time to practice being polite and using our manners. I use the techniques at every meal because it makes it easier for him to interact with different kinds of food. The order of desensitization is: sight, smell, touch, in depth touch (like pulling it apart, crumbling it, squishing it), touch on the face or head, kiss, lick, bite, chew, swallow. Those are all separate steps.
Our therapist said that kids need to step up slowly to eating new foods. We start with what it looks like – if I serve something new he might not even want it on his plate, but we are getting past that. We put a little on his plate. We will talk about what it looks like. What color, what textures, do we think it might be crunchy or soft or gooey? Then we have him smell it. At first even that made him so upset. Now he will smell anything. We will compare the smells to other foods we know. Then we start with touch. We do a lot of messy projects with food. Pudding finger paints, crunching up cheetos or veggie sticks (like potato chips kind of, but made with more veggies, different colored, and stick shaped – less fat too), putting goldfish crackers in our jello or fruit, chopping, mixing, feeling, crumbling, getting totally messy with the food. Just exploring the textures and smells and stuff. She said they need this – they need to feel what the food will be like in their mouth before it gets to their mouth. It’s messy. And it’s hard for me to let go of that sometimes. But we do it. I bought some of those sword toothpicks, some fun bowls and utensils, etc for him to play with – and I have him help me cook which he likes – this all desensitizes him to the foods before it ever gets close to his mouth.
Next step at first was touching it to his face or head. He didn’t want it near his mouth, and we were mostly doing things like crackers or veggies sticks, nothing extremely messy. He would bounce it on the top of his head, or tap it on his ears to a song, etc. Eventually she would have him tap his lips or teeth. This was much more fun and less threatening than “try it.” We have eliminated this step for the most part. He has gotten to the point where he will put the food to his lips without freaking out.
So now we start putting it to his mouth by kissing it, then licking it, then finally biting it and allow him to spit it out if it’s too strong. After he has been exposed to a certain food in several of our “sessions” at home or in therapy, we move on to “take 3 bites with chewing and swallowing. This is still difficult for him. This is still a struggle. But I remind him that he KNOWS this food, I remind him that this food isn’t scary. And he has gotten to where with most things he will do it without too much of a struggle.

An important thing to remember is to try to branch out from foods your child already eats. If it’s somewhat similar it will be easier to make that transition. They call this “food chaining”. For example – if your child will eat spaghetti with marinara sauce, start trying differently shaped noodles. Then you can try different sauces. We are trying this right now with mac n cheese. He will eat macaroni noodles with marinara on them, but not cheese sauce. We have let him put some marinara on the mac n cheese and it helps him tolerate it more. If your child likes waffles you can try pancakes, blueberry muffins, french toast, etc – other bready breakfast foods.

Some of the best things I have learned:

Kids think that they only like ONE KIND of thing by sight. Like he will only eat square graham crackers and not any teddy grahams or grahams shaped like spider man, etc. So we take that one food he likes, and put 3 different “types” out to taste test, play with, explore all at the same time. He eats eggo blueberry waffles. We have tried plain, strawberry and are now going to try chocolate chip. We did different flavors of applesauce. He only liked one kind of string cheese. I got him to try another after a lot of work and playing with it and looking and touching it, and he liked it. He would only try it after we had done several of these types of activities – because he thought if it looked a little different or had a different package he wouldn’t like it. We talk about how these things are the same. With the cheese: it’s the same color, it’s the same shape and size, it feels the same… etc. We tried different colors of jello, kix cereal now has a couple different flavors, cheerio shaped cereal like Fruit Loops or Apple Jacks. She said even different types of fruit snacks, etc. Just to desensitize. Different types of ice cream, different types of cookies – she said don’t worry about how healthy stuff is at this point – i mean, still try to get a balanced diet over all – but let him try different snacks, deserts, etc – just to show him not all new foods are scary.

We mix foods we already know with new foods to make them less scary. One example: when we tried new flavors of applesauce he used graham crackers to dip in it and eat off the cracker. He already knows graham crackers. And it was less applesauce at once mixed with something that isn’t scary. Right now we are trying for mac n cheese. He eats most kinds of noodles (macaroni, spirals, spaghetti) with marinara sauce. But won’t try cheese sauce or alfredo sauce or anything. Right now he is helping me make mac n cheese, which I eat, and he puts marinara ON TOP of the cheese sauce on his plate and mixes it in good and then he can eat it. If it doesn’t have marinara he gags. I don’t know why. We have used one of those nut chopper things that you put the food under and hit the top of to chop up crunchier items and mix them in with the food that was new. He loved the chopping. He likes to peel and cut veggies up too. I was amazed he would do this mix in activity because he hates his food to touch. But he did – he crunched up veggie sticks and put them on noodles, today he made crumbs out of cheetos and put them on his mac n cheese. He crunched up the veggie sticks and crunched cheetos into them when the cheetos was new. It was more veggie sticks than cheetos and then they did “puppy dog licks” where they lick their finger, dip it in the pile of crumbs, and lick the crumbs off their fingers. It helped with the taste, texture, etc.

Change the shape of foods. Since he was so worried about packaging, what color or shape things were, since he had such a set idea about what “his” food “looks like”, I started changing the way his foods look. I would cut the waffles with cookie cutters to change the shape – I cut pizza into squares or stars or different shapes. I did different colors of a similar food, I did bigger sizes, smaller sizes. I used fruit cutters to make balls or differently shaped slices out of our fruits. I mixed cut up strawberries and bananas in the same bowl. There are lots and lots of ways to change how food looks.

Another fun thing the therapist did (and kind of gross) is she had like a medium sized mixing bowl and when he put something in his mouth at first they “blow rockets” with them. Like put them in their lips and them blow them (spit them) into the bowl. And call it blowing rockets. Then he is tasting it, touching it, getting it to his mouth for fun. I have done it at home with a few things he was really worried over.
Also just playing with it. Like the mac and cheese, we made smiley faces with it. Because he hates those stickier textures. It helps him to touch them. We did frosting on graham crackers with our fingers, we did jello to squish in our fingers. We did painting with those cheese and pretzel packs you get at the store (the ones where you dip the pretzel or tiny bread sticks into a cheese sauce).

We give him “choices” like do you want to take an ant bite or a birdy bite? Then we move up to a bigger bite – the biggest is a t-rex bite and it’s huge. I will also say “are you going to lick it or kiss it?” or “are you going to take 3 bites or 4?” He feels more in control. If your child has a problem with getting her fingers in the food, or getting their fingers messy, keep a wet washcloth beside her – that helps us too. He doesn’t like the juices or crumbs or whatever on his hands.

We have several things we say when the anxiety starts to get bad. We say things like “what’s going to happen if the taste “surprises” you?” (we never say “if you don’t like it”) I will say things like “is it going to bite your nose? Are you going to explode? Is it going to hurt you somehow?” and he laughs and says no and then it breaks the concern and he feels better about it. Important- if you seem frustrated and anxious (which I always was about food) he will get frustrated and anxious. He has to see that it’s just food. It isn’t a big deal. It’s just fuel for our bodies. Help your child take the control factor out of it without you being in control – that can lead to more issues later on – anorexia and stuff. It’s JUST FOOD. It’s no big deal. That’s how we approach it now.

My goal is to have him eating something he can take for lunch next year. We aren’t there yet. I mean, he could take stuff. I have plenty of “meals” I have made up over the past couple years – crackers, cheese, cucumbers, a fruit. And at camp for a few weeks this summer he took spaghetti and ate it cold. But a sandwich or a wrap would be awesome. He won’t be buying hot lunch for a while, I guess. Maybe on pizza day if it’s the right brand

It sounds like a lot of work. At first I was like ????? After our first appointment I was so stressed out. It felt like something I just couldn’t do. Changing the way I have been doing things for the last couple years? How would I manage. I think most families probably eat more meals together and haven’t given up cooking family meals like I did. So some of the work is already done for you. It will be the playing, the steps, the waiting until he/she is comfortable with the food to actually have them taste it. That part is the work. But it’s worth it. Yesterday my son ate meat at food therapy. Real meat. That wasn’t pureed into his marinara sauce. I am going to start pushing him a little more, start really trying new things. Soon, he will be eating stuff I never imagined he would eat. Then this morning when he went to give his dad a hug and his dad had been eating a piece of cheese on toast, he freaked out that his dad’s fingers were dirty and getting “that yucky food” on him. We still have work to do. LOL

Remember, this might not seem like it needs to be so anxiety ridden to you. You may not understand WHY your child can’t just eat normal foods. You may not understand why one food is just fine and another is not. But you don’t have to understand. Just try to be kind, don’t force, and remind them it’s JUST FOOD.

Love Wins

Huh. I have the need to write today I guess. This week really.

There is this blog that I read. It’s called “Momastery”. No, not mom mastery. Momastery – like a monastery. With moms. http://momastery.com/blog/what-is-momastery/

Anyway, this Glennon that writes the blog, she has some great great great advice. I suggest you read her if you don’t already. She also has some great sayings that somehow seep into your head and become little mantras to get you through your days, or that pop up when you are in conversation with others.

One of those sayings is Love Wins.

Love wins.

It’s simple. Seems like it’s too simple. But honestly, it’s not.

This week we have had some attacks on several US embassies. We have had unrest in our country – or more specifically in other countries, but surrounding our citizens and officials. In these cases, in these instances, I can’t help but think that some love could help. Could help heal, could have help prevented. If we all saw each other as human beings, capable of and worthy of love, if all people could look inside themselves and find love for each other these things wouldn’t happen. If we realized that no matter what religion, what country, what family, what political affiliation, what sexuality, what color, what culture we all are or come from – if we realized that no matter what all that other stuff is we are really the same. The same inside. We want love and we want to love. If we stopped to realize that, then I believe there would be no wars.

I have a friend who mentioned a family member made insensitive and harmful remarks toward her baby because she is biracial and because her father isn’t in the picture. I can’t help but think that stopping, putting some love in her heart, thinking of what that baby means to the family and how wonderful she is could have helped avoid this very situation.

Love wins.

When I am frustrated with my son. When he isn’t listening, when he is fussy or cranky or not doing what I have asked. When I am just exhausted and I want my own time… Love wins. If I look in his eyes or hold his hand or really listen to his sweet little boy voice, I realize he is still so little. He still just wants my love. He still needs my love. If I stop and think about this and think about how much I love him, I am so much kinder. So much more tolerant. So much better of a mom.

Love wins.

When we put some love in our hearts, stop, slow down, and let that love be the driving force, suddenly we are no longer mean and brusque with our fellow people.

I was in the store the other day. There was only one lane open since it was 9 am. I was picking up a few things and then wanted to get home and rest a bit before going to pick my son up from school. I was behind a woman who was doing her entire month’s worth of grocery shopping (or possibly shopping for a small school). I was not in a hurry, so I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was NOT IN A HURRY. Then at the end she handed the checker LITERALLY about a hundred coupons. The checker sighed a big sigh, and then both of them turned to look at me. Because I had already taken a deep breath, reminded myself that love and kindness and decency to our fellow man (woman) is more important than me getting my starbucks and sitting on my couch, I was able to smile at them both, and act as if I had no idea what they were staring at me for. Surely they both expected me to sigh, shift my weight, roll my eyes, look to the person behind me with a knowing grimace, and in general act like an ass. And I have before in this exact same situation. But this time I didn’t. Because love wins. And you know what? The two people who came behind me did the same thing. No one sighed or grimaced or winced. I bet everyone in that line that day had a better day because I did NOT start the chain reaction.

Love wins.

Even in the little things. Even in the little ways. And all those little things added up makes big things.

You know what the funny thing about love is? When you give it, it doesn’t get smaller, it gets bigger. I give someone love, I still have more love. And that person has more love, and then they pass it on.

Love wins, my friends.

It does.

Try it today.

Awesome things Russia has that America doesn’t

There are quite a few, but I chose my favorites from my trip there. I was going to include some wedding ceremony stuff, but I think that will have to be a whole separate post.

1.Ice Cream in a bag. You go to the little corner store and in their freezer section they will have ice creams called “plombier ice cream” (translated of course). They are vanilla ice cream cones in a bag. Cone and all. I know, you are thinking “how good can ice cream in a bag be? It’s darn good.

Image

2. Knowledge Day. On September 1 every year the Russians celebrate Knowledge Day. It’s the first day of school, whether it’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or what have you – it’s the first day of school. The kids get dressed up in white and black nice clothes, the girls put GIANT white bows in their hair. They take flowers to their teachers. They have parades of the first and last (entering and graduating) class. They do a little program and see their classrooms and go home. They even have certain sayings – like “perve class, perve raz” which means first class, first time. Some times the first class (entering class) students ring the school bell while being carried on the shoulders of a final year student (graduating class). They also have a big family dinner and often give flowers to mothers and grandmothers. There is usually a special treat or dessert for the children. It’s a big holiday type atmosphere. Especially important to those first year students.

Image

3. Turkish Coffee. Made in a special pot called an Ibrik, with finely ground coffee and sugar and water. Instructions on how to make it are VERY specific, and you drink it out of tiny “demitasse” cups. It’s very strong, and honestly I don’t like the taste too often, but the tradition of it is really more important. When you get together with friends or family the hostess usually makes turkish coffee.

Image

4. Live monkeys to pose for pictures with. In clothing. Need I say more?

Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Vodka by the gram. When you go to a restaurant you order a certain amount of grams of vodka for the table. Say 300 grams for a couple people. You do not order 5 shots. You order 500 grams. They bring it in a pretty glass bottle and give you shot glasses for the table. You only drink it straight. No mixers. Even by little old women. Pickles, lemon wedges or smoked fish for chasers. (or, if you can’t do that, soda)

Image

6. Napoleon Cake. Honestly almost every desert I have had is delicious. But my favorite and my husband’s is napoleon cake. It is a many layered cake with light flaky dough layers and thick creamy layers in between. So nummy. (the picture I have here has decoration on top, but I have never seen that – usually it is covered in crumbs from another layer of flaky crust.

Image

7. Banya. To be fair I have not gone to do this, though one of our friends here in Denver does have one. It’s called Red Rocks Banya. I don’t think I can take the heat. It’s usually done only with the same sex. A group of women will go together or a group of men. I am under the impression more men go than women, but that may depend on where you live, or the community you are in. It’s a type of sauna/spa ritual. You go sit in a super super hot sauna naked. Like so hot it can fry your brains. Then someone beats you with sticks. No really. They beat you with birch, or eucalyptus branches which still have the dried leaves on them. All over your back and legs and stuff. Supposed to increase circulation. Then you go jump in a cold pool area, or you roll in snow, or something cold like that. (Here it is a cold pool.) Then you re-enter the sauna. Sometimes you repeat this several times, but the beating is only one time usually. Then you go into a still hot but dry area and play games, drink beer or vodka, and talk with the other men. It’s supposed to cleanse your body of toxins. Sometimes they do honey masks or mud packs. I won’t go into what the mud packs are. I will just say they are “good for the prostate.”

Image

Living with the In-Laws.

I haven’t posted much about this yet. Partly because I don’t want to admit that sometimes I am petty and not a very nice person. Partly because if there is an off chance my husband’s family or friends might see it, I don’t want the news to get around to the in-laws. And let me tell you, you can’t do anything in this community without everyone knowing.

My husband’s parents came here from Russia about 13.5 months ago. I’m not counting. Obviously.

We worked really hard to get them visas so they could work here when they came. It took much longer, and much more paperwork, and much more money then a regular travel visa would have. We did it this way for a few reasons. We wanted them to be able to come back and forth as they wanted. We wanted them to be able to work while they are here. We wanted them to be able to come together. Often with a tourist visa, if you apply together you aren’t always approved together. With a tourist visa you have to come when they say and go home when they say, and reapply when you want to come again.

So, we got them “green cards” or permanent resident status.

And they came.

Let me be clear, I was under the distinct impression (based on the tickets we bought) that they would be coming for 6 months and going home. I’m not sure my husband necessarily LIED to me about this. Perhaps I just assumed too much.

So, it has been an interesting year. In the beginning everyone was really polite and trying to get to know each other. We developed a little routine – what things my MIL did, what things I did, what things we had my FIL do, my husband went to work and came home and that was about the extent of his involvement. My MIL didn’t like it at first – she couldn’t get work and my son took a long time to warm up to her. We really couldn’t communicate, she didn’t want to just sit home. My FIL had some friends he saw regularly and got his driver’s license (though how he passed the driving test I have no idea – worst. driver. ever.)

After a few months my MIL started working and my FIL was the one stuck at home with nothing to do. The tables turned. One of his friends went back to Russia, one of them started working more because they were busy at his work. He has tried a few jobs, but either they were temporary or he didn’t like them and quit. You may wonder where two people who don’t speak any English work in the US. We have a very large Russian and Armenian community here, so they find jobs among those people’s companies. Or even in their homes – nannying, taking care of elderly relatives, maid service.

At this point this is our life: My husband goes to work early, gets home late. My MIL has him drop her off at work 5 days a week, and my FIL has one job all day – to go pick her up around 6:30. I take care of my son and the house. My FIL putzes around the house – mostly studying English, watching Russian TV, watching Armenian music on youtube, or pacing around the back yard. He used to take my son to the park or on walks, but stopped that a while ago. Son didn’t listen and I always had to come rescue FIL in the car. On her days off, MIL cooks a bunch of Russian food because FIL stopped eating my food about 2 months after he got here. I can’t eat most of what SHE cooks because it has cabbage in it (can’t eat with my thyroid meds) or onions (makes my stomach angry) or is too spicy (again, angry stomach) or has too much milk in it (again… stomach). So I make food for my son and I. No one else eats it. I take the boy where he has to go. I keep the house somewhat presentable. Though I will admit I have been slacking with the house lately.

I feel claustrophobic a lot with them here. It’s not that they are “in my way” or that they are “bothering me”. Honestly, we hardly interact most of the time. It’s just them being “in my space” or doing things differently then I do them. I have gotten to the point where little things really bother me.

I’m sure they have no thoughts about it being an imposition on me or about me not wanting them here forever. Where they come from it’s traditional for 3 generations to live together. Grandma/grandpa live with their kids, and help raise the grandkids and take care of the family. When the kids grow up the parents live with them and their kids. It’s a never ending cycle….

I have had one discussion with my MIL about this. Some people we know (a couple with 2 school aged boys) moved in with the husband’s parents. Who lived in a 2 bedroom apartment. 6 people in 2 bedrooms. I said I couldn’t do that and my MIL tried to lecture me on the benefits of saving money when you all live together. I told her I couldn’t do it. Again.

If they HAVE thought about the fact that I might not love having them here forever, I’m sure that they just think I’m spoiled or something. But that isn’t the truth. It’s just that you are used to the way you grew up. Here in our country we are raised being told we will move out and get on with our own adult lives at 18 or so. We are told we will have a family and buy our own house and have our own kids and do this all away from our parents. It isn’t unusual to live days away from our parents when we are grown.

There you don’t leave your parent’s area unless you are moving far away. Like America. Or maybe Moscow – but mostly another country. Then you are doing it for a better life.

I would like to sit down with my MIL and politely encourage them to be on their way. I can’t speak Russian well enough to do that. When I tell my husband that perhaps it’s time for him to hint that they can’t stay here forever (like another year tops), he tells me “they won’t. They will go back home some day.” It’s quite frustrating really. You don’t want to be the bad daughter in law, but you don’t want to just let them take over your life.

Then one day you are talking with your husband about buying your own house next year. And his mother is trying to be an uninvited guest in the conversation. She says something about “can you get a walk out basement for us in case we stay?” You just stare at her. Like she has lost her damned mind. And you let it go. Because honestly, what else can you do?

Feeding Therapy

Wow! So I posted on Facebook that our son’s feeding therapy is actually helping – baby steps right now. I recieved the biggest response! People asking what we do, people private messaging me to see if I could give them ideas or links on the internet. I had at least 15 responses.

I decided it might be easiest to write in a blog and post that.

The thing is, when your child doesn’t eat “properly” it really makes you feel inadequate. Other parents try to tell you what to do for him. Most of the time you have already tried those things and they didn’t work. Which makes you feel even more inadequate. The doctor tells you what to try. It doesn’t work. You get parenting magazines with articles that have titles like “How To Get Even The Most Picky Eater to Eat Healthy.” You open to that page and find suggestions on how to make Quinoa more appetizing or how to make smiley face whole wheat pizza rolls. Your child won’t go near one food in this article and you close the magazine with a sigh, feeling even more defeated. Pretty soon you have given up and just feed your child what he wants, because then at least he is eating. But inside you feel alone and scared and like you are the worst mom ever.

Some children have trouble swallowing or chewing. Some have troubles with the concept of eating.

My son has sensory processing disorder. He has a very hard time with eating. Certain tastes, smells, and textures bother him a lot. He gags at a lot of smells and has thrown up with some mushy textures like oatmeal. He was a normal eater as a baby and early toddler when we first introduced table foods. Then he slowly narrowed down what he would eat. He now eats 3 main dishes and a handful of side dish type things – as well as some fruits and cucumbers. He also has geographical tounge – which I am told contributes heavily to his ability to taste even small differences in foods (he knows if something isn’t the right brand by taste).

We started going to feeding therapy because he just isn’t getting enough nutrition. Thankfully he gets enough calories and is growing normally. We know a family who’s son has had to be put on a feeding tube because they can’t even get enough calories in him. He is 4 but is the size of a 2 year old.

Let me state I am not an occupational therapist. That is who we see, and she is great. But I will share the things we are doing at home to help and maybe that can help y’all.

First: the rules.

1. The family eats together, food is served family style at the table. (many parents in our situation get so frustrated with meal times that they just stop having them – and let the child eat when he wants, often in front of the TV or at least where he eats the best).

2. The adults choose what goes on the plate, the child chooses what to eat. (make a meal, then serve it with some of the child’s preferred foods. Some of everything goes on the plate, but the child chooses what he eats. Divided plates may be necessary to avoid melt downs, or a “trainer” plate – a salad plate on the side where he can put the non-prefered foods. Most of these kids are afraid of “cross contamination”.)

3. The child helps pass the food around the table – don’t dish up at the stove, put it in bowls, etc ON the table and pass it around like you did when you were a kid at home. This way the child sees and smells the food.

4. If the child touches or plays with the food, let him. That is part of learning about food. I know – it’s gross and you don’t want him playing with his food. He needs it.

6. Don’t be negative. It’s hard not to. Don’t turn your nose up when he plays with his food, don’t get frustrated when he spits out a bite after trying something new. That is allowed. He needs to feel safe. Always say “you can try it and spit it out if you don’t like it”. Don’t lecture about the child not eating. I recently gave him a huge high five and a hug after he tasted a piece of pizza and spit it right next to some grandma’s feet.

7. The child sits at the table until allowed to leave.

8. Don’t force feed.

9. No tv, movies, games, etc during meal time.

10. No grazing – the child eats at specific times every day – 3 meals and 2 snacks if you can. You don’t have to be too rigid – if snack is at 10 and he says he’s hungry at 9:45, it’s ok to bend the time a little. Older children should be able to wait a few minutes for snack or meal. (“It’s almost meal time, have some water and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”)

11. Take things out of the package. Some kids, like my son, are very visual. If he sees the “frigo man” on his cheese stick instead of the “kraft” logo, he won’t even touch it. Taking things out of the package should help desensitize that.

12. Let them help prepare food and clean it up. My son will cook for everyone else, but doesn’t want to eat it – that’s ok, he is smelling and touching it and that is important.

Second: dialogue.

This has been an eye opener for me. Before when my son would say “it tastes different” I would just get him something else. Now we are talking about food. All the time – not just at the table. This causes some anxiety some days – just the talking. Try to be positive and help their inner monologue about food change. Some of the things we have learned: If he says it tastes different, talk about whether it’s a big difference or a little difference in taste. At first he will say “big” about everything. But we just keep trying to help him change that inner talk by saying “really? I think it’s a really small difference”. Talk about what will happen if he tries something he doesn’t like. Will he explode? Is it going to eat his nose off? Is it going to make the house fly away? Silly things that cut the anxiety and make him realize that even if it’s uncomfortable, it won’t really do any damage. Also talk about the food itself – what texture is it? What color? Does it smell like something similar that we like? For example, does he know that pizza tastes kind of like spaghetti? Talk about similarities and differences. They may be obvious to you, but they are not to your child. I never let him say he doesn’t like something he hasn’t tried until we talk about it. Always stress that we are still LEARNING about the new food. Stop letting people talk about what a bad eater your child is. I say “We are learning about foods right now. One day maybe he will like them all.” And then I may have to ask them later to stop saying negative things in front of my child. Most of my husband’s friends and family do this – talk about what a bad eater he is right in front of him. If someone says you are a bad athlete every day you will get it in your head that you might as well give up on athletics… same with negative talk about food.

Examples: “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do” “Is it a big difference or a little difference?” When he says he doesn’t like something new but hasn’t tried: “No, we are still LEARNING about this food. Our tongue doesn’t know if it likes something or not until we try it 10 times.” “Did that surprise your tongue?” “What makes you worried about this food? We are just going to learn about it.” “this food is a lot like ______. What can you see that makes it alike?” Say “you can” instead of “can you” because if it’s a question the answer is going to be no. I say “You can spear those with your sword.” or “You can try that cucumber with the apple.” We have even recently been talking about how “brave” he has to be to try new things – like some of his favorite super heroes or the girl in the movie “Brave”.

Activities we are trying at home:

The order of desensitization usually goes like this: sight, smell, touch, touch part of the face, taste. So we started out by just putting some new thing in front of him. We started with “veggie sticks” at feeding therapy – they are 3 different colors, look different than most foods we eat, and have little taste. In fact, they kind of taste like potato chips. This is the one he will eat now. The good thing about these is they can be used in a lot of ways. She had to start by just letting him leave the sticks in front of him on a plate, not pushing them away. We talked about how they looked. The colors, the shapes, etc. Then they crunched them up into “puppy dog food”. They used their hands at first, but after about 4 lessons she let him start using a chopper for things we have already explored with our hands. Then he smelled it. Then she did the impossible. She got him to put the sticks to his mouth. First he just kissed it and freaked out that there was salty stuff on his lips. Eventually she got him to put it in his lips to make “rockets” out of them and he spit the rockets into a bowl. Since he is a boy he liked that. But it gets the taste into his mouth and the smell and helps to desensitize him. Eventually he licked them and even licked the crunched up part, now he will eat them. THEN she used them to branch into new things – crunching up some very small part of something else (dried fruit or pretzels) into the “puppy dog food” and then licking it again. Talking about if we could taste the new thing, or if it tasted different.

Back to the at home stuff we do (wanted to give you a background).

~ We start with something he already eats. Say graham crackers. He will eat the regular graham squares, but won’t touch teddy grahams. I bought some teddy grahams and some graham crackers shaped like spiderman. I put them all on his plate at once and that was what we had for snack that day. He crunched them, stacked them, and did a taste test with them. He still didn’t like them, but didn’t freak out and tried them. We also shot rockets with the teddies.

Applesauce – we got different flavors of applesauce to taste test. He now eats those.

Cereal – he likes honey cheerios – I will try another flavor next.

All of these things have to be repeated over and over again. We ate graham crackers for 2 weeks for one snack.

~ We tap our lips or our nose or our ears with a food – a cracker for example – and sing a silly song, “tap tap tap, I can tap my nose… tap tap tap, I can tap my teeth…”

~ Use something he likes to try another food. For example, if your child likes pretzels, use the pretzel to scoop up applesauce instead of a spoon.  Use bread sticks to color with pudding. I saw on pinterest today an idea to cut sticks of celery, put peanut butter on the end, and use it like a “fishing pole” to pick up goldfish crackers.

~ Toothpicks. So he doesn’t want to touch the mac and cheese. Who can blame him? It’s on his plate with something else he likes, so why not use that opportunity? Have him stab the mac n cheese with a toothpick. My son especially likes the sword shaped ones. See how many he can stack on it. See if he can make the toothpick stand up in the food… get creative here people.

~ Play with food. I know, your mom said to never play with food. And honestly, I have a hard time letting my anti messiness go with this one. But he has to touch and smell things to get used to them. So we take those little square cheese sticks and make boats out of them (toothpick for a mast and put little foods like fruits on it as the people). Paint with pudding or applesauce or jello. Make cereal necklaces.. There is a ton of stuff you can do, just let your imagination take over. We make cheese sticks into an octopus or a tree. Etc.

~ Make foods look different. I started using sandwich or cookie cutters on waffles. I have been cutting up fruit and cucumbers into different shapes. I am going to get some mini cutters to make it easier. Trying something that is a different color (green eggs) or different brand then they are used to. Changing the way the child thinks food “should be” helps a lot. Cut strawberries and bananas up in the same bowl…

My son now has experimented on his own with no suggestion from me. He made cucumber and saltine sandwiches, he tried some cucumber in the same bite as his macaroni the other day. He even tried a different brand of pizza at a party yesterday. He didn’t like it and didn’t eat it, but he tried it and didn’t freak out.

THE BIGGEST THING is to keep it up. These kids need lots of exposure. Perhaps you will have to play with teddy grahams for weeks before he thinks he likes them. That’s ok. The more he learns that he can change his ideas about foods, the more his ideas about foods open up and the more you can try. Keep at it, it’s frustrating, it’s tedious, it’s boring. But you must keep pushing with the home activities. Every single day, mix it up, change it up, change what your child is doing.

I will add some links I have found helpful here, but if you google “sensory food issues” or “feeding therapy ideas” you can probably find plenty more. OH – and look up “food chaining” – it’s the idea of going from what he will already eat to something just a tiny step away from that – to another step… Like waffles to pancakes to french toast to toast to sandwiches.

http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/picky-eaters.html

http://www.speechlanguagefeeding.com/category/feeding-and-picky-eating/tips-for-parents/

http://www.earlyinterventionsupport.com/parentingtips/feeding/problem-feeder.aspx

http://arktherapeutic.wordpress.com/

How to make food look fun:

http://www.circleofmoms.com/article/smiley-face-quesadillas-04722

http://kitchenfunwithmy3sons.blogspot.com/

http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2012/01/fresh-food-friday-25-kid-friendly.html

http://www.kids-cooking-activities.com/

http://www.kids-meal-ideas.com/

Last but not least: If you think your child has sensory processing disorder, or even sensory issues (things are too loud, things are too scratchy, things are too wet, dry, mushy, bright etc ALL the time) – a general sensory diet is supposed to also help with feeding issues – you can google sensory diet and find tons of stuff, but I will also make a point of doing a post dedicated to that this week. I have had my son sucking on straws and chewing on chewy tubes, chewing on bubble gum, and filling his mouth with water as full as he can get it, then spitting it out as far as he can (outside, of course), and a vibrating toothbrush. He likes to stuff his mouth full of food and chews on his shirts or fingers, so I know he needs oral stimulation. This has seemed to help with his feeding issues some, and I am going to get a vibe stick soon – it’s a contraption that vibrates your mouth with tips of different textures…

Sleep Issues

I have had sleep issues since my late teens – started having insomnia. I didn’t have a hard time falling asleep, it was the waking up at 3 am and not being able to get back to sleep that was the problem. I do remember having terrible vivid nightmares at a young age and having to go to my parent’s bedroom if I could even get out of bed. Sometimes I was just frozen with fear. I still have nightmares off and on, but having a son has helped my insomnia – I sleep much better now, because he wears me out.

It seems my son has inherited my sleep issues. (I know it’s not from his father – he sleeps like a log any time any where.)

When my son was a baby he had terrible night terrors – it started about 8 months. He also could never put himself to sleep. We tried all sorts of “methods” but he just couldn’t do it. Now looking back I think everything was “too loud, or too scratchy, or too tight, or too loose, or too hot, etc” – that’s how he is now, but of course back then he couldn’t tell us. So, when I was at my sickest and needed my rest, we brought the baby into our bed. He had to sleep, we had to sleep. It seemed the best solution.

We moved to a new house when he was a little over a year old. He did not like the upstairs in that house. I was never sure why. He wouldn’t play in his room, he couldn’t sleep in his own bed, he cried in our bed. My husband started sleeping with him on a blanket bed on the living room floor. Yep, you read that right… That was the only place he would sleep. And my husband got up at 4 am to go to work, at which time I went to the living room floor to sleep with him. It was really ridiculous. We were still trying unsuccessfully to get him to sleep alone. He needed to touch someone when he was sleeping. He would put his feet on us and push against us. He would push his head against us.

We moved into a new bigger house and we tried to get him to sleep in his own room. To no avail. He was just over 2 years old at this point. I had another surgery and my husband tried to sleep with him in his room on a futon bed. We put a toddler bed in our room and he would sleep there part of the night and then move to our bed in the night.

He still had night terrors – woke up screaming, shaking, crying real serious sobbing tears. He woke up so upset from them he couldn’t go back to sleep. When he was old enough to tell us what they were about, sometimes they sounded terrifying “I fell into the big water and couldn’t breathe.” And sometimes we didn’t understand why they were so scary to him. Once he had the worst dream that his dad stole his cookies. His dad couldn’t come in the room without him throwing stuff and screaming at him.

At this point he was coming to our bed some, I was going to his bed some. Neither of us were really sleeping.

It wasn’t until he was 4 years old that he stopped waking up all night and started staying in his own bed in his own room for most of the night, most nights.

I decided it must be a comfort problem. I got him the most comfortable types of pajamas I could find. He liked the all cotton ones that were tight – like long johns but not textured. I bought them. (they are expensive from a specialty store) I finally decided we had to buy him a better bed. We bought a double bed with a good mattress (I mean, not a sleep number, but not a cheap one), we bought him very nice soft sheets that fit the mattress well. We bought him new pillows and rearranged his room.

All this time I had been doing the bedtime routine and the quiet time before bed and all the things the experts say to do.

Finally, finally he started sleeping through the night for real. And finally I started getting him to go to sleep on his own. It was hard work, I still had to check on him several times when he was falling asleep. But he did it.

He hasn’t had as many bad dreams and rarely wakes up at night. He has had a few big bad dreams, but for the most part he is ok.

Every time we take a vacation or something it throws off his sleeping. I try to stick to the schedule and if possible have him sleep in a bed separately from me. I try to keep him on track.

I was gone helping my mom for a week last month. His grandparents here refused to make him go to bed, so he didn’t get to bed until after 10 most nights – way later than his usual. My husband let him sleep in bed with him. I got home and felt like I was back to square one. I guess with a kid like him 7 days is just too many to let him be off schedule.

It has been 4 weeks. He is still telling me he can’t sleep alone and refuses to go to sleep on his own. It takes so much out of me and so much out of our evening.

In a couple weeks we are also going on vacation, so I know I shouldn’t push it. We will just have to go back to the way things were when we get home….

Sigh.

Russians yell a lot.

So, I had a very frustrating morning. Let’s just leave it at that for now.

I came home from taking the boy to camp and was doing the dishes. My FIL came down to ask me something about his bank. He had his ATM card with him and was asking about credit or withdrawing money, or telling them to give him money…on and on really … in Russian.

Let me interject at this point that I know how to talk about certain things in Russian, but not other things. And they know how to talk about certain things in English, but not other things. It’s what happens when you learn a new language. You learn what you need to learn at first. When my husband started working delivering appliances, he could say all sorts of stuff in English about refrigerators, or washers and dryers, or tv’s. But if he tried to tell you what was wrong with his car he had to look up a translation. I can talk about things at home, cooking, washing, etc, but not banking.

I didn’t understand my FIL at all today. And I tried. I really did. I tried asking questions for him to answer, I tried to say it in English, I tried to translate what he was saying.

He got frustrated and started yelling. He said “why don’t you understand???” Apparently not yelling at me – according to my husband. But it felt like it. So I asked him why he was yelling at me. That if I didn’t understand I didn’t – he speaks Russian, I speak English, and he doesn’t understand a lot either. He got kind of withdrawn like he was embarrassed and said it was ok, and that he wasn’t yelling at me. (basically – this is all in Russian – even what I said – and what I said was probably incorrectly phrased, but he got it – and I got it – and he went upstairs.)

I call my husband and tell him to call his father and figure out WTF he wants because he is yelling at me and I will not have that shit. If he needs help I can help, but I don’t know what he wants. Of course hubby tells me he just doesn’t understand anything and he gets frustrated when I don’t understand – but he isn’t yelling AT me. So don’t take it that way.

Which brings me to the title of this post – Russians yell a lot.

If you ever sit in a room with several Russians – especially men – bring your earplugs. Cause it’s gonna get loud up in there. They are loud when they talk, they are loud when they eat, they are really really loud when they drink. It’s just how they are. Their language has much more inflection than ours does. I can hear my MIL and FIL talking on the phone from all the way across the house and down the stairs. They just talk loudly and with more inflection. Often to others it sounds like they are yelling at you when they aren’t. The fact that they also use very big body language doesn’t help either. You have some 200 lb Russian dude standing in your face, waving his arms around like a crane and talking loudly and deeply, you are going to think they are yelling at you. Chances are they aren’t. They actually don’t yell at people they don’t know much.

My husband isn’t like this. I don’t know if it’s because he is more of an introvert, or if it’s because he went to school and knows that we speak more quietly and with less inflection, so he needs to be quieter here. Though I don’t remember him being particularly loud in Russia and he isn’t with his friends either. Maybe it’s just him.

I used to be a very loud person until I had my vocal chord paralyzed in a surgery. But I was never this loud.

My son is really really loud sometimes – he can’t always tell if he is being too loud or not – especially when he is excited. Too bad we don’t live in Russia. He’d fit right in.

Anyway. Just so you know, Russians yell a lot. They aren’t necessarily yelling at you, even if it feels like it. But they do yell. Try not to take it the wrong way like I do.

(American Girl’s Guide to Living With Russians soon to come – LOL)

Link

My MIL has wanted to go to Royal Gorge Bridge park since last year when a friend told her about it. I have kind of been putting it off because it’s a good 3 hour drive, but we finally went yesterday. I wish we could have left earlier and stayed longer because it rained and we missed a good chunk of the park part on the other side of the bridge, as well as the little train that is part of the park.

For those who have no idea, Royal Gorge is a canyon on the Arkansas River near Canon, Colorado. It is 1,250 feet deep at it’s deepest, 10 miles long and 50 feet wide at the bottom. It has crossing it a suspension bridge that is truly amazing – and kind of frightening. Especially when cars come by you, shaking the whole bridge.

http://www.royalgorgebridge.com/Home.aspx

We had a great time there. We rode a carousel, we crossed the bridge, enjoyed a magic show (which my son truly enjoyed and after purchased a magic kit in the gift shop to do his own magic.) We looked out over the canyon and headed toward the bungee swing (which my son wanted to go on but his dad didn’t – plus it was really expensive) and the animal area. Apparently there was a petting zoo, but about this time the rain started to pelt us. My husband and I were fine walking in the rain. My FIL and MIL didn’t like it and my son hated it. We did look at some buffalo including a white buffalo and her calf – which are supposed to be special, some elk, some mules, donkeys, and horses. We found some shelter under a picnic overhang, and then the bus came by. My son wanted to ride back so we did. We missed the mountain man town which I was really looking forward to. We drove through it and looked. Also, going across the bridge in the bus was much better for my MIL than walking in the rain and wind since she was particularly scared going across it. When vehicles came by us on the way over it really shook and she had to stop and close her eyes and hold the side.  My sensory son loved it – he looked down from the bridge, squatted down and looked between the wooden slats to watch rafters go under, and even liked the wind blowing in his face.

When we got back to the beginning of the park I wasn’t ready to go yet. We had paid a pretty good size admission fee for 5 people and I wanted to get some of our money’s worth. The rides were all closed due to rain (three cool rides) and even the tram, which my son really wanted to go on. We had lunch in the gift shop after looking around and tried to wait out the rain, they opened the tram and the rest of the family went across it and back. I didn’t want to. I hate those things. My son loved it though.

All in all we had a great day. I wish we could have gotten there earlier and enjoyed more of the park since it is so expensive and I wish we hadn’t had lunch there – none of us liked our meals.* Other than that we had a smashing good time and we were all glad we went.

On the way home we decided to hit the Denver City Fireworks display which they do on the 3rd instead of the 4th and includes a Colorado Symphony Orchestra performance. It was great, and I’m glad my MIL and son got to see them. They were both excited about it.

*Normally I don’t do bad reviews on here. But I went on their facebook page and gave a nice review of the park, then suggested they change their menu and they took down my post. So, now I’m all fired up and will be posting here. They advertised at this little gift shop grill that they had elk and bison burgers. My in-laws and husband decided to try them. I have had both elk and bison burgers before. In real restaurants. That cater to these types of wild game meats. The elk and bison at royal gorge tasted EXACTLY alike – like freezer burned over grilled hamburgers. Bison burgers are supposed to be thick, juicy, fresh, and taste like bison. Not like a hockey puck. I was not only dissapointed that they even had the nerve to serve this, but also suspicious they just used hamburger instead of bison and elk. It may have been the cook – they were staffed with mostly teenagers who were busy flirting and getting our order wrong…. But either way, not worth what we paid for it.