Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Every Day is Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day again, and while I am grateful every day for my gift of Little A, our family life is not without its challenges.

Just last week, due to a onset of increased behavioural issues (hitting teachers, and occasionally classmates), Little A has been removed from his regular integrated classroom and placed in an IEP room by himself (with a teacher, of course). 

The findings so far are that the lack of other distractions has given Little A better focus on his work, longer consistent working times, and a gradual decrease in behavioural issues due to the absence of previous triggers.

He had just completed a complete psychoeducational assessment in April, and while we haven't yet received the detailed written report, we did have a team discussion, and the issues that arose were his sometimes aggressive behaviour, and the possibility that he might also have ADHD. 

His doctor hopes that the school's 6 month behaviour plan results in enough of an improvement that we can rule out the use of medication for now. Doctor is hesitant to medicate mainly because Little A is underweight, despite the enormous quantities of food he consumes daily. I am apprehensive becuase what parent wants their child medicated for the rest of his life? 

He has many schoolmates and therapy classmates who are on medication and have noted significant improvements in behaviour, focus, etc. But I still hold out for self regulated behavioural management, at least until science convinces us that there really is a chemical cocktail that will significantly improve his quality of life. 

And so the struggle continues. No family is without challenges, I am well aware, but for those who are faced with bigger obstacles, there are also more fulfilling rewards. We certainly see these with every small achievement. And so we soldier on.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Artist at Work

In the last six or so months, Little A has been drawing and writing a lot. This is a major thing for a child with delayed fine motor skills and motor planning issues. For years, his pencils, crayons, markers, and other drawing and colouring implements (apart from paints) lay unused in a couple of drawers.

Then came the day he came across two boys on YouTube who had drawn and illustrated their own basic picture books. After watching the videos hundreds of times, I encouraged him to make his own "books," and showed him he had all the tools needed to do that.

Since then, we have stopped visiting toy stores and started frequenting stationery shops. Instead of an iDevice at the table, Little A now wields paper and coloured pens. Suddenly he could stay seated in restaurants for the length of time it took us (and not just him) to eat a meal.

More than that, his fine motor skills have come along, as well as his creativity. I do hope this art hobby continues and develops into a lifelong one. Who knows, one day Big A and I may find that we have raised the next Van Gogh?!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

European Tour - An Amazing Race

Thanks to a booming local economy and a lot of hard work on Big A's part, we have done quite well these last eighteen months. From living hand to mouth in the leanest years, we now have savings set aside in a trust for Little A, and have been able to do a little extra spending of our own.

As a result of frequent airfare sales and travel websites offering great deals, we've managed to do a fair bit of travel in the last year and a half, and feel this is the best way to enjoy that precious free time and hard-earned money.

This year marks our tenth wedding anniversary, my 40th birthday and Big A's 45th, so we decided to celebrate with a tour of Europe.

Big A did all the planning; I just sat back and enjoyed the ride for all but the last two days. He arranged for us to see eight cities in fourteen days, and plotted out detailed itineraries for each. We packed our bags and entrusted Little A into the care of the Au Pair, both sets of grandparents, and his teachers, and off we flew.

First week was Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice. Then Barcelona and Lisbon, Amsterdam and London. I had hoped to spend more time in Barcelona, but did get a feel of the city in the two days we were there.

It all went flawlessly until the very last day, when our flight home was delayed by two hours, but even that was quickly resolved by the airline.

The weather went from pleasantly sunny to quite cold and rainy, and I came home with a cold, but we had seen a significant portion of one part of the world, and feel much richer for having done so. Next up, in August, is Australia!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Going to the Dentist

The search for the perfect paediatric dentist is about as challenging as finding the holy grail of hairdressers. I have yet to enounter the stylist who can turn my locks from drab to fab convincingly enough for me to follow him or her to the ends of the earth. Because I would, if I found that person.

Anyway, back to Little A's teeth. When he was a newly diagnosed toddler, we tried a dentist who claimed to specialise in special needs patients. After the initial examination, he handed me a sheaf of papers and asked me to have our paediatrician sign them to confirm that it was okay for Little A to be sedated every time he needed his teeth cleaned or a filling done.

I took the papers and put them in a drawer, and never returned to that dentist as I refuse to accept that the only way to clean the teeth of a special needs child is to put them under general anaesthesia. 

A few years later, Little A discovered a fantastic dollhouse at what turned out to be a dental clinic next to the centre where he had therapy thrice a week. This dentist said her strategy would be to get him used to sitting in the chair and opening his mouth for a dental exam by practicing a few minutes at a time until he could sit through an entire procedure. 

I liked both this strategy and the dentist, only the therapy centre moved locations soon afterwards and we have not been back since.

Fast forward another few years, and Little A's permanent teeth are coming in. A children's dental clinic had opened down the road from one of my shops, and I heard good things from several parents, so we decided to try it. For months now, he has been doing an oral therapy involving a vibrating brush similar to an electric toothbrush, so I figured he was ready for a proper dental cleaning.

At the clinic, we met the Ninja Dentist. She showed Little A all the tools and let him touch them, as well as introducing a restraining device some kids use, that works for him as he feels better being "squashed" with tight hugs and between heavy duvets. 

Her hands were light and lightning fast as she scraped, brushed and painted fluoride on Little A's teeth in less than 15 minutes, and he cried but did not resist.

Since he is a new dental patient and his teeth have a tendency to discolour, we need to come back quarterly for fluoride treatments. I don't mind this as more frequent visits will get Little A used to the procedure more quickly, and hopefully within a year it will be as routine as getting a haircut and cutting his nails, both of which started with screaming, resistance, and required multiple people restraining him, but are now tolerated with minimal fuss. 

Since then, I have visited the Ninja Dentist myself, as they also work on adult teeth. She is a gem, and we plan to stick with her for as long as we have teeth.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Back to Ballet

In the two decades since quitting professional ballet, I have not done any "proper" exercise regimen. 2003 saw me qualify as a New York Ballet Workout instructor, but teaching had to stop which Little A was conceived, as cervical polyps made exercise while pregnant an impossibility.

Since Little A's birth I have wanted to get back to dance for exercise, and over the past year have managed about two dozen classes over the course of a few months, thanks to a newly opened Senior Centre conveniently located near Little A's school.

Recently though, I was made aware of adult ballet classes offered at a studio very near our apartment, taught by none other than one of my former dance partners. A new year, and a newly straightened spine meant I had no more excuses but to begin classes. And so I did.

Available from Level 0 (no experience) through 2 (intermediate adult), I found the classes to be just what I needed at this point in my life. Scheduled ideally in the mid-morning, I begun at the bottom, aiming to work my way up.

For two months now, I have faithfully attended two or three classes a week, and have seen, and felt, myself slowly getting back into shape. I may never perform Sleeping Beauty or do a 180 degree arabesque penchee again, but moving across a floor to classical music and feeling my body respond in a way it once did with ease is empowering, and apparently inspiring to my classmates who have never danced before but are finding it enjoyable at this stage in their lives.

I look forward to my dance classes and still have a ways to go before I consider myself back in full shape. It is a discipline my body knows, and once it is learned it can never really be erased from one's life. Dance on, then! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Field Trip

In the nearly three years that Little A's school has been operational, the students have not gone on a field trip, despite my numerous suggestions over the years (science museum, petting zoo, children's museum, aquarium). Until last week.

Finally, after what must have been much begging by the students as well as some parents, the teachers organised a day at Kidzania. Little A had not yet been, despite its location just a few streets away from our apartment building. Opened sometime last year, it has been a huge hit among the middle class youth of Manila, as it seems to be in every city which is lucky to have one.

While the other classes decided that their pupils would experience everything together, as a group, Little A's teachers let the kids in his class pick and choose their own activities.

Set loose, Little A first headed for the theatre at the centre of the "town". When he had explored it thoroughly, I suggested we find an activity. We walked around and on the second level he found the perfect first "job," at a greengrocer's. This was followed by a stint as a pretend rock star, a veterinarian to stuffed animals, and a gardener. Lunch was with the rest of the group, then we waited until the afternoon highlight, his firefighter workshop.

In spite of the number of children at the venue and the minimal supervision he required (special needs kids were allowed an adult in the activity room with them while typical ones were made to do everything on their own), I felt Little A did very well overall, and liked that the facilitators at each activity, particularly the greengrocer's, were quick to adapt the "lessons" to his non-verbal condition so that he never felt left out.

While there were numerous other activities still left untried, there will be many more times to visit Kidzania again, and I look forward to seeing Little A adapt more and more each time.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekend Activities

These days, most kids spend indoor time glued to iGadgets, or, for the lucky parents, physical or eBooks. Even luckier folks have children who love arts and crafts, kitchen work, or board games.

Thankfully, Manila is now catching up with the rest of the world and setting up indoor activity centres like soft play areas, and most recently, trampoline parks!

Big and Little A enjoyed jumping one Saturday; rather, Little A enjoyed it and Big A was completely exhausted within the 45 minute time limit. 

I liked that the monitors maintianed a strict ratio of one person per trampoline and a limited number on the "common" ones. Little couldn't jump from one to the next, sadly, unless the next wasn't occupied.

Still, it was a fun hour and one we will certainly do again.

In indoor-outdoor fun, Little A's horse-loving cousin turned twelve, and since our city has limited locations for actual riding, the party consisted of the kids painting papier mache "taka" horses. Little A is better at imitation now, and when he saw another girl's blue horse, he wanted to paint his the same way. 

We were also visited by the Mr. Men, longtime favourites in our home. Little A has a limited edition print I picked up in London, of the Mr. Men and Little Misses on a double decker bus. For ages when younger, their Great Alphabet Hunt was his favourite thing to watch, so being able to ride the "actual" bus was a treat!

Finally, a new soft play centre has opened just two streets away from our home. This gives us another alternative from the one further down the road.

Summer is upon us, so most free time  be spent indoors out of the scorching heat, so it's wonderful that there are so many options for gadget-free activitiy.