Friday, December 07, 2007

Gingerbread Dreams

I try to get inside Julia’s head sometimes and I find it impossible. I wonder why she can’t sit down and do something (like color an entire coloring page in a simple coloring book) and actually finish it. I understand that she may get bored and that she wants to move on to something else. But I know there are other things going on in her brain that I really will never understand. I think to myself “Finish something, please, just once.” That’s what my just short of 50 year old brain says but then I’m not a 9 year old with hydrocephalus. I don’t say anything and I just hope and try not to be negative or a nag……. Be encouraging and supportive, but it is hard.

It’s difficult for me because I’ve always been focused as long as I can remember. First child of five girls, classic overachiever. Not always successful but there was enough sibling rivalry to try hard and do my best. But then I’m not Julia and she’s not me nor will she ever be. I worry…. I worry more…. I wonder how she’ll grow up and get on – something all mothers do with any child -- with a disability or not.

I’ve tried a bunch of stuff to help Julia with her manual dexterity but I don’t want to turn her off and make her feel inept and a failure. Sewing cards – not a prayer. Needlepoint – forget it. Knitting – we’ll just hope for one day. I just have to let it go and I do. These are things I like and have always liked. It’s not fair to ask her to do any of them if she isn’t at all interested. I really try not to push. Every once in a while, I re-introduce something to see if there is a spark. I don’t want her to hate me nor the things I enjoy doing. Perhaps I let it go too frequently to a fault but you never do know what you are doing is right, do you?

It seems that once Julia’s brain is ready, she may get interested and try. She may not be successful but she gives it a go. The other day, she was sitting on the floor with a box of Polly Pockets. Last summer, I bought these for her because her cousins had them and she seemed mildly interested. She likes colors and fashion and hair-dos and the romance of travel. Polly Pocket goes to Paris and London – oh yes, that sounded like a good thing. But she just couldn’t do it – the dolls and the clothing pieces were so tiny and fidgety. I had to dress them for her. She couldn’t stretch the rubber to make them fit. My goodness, she can’t yet button her buttons or tie her shoes – thank goodness for Velcro.

Last weekend, she sat there on the floor and she actually changed the outfits on the Polly Pockets. I saw her, as I was washing the dishes in the sink. I was so excited I wanted to run over and hug her and congratulate her. But I didn’t. I didn’t say a thing – I just watched, amazed. I didn’t want to make a big deal. I am so very proud of her.

I bought this crazy Wilton Gingerbread House in a Box the other night at a giant craft store because Julia seemed interested. I’ve tried this gingerbread house thing before. It was a disaster. For $8.00, I thought we should have another go and at least I didn’t have to bake anything. When she was in kindergarten, I baked a zillion gingerbread cookies and brought in all the goop and candy and all the kids went crazy decorating and eating. Julia wasn’t the least bit interested. She sat there, not knowing what to do nor how to do it. It broke my heart but the other kids liked it.

The sweets and sugar thing is a tough one for us. Sugar isn’t good for a child with diabetes and cookies and gingerbread houses are full of it. I just keep telling her not to eat it or lick her fingers…. I feel like a broken record. Baking used to be such a fun thing for us – all the flour and the butter and the sugar and the goopiness of it all. But I’m glad she had the dexterity and the actual interest to sit there for at least an hour plopping all the sugary goop and decorations on the pre-baked house. I knew I would have to adjust her insulin at dinner although it could have been a lot worse.

Since there’s not a chance we are going to eat the gingerbread creation, I brought out the glue gun and glued the whole thing together. Much easier than our first attempt with the sugary icing that didn’t set up overnight and fell over the first time we moved it. I highly suggest the glue gun for others struggling with getting these things to stick together. (How do those professional gingerbread house builders do it anyway?)

And I did get a kick out of Julia – After an hour of decorating with the icing, sprinkles, gum drops (boy Mommy, these are disgusting), gum balls and more, she whipped out the Elmer’s glue to finish it all off. Smart kid in her own right. She squeezed it every place she wanted it and plopped down the rest of the decorations. There was a time when she wouldn’t have been able to even squeeze the Elmer’s bottle. She’s making slow progress and I feel so fortunate.

I’m hoping we’re going to get to building little holiday houses with natural materials – like birch bark, pine cones, fungus and sticks. We’ll see how we do with that. Definitely not the allure of the candy in bright colors but at least they don’t taste good. And of course a little metallic glitter could save the day.


Patricia said...

first, Julia might not be at the age that textiles are of interest to her. My nieces are 5, and 11 big into fashion (dress up in costumes), makeup BIG-TIME. They like crafts, paper, pencils,and dolls. Things are played with, left finished or not, moved on to next thing. I had stack of drawings but none of them were anything to my eyes. They liked the magic markers, the glitter pens, then they found a box of toys, moved on to snacks, then played with the dog etc. They are truly in a world of their own...but only for a brief period. Sometimes they get things done, sometimes they don't, their attention span is short.

Getting dressed, velcro and all that, well she is the same as every other child. They have their own set of style, problems (buttoning), zippers whatever. I have crappy hand-eye coordination, it all works out. Had a terrible time reading, picked up the tv guide and started to memorize tv shows.

While kids are all kids, we now know that love, compassion, different learning techniques all play a part of their lives. Julia may surprise you, it may take her a while, but she will come into it on her own and make it her style.

Give yourself a break, not everything gets finished whether it is a sweater, artwork, the check-book or the farm. The things you do now may not seem to you to be much, but you never know what sticks in a child memory. This may in fact turn into a treasured memory for her.


KnitOneQuiltTooKristin said...

I have the very same struggles with my son, but I agree with Patty because my daughter, who has no disabilities, doesn't finish stuff quite often and doesn't always take an interest when I think she ought too. I've learned over time to watch quietly and celebrate internally when they do join me in my interests. Like you did, I try not to make too big a deal because it's a sure way to turn them off. Mine are 13 and 14 now and we homeschool so I see what they like all the time.

By the way, my daughter wants to make a gingerbread house, but she won't let me buy a kit. She wants to make it all from scratch! Luckily, she does like to bake, but she didn't get into baking until about a year ago. This past year she has taken up cooking and is really interested in nutrition. You just never know when these things will happen!

ikkinlala said...

I don't know how the professionals do it, but I know we used to glue our gingerbread houses together with melted sugar. You have to work quickly, but it's much faster and stronger than waiting for icing to dry.

Knitting Linguist said...

It sounds like you're doing an amazing job as a mother. It's really tough sometimes to sit back and let kids take things at their own pace, whatever that pace may be, and much harder than that when their pace doesn't seem to match the kids around them. Your gingerbread house looks amazing! :)

Kathleen C. said...

I work with a woman whose daughter was born with both a chromosonal abnormality and some physical problems. I've seen J. grow from 12 to 25. And it's been quite a road she's traveled.
It was hard. There's no way around that fact. And there are things that she will never be able to achieve or master.
But she has also become a young woman with interests and skills and a drive to keep going that will stand her in good stead for the rest of her life.
Her Mom worked as hard as J. did. As I know you do with Julia. To help her try, to encourage, to support, sometimes to insist, but without getting in the way or becoming overwhelming, or a negative force...
I don't know how she did it and I don't know how you do. I admire you both. Raising kids is tough. Raising kids with challenges is really tough.

I wish you may you always have plenty of metallic glitter in your life.

Anonymous said...

My granddaughter will be 8 next week, I sometimes have to do the Polly Pocket clothes. She is really into makeup, dress up, really likes scrapbooking. Might want to try some of that. Julia can work at her own pace, they have some many kits for kids to start with. I just bought a Girl Scout journal with stickers. Using my digital camera is also up their on the list. Julia sounds very normal to me on the leaving things undone. Jessica starts something and then moves on to another, saying don't clean this up, I'll be back. Elmer's glue and glitter is good. We just got clear Christmas balls, wrote names on them with Elmer's and then put glitter on the glue. You have instant tree ornaments and everyone in the family is getting one, including some animals. My daughter just said the other day, 8 is a tough age, to young for some toys, not old enough for others. Sounds like you are on the right track, just keep trying.

Anonymous said...

The workings of the brain, any brain, are so mysterious. Even the experts can't tell you what may happen when. It sounds like Julia is surrounded by a richness of life that will nurture her spirit and help her grow to the best of her ability. It's all you can do.

-- Grace in MA

Anonymous said...

You are an amazing mom. Keep up the good work; I know it must be hard.

I'm a former art teacher turned stay at home mom. You've got the right idea to let her lead the way. If she's interested, trying to find projects she can be successful with helps. The Gingerbread House looks amazing. Both of you have a lot to be proud of in that one!

My cousin used to take plain clear glass ornaments and paint the insides. She would take the hanging part off of the ball and add a few drops of acrylic craft paint; then swirl it around. Multiple colors would make really neat patterns. She would then turn the upside down over a small paper cup to drain and dry for a few days. When they were dry, she'd put the hanger back on and put them on the tree. It sounds like a project that Julia could be successful with if she wanted to try it.

Just an idea. Hope it helps.


Kenyetta said...

It sounds like you are a wonderful mom! I agree, it is very hard to sit back and let a child lead, but sometimes that is the only way that they can go in the right direction. I like Jennifer's project idea, it sounds intriguing to me!

Teresa said...

You are doing an awesome job and please don't be too hard on yourself. You two are traveling a tough road but a blessed one to be sure.
Follow your gut and Julia's lead and you will both continue to grow and bloom.

carol said...

Try covering the cardboardy (not plastic) milk containers. We made a whole city once using cartons of different sizes. I must admit it wasn't quite what I had in mind and they certainly were not christmassy in any way - but the boys had a good time doing it and most importantly it was their creation and idea and not mine.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kristin: As a mom to a learning disabled son with fine motor delays (this son is now in college) I always had a sew and sew in the back seat of the car for him to work with. A sew and sew is a block of wood with a wooden needle attached and the needle is sewn into all the holes in the wood block. Chinaberry has one. Needless to say, it was a great help, big enough to be easily manipulated and a way to keep busy hands occupied.

Chinaberry link is

Pattie in San Francisco

knititch said...

congratulations on the gingerbread house. it is hilariously decorated. i love it.
how about felting. i taught art next to a classroom where the children felted. and these children who for several reasons had a very short attention span got a kick out of felting balls. it was great seeing the seriousness in their faces when felting.
and it is colour and it is wool.

i really understand why it would be fun if she wanted to follow one of your passions. i come from a family of women making all kinds of needlework, only today my great niece was kissing the little tomte that her great great grandmother made, so for me it has been very natural to take up needlework (and i was not allowed to watch telly without doing something else at the same time). me sister, on the contrary, has never felt like doing anything of the kind.
and about the diabetes. it is hard for a little one to have diabetes. sugar is all over the place. it must be so heartbreaking some times.
it sounds like you are doing such a great job and enjoying yourself too. life is not fair, and neither were we promised it would be.

Terry said...

My daughter, who has no disabilities, nevertheless was always dismal at any kind of needlework and had no interest in it. I think she determined at a very young age that she would not do what Mom did, but instead develop her own interests. She was/is stubborn that way. She is now an adult, brilliant with languages--something I'm no good at--and still not very interested in my interests. Just saying, maybe Julia is simply being Julia.

Kym said...


What a fabulous job you're doing with Julia! Like you, I was a first-born, achievement-oriented child who LOVED to knit, embroider, sew -- do any kind of needlework, and nearly any sort of crafting. I was thrilled when my daughter was born! I imagined sharing these activities together. My daughter, however, had much different ideas about how she wanted to spend her time.

Looking back (she's in college now), I see what a gift it was that my daughter was so. . . unique . . . in her approach to things. Because she balked at the activities I suggested, I was "forced" to discover the things she was interested in -- and then I could help her discover how to do things I never DREAMED of doing! She turned out to be a talented singer and musician, she loves to act, she fences, and she writes poetry! I knew nothing about any of these pursuits -- and it has been thrilling to watch her succeed. On her own pace and with activities she, herself, identified.

I try not to think about the fact that she cannot sew on a button, or that she will never make her boyfriend a scarf. :-)

Julia will continue to lead you on paths you never dreamed existed. Enjoy the ride!

PS -- My daughter has ADHD and (for a time in early adolescence) a severe panic disorder. She needed much patience -- and lots of space -- to discover her own, successful ways of working and doing things!

marit said...

Julia is very fortunate to have you as her mother! I think the other commenters has said everything that can be said.
Take care.

Linda said...

I think the clear balls with the swirling paint is a great next project!


Christine said...

My favorite kid activity ..

Take a T-shirt and washable markers. Draw the design of the day, wear it that day then throw it in the wash to do all over again another day.

My daughter is 5. I use felt in an embroidery hoop, all 6 strands of embroidery floss. We'll put on pony beads or I'll cut a shape out of the felt and we'll sew that on. The two hard parts - she'll forget to hold onto the thread and I am constantly rethreading. Then there is the putting the thread around the hoop instead of going back up from underneath.

Gee, don't they say that he needlework stuff usually skips a generation :)

Willow said...

Folk Knit and YOUR NAME are mentioned in today's (Dec 11th) Knitting Daily!
PS: The book arrived the end of last week and I opened it on Saturday after my test. It's wonderful!