January 31, 2011

Losing it in Babies R Us

Yesterday was a rainy day here in Northern California, so the kids couldn't play outside. I'm not compaining (much); I know we are about to lose half the country until you thaw out this spring. I guess I won't rub it in that it was totally sunny and 70 degrees here today. But yesterday the kids were bouncing off the walls, vacillating between tears and maniacal laughter, and we needed to get out.

Babies R Us is having a trade-in event, where if you bring back any car seat, stoller and a few other things, you can get a coupon for 25% off new gear. I had the kids' old infant car seat taking up much needed storage space in the garage and we decided to go on a family outing and turn in the car seat. I was disappointed I couldn't put the car seat to use, and I tried to sell it or donate it, but since it is just about 4 years old, no one seems to want it. Car seats "expire" and are no longer considered safe after 5 years.

When we got to the store, Jeff took Moe and Jelly around in a stroller while I turned in the car seat. They took it without ceremony, and handed me my 25% off coupon, which unfortunately was only good for that day, and couldn't be used on any of the things I actually wanted to buy. But I took it, and as I walked away, I spotted that car seat sitting empty behind the counter.

I can't fully explain what happened next, but when I found Jeff and the kids, I just started to cry. (I suspect that at any given moment, there is always someone crying in BRU.) That car seat brought my two babies home from the hospital. How many times did I tote that thing around, placing it on the floor just like it was at that moment, but with one of my sweet little babies batting at a rattle or (even better) sleeping soundly? Fortunately, I was able to compose myself as Jelly shouted "Elmo!" and "Dora!" and hugged every stuffed animal she could reach.

We decided to go out to dinner, which I'm happy to report, happened without incident. As we were talking, and the kids were shoveling beans into their mouths like they hadn't eaten in days, I wondered aloud why I got so emotional about the car seat. I mentioned have plenty of pictures of that car seat to remind me of those first days. Jeff pointed out that we also have the kids themselves, who themselves are pretty good reminders.

 Good point.

Moe

Jelly



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January 30, 2011

Air Your Archives: A Holiday

Today, I'm participating in Blog Gems "Air Your Archives." It's a great way to dust off some of your old posts and show your new readers some of your past gems.
Today, we were to feature a post about a holiday. I'm featuring the one about Jelly's first Chrismukkah, from December 2009.

To see all the people participaing in today's blog gems, click the shiny object below.






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January 29, 2011

Good Morning! Where are your pants?

The kids actually slept through the night last night. I did hear one or both of them at around 3 or 4am, but since there was no crying and I didn't get up to go to them, I'm now counting that as "sleeping through the night." The sleep schedule has gotten so messed up here that I actually like it when the kids are up a little at night because it means they'll sleep a little later in the morning. Of course, this only works on weekends.

And sure enough, we didn't hear Jelly until around 8 and Moe was still asleep. Jeff went to get her and he was greeted with an enthusiastic "hi!" I know I shouldn't have, but I peeked in and she immediately wanted me. She said "Mommy's here" (her new heart-melting phrase), and I spent a minute or so trying to convince her that Daddy is just as cool and he should change her diaper. But she didn't want him, so I caved, because she's just so darn cute.

I made the mistake of not putting her shoes away last night, and when Jelly sees shoes, she must wear them. NOW! I attempted to show her that they wouldn't fit over her pajama feet, but she wasn't happy about it. She let it go when I told her breakfast was coming.

Jeff conveniently got in the shower.

Once I got Jelly to the table, I started to make some coffee. I decided to experiment with my Tassimo Brewbot, by using the cappuccino foam, but regular coffee, rather than espresso. You don't have to tell me that I like to live dangerously. My advice: only attempt this if you have a very large mug, which I do. Just as my brewbot was finishing creating the frothy goodness, I heard Moe. Usually, if we don't have to rush to get ready for school, I just go in, open the crib tent, and let Moe climb out when he's ready.
This morning I went in to find him laying down, snuggling in his blankets, half naked. Diaper and pants off. I can only imagine that this was the fun I heard in the wee hours (pun intended). Fortunately, there were no "gifts" to discover, but there was a wet diaper wadded in the corner of the crib. Moe was not too happy about being wrestled out of his crib, and changed so quickly after waking up, but it had to be done.

After I got him cleaned up, I sat with him on the floor and comforted him a bit. At one point, Jelly came over and patted Moe on the back. How sweet is that girl? Of course, it only annoyed Moe.

Jeff is now at the gym, the kids are watching Sesame Street and I'm finally enjoying my cup of cold, milky coffee. Is it naptime yet?

My little troublemakers


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January 28, 2011

Letter to Myself (August, 2009)

Dear Jennie,

A blizzard is coming. It is a storm of epic proportions, one that was not predicted nor one you could prepare for. The blizzard will knock out your power, blind you, keep you snowed in for months. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still in California. The sun may even be shining.

You will be hit by the storms that follow an autism diagnosis, the blizzard of early intervention. You will be trapped inside your house. Therapists will come and go, three times a day and you will not be allowed to leave. They will leave your house, your schedule, your emotions, in chaos. You will watch them interact with your child, but you will not participate – not much anyway. You will be sick with cabin fever for months.

You will also have a newborn to care for.

This will be one of the most trying times of your life, but you will survive. You will write and you will share survival tips with others who are also snowed in, living off cans of soup and the last crumbs of their emotional reserves.

In time, the sidewalks will get shoveled and the streets will get plowed. Your autism storm will not end, but snow and ice will gradually turn to rain. When your son starts school, the sun will peek through the clouds and it will be safe to go outside. There won’t be any rainbows, and memories of the blizzard will continue to chill you the bone. But you will live through it.

You will survive.


Written for this week's Red Dress Club prompt: to imagine you are trapped alone or with others at a single place during a ginormous blizzard or its aftermath.

January 27, 2011

Remember Only This

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Moe will not remember the long hours at home, therapists coming and going, day in and day out.

Moe will not remember the doctor’s appointments and assessments, the endless forms I’ve filled out, therapies I’ve researched, checks I’ve written.

Moe will not remember the early times we had together, playing with other babies at the park, unaware of what was to come.

Moe will not remember the tears I cried as those same babies spoke their first words, then sentences.

Moe does not understand the words “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you.” (Though I hope he will someday.)

Moe does not understand what I mean by “hope” or “can.”

Moe does not know his school is work. He doesn’t know what a milestone is.

Soon, he’s going to start to realize he is different. Soon, he’ll know he has to work harder than the other kids. He’ll learn the label.

For now, Moe is unaware that he is not exactly as he should be. When he is grown, he should only remember the joy of jumping on a bed, the peace of a backyard swing, the security of a stuffed monkey, the love of his mommy.



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January 25, 2011

Communication is Hard

Once, when I was a little kid, my brother, who couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 at the time, needed some new pajamas. It was nighttime, and my dad had to go out and buy them in some kind of pajama emergency. I remember this being in our house but I can't imagine a case where the pajama supply would have been so low that he had to go buy new ones rather than wear ones he already had. I also seem to remember my dad was going to go the local drugstore, Sav-On, to get them, which also now makes no sense to me. I'm sure I have the facts

But the point of the story is that we asked my brother if wanted pajamas with feet or without feet. I remember he was very upset, but he said he wanted ones with feet. So my dad went out and bought pajamas with feet. He came back, and tried to put them on Billy, but was met with some serious unhappiness. It turns out that what he meant by "with feet" was that his own feet would show, rather than the footed pj's we thought he meant. It makes sense when you think about it.

Jelly is almost 21 months old, overachieving at everything including her early entrance into the terrible 2's. I'm not into foursquare, but if I were I would be the mayor of tantrum city. (If you don't know what foursquare is, it isn't important. You get the idea. She throws a fit about 100 times a day.) Jelly talks a lot, and is remarkable and making her needs known, but sometimes I know I'm talking right past her. She will often mix up things like off and on, telling me to turn off something when she really means that it is on, or whatever. It's a completely age-appropriate thing for her to do, but it often means I'm not getting her what she wants even though she thinks she's being very clear.

Watching Jelly's language develop has been a real eye opener for me and shown me not only how powerful communication is, but also how easily it can break down.

 

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January 24, 2011

Hello?

Some of the things kids on the autism spectrum may have difficulty with are imitation and pretend play. Imitation is a key component to learning, and lack of pretend play is one of the early signals that a child isn't developing as he should. Moe does very little imitation and no pretend play.

But recently, Moe has started to do a little bit of imitation. Every so often, Moe will do something very typical, and I think "Aha! He's got it!" only to never see the behavior again. But I've seen this enough times now that I don't think it is a fluke. Specifically, he's been watching and imitating Jelly.

Jelly loves to talk on her toy phones and carries on conversations that always go like this: "Hello...hi...gibberishgibberishgibberish...bye." It's adorable and of course she gets a lot of attention for this cute show. So the other day, I tried to involve Moe and handed him one of our toy phones. He put it right to his ear and babbled a little. It lasted maybe a second, but he's now done it four or five times that I've seen. I don't think this is pretend play, but I do think he's imitating Jelly. If you have a spectrum kid you know this is hugely exciting!

Of course now I'm trying to get him to talk on the phone all the time. Yesterday, I took out one of the play phones that really looks like a toy, rather than some of the more realistic looking ones. I put it to my ear and said "hello?" Moe thought that was the funniest thing and got a serious case of the giggles. Every time I would stop, he would hand me back the phone, I'd do it again, and he'd crack up all over again. It was some really nice interactive play and so great to hear his joyful laugh.

These may not be major milestones, each of these steps get us closer to our goals. I'm learning to celebrate all of Moe's achievements, however big or small.


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January 22, 2011

Choosing a Preschool

It’s that time again. Just after the new year, we start seeing the ads in Bay Area Parent, the questions start flowing in the mom groups, and I start to break a sweat. It’s preschool open house time.

My daugther, Jelly, is 20 months and I’m considering sending her to preschool a couple mornings a week in the fall. I always assumed my daughter would just go wherever we sent her older brother, so this decision should have been made already. My son is 3 1/2, and when he was about Jelly’s age, I started to think about preschool for him. But he just didn’t seem ready, and we decided we’d wait until he was 3. But around his second birthday, he was diagnosed with autism, and a new path was chosen. There were still many decisions to be made, but they were guided by our developmental pediatrician and what the Regional Center offered for early intervention. When he turned 3, he entered our school district’s wonderful program. Although our days are challenging, the decision of what preschool he’d go to was pretty easy.

But now I have this typically developing little girl, who despite a little bit of separation anxiety, seems more than ready for preschool, so I’m once again faced with this decision. I asked my parents how they chose my nursery school, but things were different in the 70′s. Kids usually went to preschool for just one year, if at all, and my parents just put me in the nursery school at the local temple. They said they didn’t really give it too much thought.

For better or worse, parents have a lot of choices now. If you haven’t been through this, or are going through it now, here are just some of choices to think about:
  • Approach: Developmental vs. Academic
  • Philosophy: Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf, etc.
  • Religious Affiliation
  • Mixed age classes
  • Potty training requirements
  • Co-op/Parent Participation or drop off
In general, I think a developmental or play-based approach is the way to go, but my little girl is already showing an interest in reading and counting, so I do want to make sure those skills are not neglected. I’m a big fan of the Jewish preschools, but probably mostly because that is what I had growing up, and of course they are not all the same. I doubt she’ll be potty trained yet, and fortunately most of the 2′s programs don’t require this. (This is one thing experts agree on. Don’t push your kid to be potty trained if they aren’t ready just so they can go to a particular preschool. And don’t send your child to a school that requires your child to be potty trained if he or she is not.)

The parent participation schools tend to be wonderfully nurturing environments, and have the added benefit of being much less expensive than the drop-off programs. But I may have trouble with the commitment, especially since I’ve got an older child with a complicated schedule. I’m also, quite honestly, trying to get some free time for myself.

I’m planning to educate myself on the various philosphies, go to the Las Madres Education Fair (open to the public) this weekend, then attend a couple of open houses after that. I’m hoping I’ll be able to identify a few that seem to fit our style and budget, and are places my girl will be able to learn and especially have fun. I’m sure she’ll do well wherever we send her, and I don’t believe that the preschool she goes to will determine the rest of her academic future. But I can’t help but feel a little stressed about this decision. I just hope we get our applications in early enough. I’d hate to find the right school and end up on the waiting list.

Originally published at Silicon Valley Mamas, where I am a contributing writer. Are you thinking about preschools for your little one? Have you found a preschool you absolutely love? Tell me about it! Leave a comment or find me on Twitter, @wantapeanut.


 
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January 21, 2011

Conversations in the Night

“Jelly. It’s 2 in the morning. I know you’re sick, but you have to get some sleep.”

“Mommy!”

“Yes, Mommy is here. But you need to be quiet. You’ll wake your brother. Let’s just sit and rock for a minute.”

“Shhh…What is it, baby? Do you need a tissue?”"

“”Ssue.”

“Okay, lets wipe your face. Are you ready to go back to bed?”

“No! Mommy!”

“I know you want to sit with Mommy, but Mommy’s so tired, sweetie. You need to get some sleep. Two more minutes, then bed.”

“Okay, time for bed now.”

“No!”

“Honey, you need to sleep. You didn’t eat much dinner. Are you hungry? Do you want some milk?”

“Milk.”

“Okay, let’s go get some milk.”

“Here you go.”

“No!”

“Okay, you don’t need to scream. You just said you wanted milk. Would you prefer some juice?”

“Dooce.”

“Okay juice. Here you are.”

“Ank you.”

“You’re welcome. Let’s sit on the couch and drink your juice.”

“Coush. Aaa Done.”

“You’re all done? Are you sure? You only had a few sips.”

“Aaa Done.”

“Okay. Let’s go back to your room.”

“No!”

“Yes, it’s time. Do you want to rock in the chair in your room for a little?”

“Wock chair.”

“Okay. Just for a few minutes.”

“Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, go to sleep little baby. When you wake, you shall have, all the pretty little horses.”

“More.”

“Blacks and bays, dapples and greys, coach and six little horses. Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, go to sleep little baby.”

“Okay, baby. Time for bed.”

“More.”

“One more song, then you’re going to sleep. What should we sing?"

“Winkle.”

”Okay. Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you…”

“Are.”

“Good. Up above the world so…”

“High.”

“Like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle, twinkle little…”

“’Tar”

“How I wonder what you are.”

“Book.”

“No book. It’s time for bed. 10 more rocks, then you’re going in your crib. 1, 2, 3…”

“No!”

“Sorry. Mommy’s tired. Time for bed. Night, night.”

“Ni ni”

“Mommyyy!”

   

 

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January 20, 2011

Jill over at Yeah. Good Times. created an award, and I was the lucky recipient of the first round of honors!

Here are the rules:
1. You must proudly display the graphic she describes as "absolutely disgusting" but that I find so kitchy it's beautiful and am thinking of making it my new background image. Its presence in your award celebration is crucial to the memetastic process we're creating here.

2. You must list 5 things about yourself, and 4 of them must be bold-faced lies. Quality is not important.
3. You must pass this award on to 5 bloggers that you either like or don't like or don't really have much of an opinion about. I don't care who you pick, and nobody needs to know why. I mean, you can give a reason if you want, but I don't really care.

4. If you fail to follow any of the above rules, Jill will hunt your ass down and harass you incessantly until you either block me on Twitter or ban my IP address from visiting your blog.
5 things about myself, 1 of which is actually true:

1. I was adopted as a young black child into a wealthy white family.
2. I was the conservative child of bra-burning, draft-dodging, government-despising hippies.
3. I was a young new grad working at an ad agency in the big city, living in a house with 3 science nerds.
4. I went to the Eastland School, a prestigious all-female boarding school in New York.
5. I often use my intellect and huge knowledge of science to defeat evildoers.

I bestow this award on:
Cheryl, at Little Bit Quirky
Lynn, the Autism Army Mom
Sunday, at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood
Amanda, at Life is a Spectrum
Mommy Lebron at Rage Against the Washing Machine



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What's Your Hidden Talent?

He was really entertaining.
Last weekend, we stumbled upon a documentary called Air Guitar Nation. As the title implies, it is about an international competition for playing air guitar. You read that correctly: air guitar.

And that got me to thinking, what am I really good at? As in, award-winning good. And the answer I came up with is: nothing. Unless there is a competition for being able to reassemble and pick up 15 kid puzzles that have been spilled out all over the floor, which I don't think there is. Then again, I saw an onion peeling competition on Food Network, so I guess anything is possible.

There are a few things that I'm really good at, though. Here are some of them, though it is by no means a comprehensive list of the plethora of talents that I hold (see #7).
  1. Cooking and baking
  2. Pictionary
  3. Crossword puzzles
  4. Editing
  5. Typing
  6. Writing resumes (mine or others')
  7. Sarcasm
Here are a few things I'm not good at:
  1. Telling jokes
  2. Mopping or cleaning anything that requires real scrubbing
  3. Singing
  4. Drawing
  5. Photoshop
  6. Bowling
What are you spectacularly good (or bad) at? Could you win a competition in fancy hair dos or putting on makeup? Are you an expert badmitton player or poet? Tell me!


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January 18, 2011

Dogs Are Calming Creatures. Just Not My Dog.

Dogs are wonderful creatures. They heal, they love unconditionally. They can lead the blind, predict seizures, and smell cancer. Just not my dog.

My dog has issues. She is a compulsive licker. She pushes her food bowl around after we feed her, like she’s burying her food for later. Except she’ll do it until her nose bleeds. She gets so excited she whacks her tail against the wall until it bleeds. Doctors actually call this “happy tail.” I’m glad my dog isn’t the only one.

She is very, very smart, and when I had the time I took her to agility classes, and obedience classes and Rally-O and she always did great. We went through Canine Good Citizen training, and excelled, but failed the test because she was just too keyed up to behave.

She senses when there is tension in the house, like when Moe is really manic and I’m trying to calm him. But instead of using her powers for good, she has to be right in the middle of everything that is going on, in the most unhelpful, right underfoot way.

My dog barks when people come to the house. And when they leave.

My dog is on Prozac. It only helps a little.

Some dogs are amazing companion dogs. They can be really therapeutic for kids on the spectrum, help to bring them out of their shell, calm them, give confidence. My kids tolerate our dog. Moe likes the feel of her fur and Jelly likes to chase her around with her baby doll stroller. But Berkeley is anything but a calming influence in the house, especially for me.

But Berkeley wasn’t bred, selected and trained to be a companion dog. Some dogs are, and some people really, really want them. I recently read about a little boy whose family is trying to raise money to get him a companion dog. He is a wanderer, and these dogs can help keep the kids from getting lost. (This is something I’m definitely going to explore for Moe.) A few days ago, this little boy was badly burned when he pulled a pot of boiling water on himself. I can just picture Moe, just looking for his mac & cheese, doing this same thing, and it is so scary. To keep up to date with his progress and learn more about how to help, click the picture below.
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January 17, 2011

Parenting is Fun

It's been a tough few weeks here, with the clan suffering through yet another bout of illness right after returning to school. All this snot has distracted me from writing about some of the progress Moe seemed to make during the break, and some interesting new behaviors we're seeing.

The second week of the winter break was actually fantastic. My mom came to help, and Jeff had the week off, so we had three adults around. Being able to leave the house was a wonderful treat, and if I had unlimited funds right now, I think a full time nanny/mother's helper would be high on my list.

During the break, Moe showed some great progress with his level of engagement as well as his willingness to try to use some language. I pretty consistently could get him to say "cookie" (it's all about finding the right motivators, right?), and "all done." It was as if the time off allowed Moe to process all the information he's been taking in at school since August. The changes are subtle, but if you've been analyzing every detail of someone's behavior for a year and a half, you notice the subtle things.

Moe has also shown a bit more aggression lately. Now that he's feeling better, he doesn't seem to be trying to bite as much. I think he was just telling us he really, really didn't feel well. But he's been acting out in other ways. Yesterday, I think he was feeling really bored, and started doing things he's not supposed to do, like playing in the dog's water dish or spraying the water from the refrigerator. I have always believed that he did these things just because he thought they were fun, or he craved the water stimulation, but I never suspected that these were attention getting activities. Now, I'm not so sure. That is the challenge with our kids, isn't it? The same behaviors can have different meanings over time so just when you think you've got a handle on it, things change.

Moe seems to really want to engage with people more. Moe would occasionally just stop and look into our eyes, with a great big smile. He will also sometimes come up to me, very excited and grab at my hair or glasses. He's been doing this at school as well. This seems a little aggressive, but I think it might be that Moe wants to engage, but just doesn't know how. Jeff also points out that we are physical with Moe a lot, when we need him to go a certain way, get him dressed, or even just play with him, since he loves tickling and jumping. He also loves squeezes to calm him. So even though certain behaviors, like pulling hair, might require a time out to break the cycle, I don't think they are meant to be aggressive.

Yesterday, after the water incident, I put Moe in his room in a time out. For time outs, I sit him in his little arm chair and I stay with him so he doesn't get up. I wait with him until he calms down. It doesn't take long, but yesterday Jelly followed us in. She walked right up to me, and, copying her brother, slapped me in the face, laughing the whole time. I told her "no!" and that she would get a time out if she did it again. Without missing a beat, she whacked me again. So I picked her up, put her in time out in her crib and shut the door. She cannot stand when Moe is getting attention from me, and she certainly did not like being shut out of the action, even for a minute.

Of course, I came back to find Moe in his crib, diaper off, sheets and blankets peed on.

Parenting is fun.


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January 14, 2011

The One Where The Boy is Coughing and The Girl Turns on the Charm

Moe has a cold again. It’s a nasty one, with an ugly cough. He hasn’t wanted to eat more than crackers and the occasional cup of juice. I kept him home Tuesday and Wednesday, and when I called to tell his teacher he would be out, she said 3 other kids have been out too. Clearly, it’s going around.

Yesterday, Moe woke up and seemed a little better so I sent him to school. He seemed so excited to go, not wanting to spend another day at home any more than I wanted him here all day. He goes a little stir-crazy when we can’t leave the house. When the phone rang at noon, I knew it would be his teacher. He had been coughing a lot and wasn’t eating. I picked him up, feeling awful for sending him.

While Moe was at school for the morning, I took Jelly to the park. I’ve started hanging out with Moe’s old playgroup again. Many of the moms have kids Jelly’s age now too. We dropped out of the weekly playdate a long time ago, and it is strange to be back with the group again, especially without Moe there. But it’s good for Jelly to be with other kids, and she especially loved watching the big girls play. She learned to climb to the top of the play structure where she found the big sunflower at the top. “Flower!” is one of her favorite words and she was so excited to find it there.

Jelly is starting to lose some of her shyness, which is fantastic. But at one point, she noticed an older man, who was sitting on the benches nearby. She walked right up to him, touching his cane and saying “hello!” The man was happy to see her, and I had my first taste of striking that balance between protecting my little girl, wanting her to feel safe and believe in the goodness of people, and planting the seeds of distrust in strangers. We said good bye to the man, as Jelly signed "friend."

The rest of the afternoon wasn’t fun. I canceled the babysitter and music therapy. Jelly missed her nap, and around 4:00 Moe suddenly ran out of the living room and into his bedroom. This isn’t unusual, but when I went to check on him, he was in his bed, fast asleep. He has napped maybe once since his second birthday, so I knew he wasn’t feeling well. By the time my parents, who are visiting this weekend, arrived at the house, Moe had woken up but was lying on the couch, looking utterly pathetic.

Although a little Motrin seemed to help him feel better, the nap threw off his sleep enough that, even with his regular melatonin pill, he didn’t fall asleep until after 9pm. Then, like salt in the wound, Jelly was up at 3:00 in the morning. Why is it that on the days Moe actually sleeps through the night, Jelly is awake? I think she’s teething, but it would be so much better if she could do it on the days Moe is us up anyway.

She was up for a while, only wanting mommy. But the girl knows how to turn on the charm. Long after my patience for letting her cry has evaporated, and I’ve given in to just sitting with her for a while in the rocking chair, she placed her head on my chest, gripping my arm with one tiny hand and her teddy bear in the other. Gets me every time.

Today’s post was written as part of the Red Dress Club. This week’s challenge had us choose an item in our pantry, and include every word in the ingredients in our post. I chose a jar of sunflower seed butter. Ingredients: Sunflower seeds, evaporated cane juice, salt.

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January 13, 2011

I Make Assumptions

I often make assumptions about Moe. Yes, I know, when you assume you make an ass out of u and me. My high school geometry teacher taught me that. But my kid doesn't talk or communicate much, so I need to make some educated guesses based on Moe's behaviors and my own observations.

Some assumptions are for his benefit. For example, I assume that Moe is smart and capable of learning. So even though he may not give many indications that he can count, I still count with him. I have to assume this, because if I assumed Moe couldn't learn, then the only logical response would be to stop teaching him. And that is not going to happen. (Actually, I'm pretty sure Moe has a brain-vault full of information and when he is ready and able to share with us what he knows, we'll be quite amazed.)

I find I also make assumptions about what Moe has opinions about. I assume, for example, that he doesn't care about the clothes I dress him in each day. I assume that because doesn't complain about the choices I've made. I've tried giving Moe the choice between two shirts or two pairs of pajamas and he's never shown much preference. But Moe has always had a difficult time making choices, so maybe I've made an incorrect assumption as to why he's not making showing a preference.

I kept Moe home from school today, for the second day, because he has a cold. This morning, he fought me as I tried to get him dressed, wouldn't let me put on his shoes, and since his nose was still running, I decided to let him stay home. A few minutes after Jeff left for work, Moe seemed just fine. I assumed that Moe wasn't feeling well when I first woke him up, but started to feel better after a little while. But maybe he was relieved that he would be able to stay home. Or, though it's highly unlikely, maybe he pulled one over on me.

So Moe seemed okay, and I had to get out of the house for a couple hours this morning. So I put the kids in the car and went to the mall to walk around for a bit. I noticed recently that Moe's shoes were getting a little small on him, so we went into Stride Rite, the one store that always carries shoes for his extra wide feet. Although Moe freaked out when we tried to measure his feet - it turns out he has grown over a full size since I bought his last pair!

So I picked out two pairs to replace the two currently in rotation. The first pair was brown, and they ran a bit small. We tried a half size up and those fit well. Moe didn't seem to care what we were putting on him. He wasn't oblivious to what was happening, and is generally quite aware of his surroundings, but didn't seem to be paying much attention to the shoes themselves. Then the salesperson pulled out the blue sneakers I chose and Moe smiled and started to clap. We hadn't even put them on yet, and I can't be sure why he was clapping, but he sure seemed genuinely excited about the shoes.

Moe wore them out of the store.


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January 11, 2011

The Sketches on the Wall

“’No one stops being an artist,’ she said to us. And I argued with her that a painter who stops painting is no longer a painter. It is the act of painting that matters.” --The Swan Thieves

My grandfather was an artist. Art was a hobby for him, although he once had an opportunity to make it his profession, drawing posters for movie houses in Hollywood. My family has a few of these sketches and they are vibrant and wonderful. But to take that job would have meant moving his family from New York to California, and facing an uncertain future in the era following the Great Depression. So he ran a local business selling wine and gourmet foods and sketched in his spare time.

I have a number of his pictures hanging on our walls, mostly charcoal sketches or pastels. He drew mostly still-life, and my collection includes a couple of wine bottles, an olive oil can, and some ivy in a glass. Probably the best drawing I have, from a critical perspective, is a wonderful sketch of a package wrapped in paper and tied with string. But one of my favorites is a very simple sketch, just an outline, of a man. Maybe because of its unfinished nature, I can imagine my grandfather sitting at his easel in a class, the nude model in the center, both men hunched in their respective poses.
My grandfather was prolific, and we all got opportunities to go through his sketchbooks and pick out ones we wanted. But my favorite drawing is of a hat. It isn’t that this is his best work, but it is a drawing he did specifically for me. The inscription in the corner says “For my Jenny.”

It is easy to look at art on a wall, appreciate its colors and lines, or notice its overall beauty. But art seen in a museum, even pieces done by great masters, is impersonal. I’m not saying art can’t speak to you, and a piece may tell a vivid story, but it isn’t necessarily your story. When I see my grandfather’s art on my walls, it is part of my history, each line drawn by a man who I can still picture sitting in our backyard reading the newspaper, sunglasses on, cigar in hand.

This post was inspired by The Swan Thieves: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova. I was given a copy by the publisher as part of the From Left To Write book club. I was not otherwise compensated for this post.


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January 10, 2011

Milestones, Milestones

I have a daughter. I call her Jelly, and I don't talk about her a lot on this blog because she's what they call a "normie." That's the technical term. In layperson's terms, that means she doesn't have autism. That doesn't mean I have any idea more of an idea what to do with her than I do with Moe, and they couldn't be more opposite kids. Here are some examples.
  1. Boy vs. Girl (obvious)
  2. Jelly is highly verbal. Moe, not so much.
  3. Jelly loves to sing. She knows the words to many songs, but unfortunately can't carry a tune. Moe also loves to sing, and has great pitch. You are more likely to recognize what Moe is singing by the melody, even though he doesn't sing the words.
I recently had to fill out some assessment forms for Moe, and as I've mentioned before, the questions alwasy seem kind of ridiculous. But now that I have Jelly, I understand exactly what the questions means. She's like the poster child for milestone hitting.

Stacks 3 or more blocks:

Pretend Play:


Understands the concept of "more than one:"


video


Plays the harmonica with conviction:


Knows how to accessorize:


Okay, those last two may not be milestones per se, but we're making our own rules around here.


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