Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Menards, Mangers, Maxes, Meaning, and Material Miscellany

Subtitle: Random Memories from the Holiday Season, Christmas 2008

Max has been pretty delighted with all the Christmas decorations everywhere we go these days. He exclaims and grins and Ho!-Ho!-Ho!s and wants me to talk about everything we see. I decided to take him to Menards home improvement store the other day to see the rows and rows of Christmas items on display there. (It's close to home, has free admission, and no lines to wait in -- the perfect low-stress outing!)

Max loved it! We spent quite a while just wandering up and down the aisles and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the giant inflatable snow globe, and the thousands of twinkle lights, and the sparkly ornaments, and the Santas GALORE!

...Although I did make the mistake of starting out in the aisle with all those stuffed, interactive critters with buttons to push. We had the entire row singing and playing banjo and barking and dancing and rocking and twisting by the time we worked our way through...and then Max thought that much of the other stuff on display was for him to touch and poke and move, too! Yikes.

(Which reminds me to comment on how nice the other shoppers were! Even when faced with the cacophony of Christmas critters we created, people were indulgent and cheerful, smiling at us and making friendly comments. One couple even stopped while passing by and the man asked if he could lift Max up to give him a closer view of the train running through a miniature Christmas village display. It was interesting to watch the interactions; I think shopping for Christmas decorations brings out the good in people.)

I bought Max a tiny tree to take home, and then let him pick out the lights for it. We settled on a string of tiny, multi-colored lights.

Carrying the box to the checkout counter helped keep his hands off the toys and candy so temptingly displayed along the way, too. Sometimes everything just works, you know? You may smirk at our Very Special Menards Christmas Outing, and admittedly I have certainly gotten my share of chuckles out of the entire concept, but I also have some very fond memories tucked away as a result. Sometimes seeing the world through his eyes makes things seem so magical & new again. Ahh, simple pleasures...


On Sunday, the kids all sang in church at the beginning of the service. My husband was out of town, and we were running late, scrambling in at the last minute. Max was initially reluctant to join the group of kids, but quickly warmed to the idea and I promptly left. The other kids stood for the song, and most were singing, but Max sat with his teacher and watched the congregation and listened to the music. When the song was over, the kids all joined their families for the rest of the service.

The service seemed so long; Max certainly doesn't listen (so I don't, either). Does he know about the manger? Does he understand the Christmas Story? No, not in that way. But he understands friends and singing and families and animals and babies and love and joy -- so, really, you could argue that he does. He gets the meaning.

Max was a wiggle worm, shifting and shuffling and squirming, making frequent exclamations in his NON-whispering way. But then the singing started. He didn't sing the proper words or proper tune while up front with the children, but when we all stood to sing, he was right there with the rest of us. He insisted on holding his own hymnal (with two fingers slipped in back, just like his teacher does in school, as if to turn it around and show everyone the pictures) and ran his voice up and down, gentle and high, forming his shapeless words, just as sincere as could be.

So, yeah, I'd say he gets it. Maybe not "it" (the precise, defined type), but definitely It (the Truthy Meaningful type).


Back at home, Max wanted to watch The Grinch. (Jim Carrey version) He's been watching this movie off and on for months now. It's nice that it is finally the proper season, and he can see similar images all around him. He particularly wants to watch the ending of the movie -- from the loud excitement of the Grinch's thievery through the part where the Whos all join hands and sway back and forth and sing their Who-y song. As a matter of fact, Max's sign for the Grinch movie in particular -- and for Christmas, in general! -- is to spread his arms and legs and rock back and forth, like one of the Whos in the singing scene. And then he wants us to say, "Daboo Florays" in acknowledgment of his "sign," because that is the phrase we have jokingly used in reference to the song the Whos are singing. (What are they saying? Anyone? I really need to google it!)

I've been trying to teach him the actual sign for Christmas, and he's getting it, but he needs a reminder and a prompt, and prefers to use his own full-body enthusiastic sign. (And actually, his version does capture the spirit of the season much more accurately, both in root and essence...) I like to think that he appreciates the sentiment of that scene, and of course, he likes the music. I think he also probably has special interest in that particular portion of the movie because the Grinch shouts at his dog, Max (nice coincidence, eh?), several times and then they end up rolling around on the floor together. It's nice to finally see that poor dog acting happy...and it's probably also nice to hear the music of one's own name.

So we're working on his Christmas sign, hoping to get one that is more universally recognizable and doesn't require an entire back-story explanation.


Max's speech therapist asked me what he wanted for Christmas. It's such a basic, common question...but it floored me for a moment. I really was blank! I mean, I know some of the things he's been into lately, and I have a pretty good idea of the type of things he'd probably like, and I have a list of things I've decided he needs...but somehow it really threw me off balance. I suppose we don't really ask that question! Can that be??

What does HE want? What does he WANT?

I stammered around and then kind of listed themes, telling her what he's into these days, and a few items I know he will be getting. The crazy thing is, I have tons of ideas for him this year! There have been years/stages where it has been really hard to know what to get him for birthdays or Christmas, but this year he's had some very clear preferences and delights. I've observed and I'm totally prepared! But I still don't really ask him that question. How would he answer?

Well, he'd do the same things he's been doing: pointing and grinning, picking something out in a crowd, carrying it around, using a sign or word for it...that's his answer. But it's not exactly the same.

On the other hand, maybe here he gets it, too. There's some stuff that is fun. Stuff that makes us laugh, stuff that we enjoy, stuff that has all the bells and whistles. But really, the details are not terribly important. Those things come and go. They are temporary. They may delight us anew each day...or they may drop from our radar, quickly discarded. It's the feeling we are after, not the thing. For me, grasping this concept is somewhat of an ongoing, lifelong lesson; for Max, though, it seems obvious.

He wants something that makes him smile or makes him feel good. But it doesn't really matter what it is, because the stuff is just on the side. A temporary distraction. A passing delight. His main pleasure is simply being with all of us, sitting close and playing together and smiling at each other. The rest is icing.

I'm still learning this one. Max, on the other hand, gets it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Imaginary Dancing (a.k.a. Elf Yourself!)

Here's a little something seasonal for you to enjoy, from Me and My Shadow! (If you take away the tap shoes and add a Christmas theme, it's actually very similar to the image I had in my head when typing my last post...HA!)

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Me..(2,3,4)..and (tap)..My (tap)...Shaaaaaa-DOW! (clickety-click-y-CLACK!)

Could you tell I was singing that title line? While doing a snappy little tap-dancing number? (Well, ok, I did nothing at all resembling anything even remotely close to a dance. But I did sing!!)

You know how I mentioned that general meh-ness I've been experiencing lately, and how it's creating a block to my blog-posting?

Well, there is one other little thing that is creating a bit of an impediment these days. I really don't want to throw anybody under the bus, or anything, but...well, it's been a little hard to dodge my shadow lately.

Max has always been an extremely social little guy, vastly preferring to be with people than to be alone, but his need for closeness has been especially pronounced lately.

I thought pictures could tell the story more succinctly than words.

So, let me present for your viewing pleasure, Me and My Shadow, a photo essay depicting last night's events. (With a few assorted words thrown in.)

We made supper.

Max watched me wash & peel the carrots.
(Yes, I see the knife. But I know his hands are firmly attached to his headphones, because he's listening to his most favoritist song in the world -- "Seasons of Love" from the musical Rent. I put it on his little mp3 player, 10 times in a row, literally, and he plays it on repeat, literally. Because the rest of us are kind of done listening to it by now. So anyway, I wouldn't normally leave the knife that close, but for the 3 seconds it took to snap this photo, I deemed the situation safe.)
Once the carrots were peeled, it was time to dice them.
(He was still listening to his music, but it was definitely time for him to back up a tad. Big knife = healthy respect. Period.)
I told him he needed to back up!(and he did. See?)

I added the carrots to the pot of soup.
(This stovetop has the largest burner towards the FRONT, which is just not good. He wants to watch it boil. It know it doesn't ACTUALLY take any longer that way, but it sure FEELS like it will never boil; cooking seems to take forever when I am trying to monitor HIS pot monitoring. I think whoever wrote that old adage probably had a child like Max.)

After supper we walked (shadow style) to the computer desk.

I got comfortably seated
(and he sidled up close in case something exciting should occur....)

( a picture. Or a video. Or a pop-up ad. Or anything that resembles a picture, a video, or a pop-up ad.) When one of those caught his eye, he wanted to sit on my lap, closer to the action.
Which made my view something like this:

(So it turned out to be a short session. No blogging occurred. I decided to go to bed instead.)We headed down the hall to the bathroom.

(I am not going to include photos of my bathroom ablutions, except for one.)
I took a shower.

Then it was time to go to bed...

...and sleep.

So please understand if my posting continues to be light. Even if I manage to dodge my shadow, I have to get past that wall of meh.

(LIGHT BULB!!) Wouldn't that be the perfect video game?? You have to maneuver the mom through a Maze of Meh, while dodging shadows, avoiding illness, and collecting points for all the errands and chores you pass through. Bonuses for baking cookies and kissing boo-boos. Isn't that brilliant?!

Call me, Wii!! I smell a big one!

Oh. Actually, that smell might be emanating from...a slightly different source, one a little more to my immediate left. (Ahem.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

At Least He Went Down Smiling

Max and his brother have been playing some rough-and-tumble games together lately. It's kind of hard to watch, because for so many years it just didn't work, and I still find myself generally doubtful. Max was always too fragile or totally unprepared or clearly over-powered...but the tides are slowly turning, and now when those two get wild our reprimands are sometimes aimed at Max for being too rough & wild with his older brother!

Though the ball-tossing, chasing, screaming, tackling, hootin' & hollerin' rowdiness doesn't look like fun to me, the boys seem to generally enjoy it. Max had a particularly abrupt fall (aka TACKLE?) recently and I ran towards the crying with both barrels loaded, firing off zingers and accusations and warnings and loud, angry I-Told-You-Sos...

...but when his tears ended, it was readily apparent that the boy had indeed gone down smiling. The rug-burn around his eye indicates a ginormous squinty grin was present right up to the bitter end, even as he was skidding face-first across the floor; the scab forms a perfect outline of his smiling eyes. Yowza.
But EVEN SO, guys, can't I interest you in a nice, quiet round of Dolls & Diapers? Or Fake Napping? Counting Your Moles? Practicing ASL?!?

Cause it's only 5:15 but it's already dark outside and it's only the first day of December but there's already snow on the ground and you're only having fun but MOMMY'S HEAD ALREADY HURTS!!


What do I file this under? Frustrations? Or Favorite Things? ...perhaps Milestones, in a bizarre sort of way? hmm.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving: Pass It On! (Cross-post)

Yesterday was a humbling day. An emotional day. A Thanksgiving kind of day.

The Sunday School class my husband and I are part of decided to donate money to buy boxes of food for families at one of our neighborhood elementary schools. It's the school that our kids attend, and where several of our class members are employed. It's a school that has some 70% of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch programs. It's also the official "homeless" school for our community.

We collected money in class and quickly came up with enough money to buy 10 boxes of food from a local distribution center.

Yesterday, our family went to pick up that food and deliver it to the school, where the guidance counselor had selected 10 families to receive the boxes.

We got the food loaded up much more quickly than we had expected, and found ourselves with extra time on our hands. We decided to go to the grocery store and pick up a few items of our own. It was a typical family grocery store trip. Some bickering about who got to sit on that side of the car, some impatient snapping at each other, some negotiating for treats, some minor annoyances. We loaded back up with our own groceries (charged on plastic with nary a thought) now also in tow and drove to the school for the delivery.


Some of the families were already at the school, waiting, and the positive energy in the room was almost palpable. Everyone was smiling and helping and quietly talking. When we were done unloading, the counselor asked if we would be doing this regularly, and I said that I hoped so, but wasn't sure. He said that after talking with teachers, he had identified 16 families in need (though certainly there are more), and he would love to be able to connect more of them with some assistance.

It was with very mixed emotions that we left the building, realizing that we felt so good about this thing we had done...but that it was only a drop in the bucket. As we walked out the door, the counselor handed us some envelopes, explaining that the families had written thank you notes.

I got back in the car, working my feet in between our bags of groceries piled there on the floor. We drove away in silence, trying to process it all. And then I handed out the envelopes so we could read some of the thank you notes out loud. I wanted the kids to hear. I wanted them to know what it means to help others. I wanted them to understand this thing they were now a part of. (Or perhaps, this thing that was now a part of them.)

The thank you notes were heartfelt, gracious, kind. I had a knot in my throat reading the first one out loud, and found myself blinking back tears, just thankful for what we have, and thankful to be a part of something good, and incredibly moved by the simple fact of people helping people.

When my son started to read a card out loud, the emotions swirling through our heads reached a moment of overwhelming depths. (Or heights, depending on your view.)

Tears started to run down his cheeks, and he couldn't finish.

"He said there were sixteen families...but we only had ten boxes," he said.


I started this post last Sunday, but I couldn't finish it. I just didn't have the words. And now, even as I type this days later, the tears once again begin to rise up my throat and I find I still don't have the words.

But I know that when I come back and read this, I will remember.

I don't know how to record the moment, but simply to say that it was beautiful and tragic all at once. That it made me feel both immensely powerful in my ability to make a difference, and also to feel incredibly small and of no consequence at all. It made me feel incredibly good, and incredibly guilty. It was despair and hope, mingling together in one breath.


On the way home from the school, we stopped to pick up Max. (He paid a visit to his grandparents while we did the grocery run.) It was time to go to his Physical Therapy appointment.

This is a new addition to his weekly therapy routine. Through word-of-mouth, we heard about an amazing therapist nearby -- the kind with magic fingers and sensitive spirit -- and she was willing to see him. Despite her full schedule. Despite our total inability to verbalize what we want her to do to him. Despite the fact that she doesn't take Medicaid, though that is the only coverage Max has, and that we can't really afford her full-price visits. She was not only willing, but excited, energetic, curious, eager! She's offering us a greatly reduced price and is seeing him 5 weeks in a row for a trial run. I don't know what might happen, but I am extremely grateful for the possibility.

I left the house with my grocery tears barely dried, then drove straight to this appointment, a fresh set of kindness-of-others tears threatening to spill over.


They say it's better to give than to receive, and I agree. It's certainly easier, I do know that.

But what is really amazing is to be on both ends of that equation within a short span of time.

My cup runneth over. I'm filled with Thanksgiving, though it it's not the official day for that. I'm proud to be a part of the human race today. That may sound like a crazy statement to make, but in a world where the headlines sometimes make me hang my head in shame -- for all of us -- it is a profound and welcome feeling to be a small, fitted piece in this very good puzzle.

Here's my challenge: Do something good today.

It can be large or small....just something above & beyond the usual, whatever your particular brand of usual might be. If something nice has happened to you recently, pay it forward. If nothing nice has happened lately, do it anyway.

Just tip that first domino over, and trust that the momentum can flow on down the line.

Happy Thanksgiving, world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Swear He Was In School ALL DAY!

This headline jumped off the browser and caught my attention this morning: Pirates Hijack Tanker with $100M in Oil.

I sort of forget this stuff still really happens. (And, I swear, Max was in school all day; he had NOTHING to do with it!)

And now I better change topics before Homeland Security develops an interest in my son.
(PS. JOKE! Joking here! Just kidding around! Please don't flag us, Mr. Officer Sir! Just a little pirate humor for the day! HA HA HA, WE'RE ALL LAUGHING, SEE?! = Joke!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Pirate For All Seasons

I originally picked up a baseball costume for Max to wear while Trick-Or-Treating. I don't usually buy ready-made costumes, but this one was in Cubs colors, and had built-in muscles, and I just couldn't resist. Now, if Halloween fell during the summer months (i.e., Cubs season), it would have remained the obvious choice. But baseball season is over, and since making that purchase we have been completely taken over by PIRATES.

I returned the baseball costume, and dug through the dress-up box for pirate wear instead. It may be a tired cliche for others, but it's exciting new stuff for us!

A Guy Named Glen, Raggedy Ann, and The Dread Pirate Max

Granted, the outfit was a bit more King Arthur than Pirate (especially once he took off the vest and all headgear -- kerchief, earring, AND eye patch), but Max totally got it. He really got behind the whole Trick-Or-Treating concept this year, too! We walked around with him while his siblings were with other groups of kids, and even without their assistance, he went up to each door and got his candy. Some places (the ones that had the really good stuff, I guess) inspired him to linger at length and gaze VERY CLOSELY at the goody stash, but he really was able to do it quite independently. It was fun to watch.

And of course he was a natural at the racing* and pillaging, jumping off the poop deck**, and sounding his joyful "arrrgh!" -- and he even remembered to sign "thank you" now and then.

It was another one of those Aha! moments, when I realize just how far we've come. Max kind of enjoyed trick-or-treating last year, but needed to walk hand-in-hand with his grandpa, and was completely out of sorts and signing "all done" after a trek around the block.

Flashback moment: Gilligan & The Skipper (Halloween 2007)

Furthermore, his costume last year was purely for OUR enjoyment...but this year he was completely on board and took obvious personal pleasure in wearing his pirate duds.

I found a pirate mirror cling set at Target in the post-Halloween clearance aisle. I plan on putting it on the mirror in his bedroom so that even though the traditional piracy season is now over, he continue to be a pirate any ol' time he wants.


* Yes, clearly I meant the 'c'.

** Not quite sure what this means, but it sounds totally plausible...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Because Sometimes Pirates Have Disabilities, Too...

So we're continuing on the pirate theme around here. I've been amused to see the places Max finds a pirate -- pirates in places I hadn't even thought to look! It's like he's living in a "Where's Waldo?" book, singlemindedly focused on finding random pirates tucked here and there, behind each door, and in every nook and cranny.

Did you know there's a pirate in the intro to SpongeBob Squarepants shows? I obviously knew on some level, because I've heard/seen it a jillion times...but previously, Max was always focused on hearing the "Ohhhhhhhhhh!..." at the start of the theme song, not necessarily on the pirate who is singing it. But now SpongeBob's like a whole new show! Because PIRATE! Right there! On the screen!

There are pirates on the yogurt!

There are pirates in the alphabet book! (Ooo!) Pirate Halloween costumes in the newspaper flier! (Ahh!)

In the store aisles, we even discovered a box of pirate band-aids and a pirate toothbrush!

(Tooth brushing is a rather gaggy & unpleasant event around here, so if this battery-operated, Pirates of the Caribbean-themed, rotating brush can help, it's money well spent! Thank you, Disney.)

I was browsing this morning to search for pirate images and came across this one -- not exactly right for Max, but I quite like the graphic:

(Click on the photos for links & ordering info.)

Are there any wheelchair-using scallywags out there in the market for a pirate shirt?

Some other pirate designs caught my eye as well -- like this one, featuring ASL:

And this one, in braille:

And this one, targeting dyslexia:

These shirts can be snarky, or good honest fun, (or BOTH), depending on who is wearing them (and why). I was rather tickled to come across them.

Normally, I would be tempted by the sign language shirt, but Argh-ing like a pirate is definitely a VERBAL interest for Max, so I continued browsing and found these two shirts that seemed more appropriate for him:

The dog-PLUS-pirate combo would absolutely thrill him. (And somehow the idea behind it seems sort of appropriate -- I often feel like we are translating a secret & mysterious language, too. Plus it just tickles my funny bone.)

And then there's this option.
It's a solid nod to talking like a pirate that would likely trigger many spontaneous "arghing" conversations, which Max would enjoy greatly, AND it is one of the few with an actual pirate instead of a skull....but, frankly, the knife in the mouth worries me a bit.

I plan on ordering a pirate-y shirt for one of Max's Christmas presents this year. Are there any other fun recommendations out there I should consider before placing my order?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sleep Is for the Weak?

There's a great-looking book floating around the blogosphere these days called "Sleep Is for the Weak." It's a collection of essays written by an assortment of well-known mommybloggers (and daddybloggers?) about parenting. It's been on my book list for a while now, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

I see links for this book daily, but it would probably stick in my head anyway, because the title is just so catchy. It is half joke, half reality -- a battle cry that unites us all as we venture forth into the frontlines of babydom.

But I there a point in time where the joke falls flat? Where that phrase brings tears of exhaustion to one's burning, bloodshot eyes? Where that book is shuffled to the very end of the reading queue, based on the title alone?

Because, let me tell you, I think that time might well be creeping up on me. If I were to see that book on the shelf of a local store, I would be equally likely to snatch it up in delight...or knock it to the floor and roll my car right over it, with nary a glance, depending on the day. (Which, translated, means, "depending on how much sleep I got the night before.")

Which brings me to my point: sleep issues. Nothing's working. Frustrated. Tired. Annoyed. Need solution. Yada yada yada, Round Number Seventy-Jillionty-Five.

Now if you find yourself in a similar situation, you already know what I'm talking about. Your specifics might be a little different, but that's relatively unimportant. You speak my language. You feel my frustration. You live my exhaustion.

You might be sleeping in a chair with your metal-braced or casted child. (hi, Rach) Or nursing during the night for the 7th year in a row. (hey, Gwen) Or simply up at 3 a.m. because your child is. (Penny, Lisa - greetings. *yawn*) Or coaxing your child to sleep each night, only to find yourself repeating it all over again several hours later. For nights upon months upon years on e...

Oh, sorry -- I nodded off for a sec. Now where was I?

Right. Seriously, what happens when the sleepless baby months stretch into years? Decades?? (Oh, goodness, I feel faint -- is it possible to last that long?! If any of you decades-weary parents are out there, I'm not sure I'm prepared to hear about that just yet, mmkay? Thanks. Let me stagger along in my steady belief that this will end. Somehow. Some day.)

What makes that book title clever is that the people saying it are, in fact, strong people who happen to be bravely and proudly doing without for a bit. But when the deprivation becomes chronic, those previously strong people might just find themselves quite literally shrivelling up into weaklings.

At least, that's what I find happening to myself these days.

Words -- nay, entire concepts! -- escape the tongue. Deadlines go unmet. Important papers are forgotten. Emails are unanswered. Partnerships disintegrate into scorekeeping. Patience is, itself, trying. Kindness masquerades as Optional. Sanity crumbles.

Blogs are hopelessly neglected. (*cough, cough*)

But back to the title -- "Sleep Is for the Weak." Hearing that phrase as one of the weakened, it begins to morph into a brilliantly simple solution. A soothing balm. A delicious promise. A lullaby, whispered gently in my ear. A Psalm.

Sleep, and you will be strengthened. Dream, and your visions will be restored. Snore, and the door shall be opened unto you...

I would like to propose a companion book, titled "Sleep Is for the Strong." I envision essays contributed by mommybloggers (and daddybloggers) who write about parenting children with disabilities. About living fully when the inevitable return of peaceful slumber hangs in doubt.

The irony is still there, of course. Because the people saying it are, in fact, weakened people who happen to be bravely and proudly -- strongly -- doing without for a bit.

It takes strength to sleep through the alarms or bleeps of life-assuring machines signalling problems. It takes strength to sleep in interrupted segments until the next scheduled feeding or necessary repositioning of an immobile child. It takes strength to sleep through the fear of what the next minutes or hours or days might bring. It takes strength to sleep when your child is not.

Again, the specifics are relatively unimportant; the common bond is still there. It takes strength to remain chronically sleep-deprived yet continue to seize the day.

Am I breaking down? Am I in the midst of a crisis? No, don't worry. It's simply Monday.

But I'm just sayin' --that hypothetical book? Sleep Is for the Strong? Well, that is a book that I would certainly snatch up in delight and shuffle to the TOP of my book list, regardless of the day.

Is anybody out there awake enough to write it? I'd like to pre-order, please.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Aaarrr, Me Mateys!

Recently, Max got off the school bus with some new eye patch, a fake earring, and a plastic sword. His bus driver was wearing a pirate hat, and she Aaaarrghed a farewell to him before setting sail.

Max's class celebrated International Talk Like a Pirate Day in school. (Isn't that a hoot?!)

They hunted for treasure & colored pirate-themed pictures, the Physical Therapist came into the classroom to help the kids walk the plank and crawl through tunnels, and, of course, they engaged in lots of crazy pirate talk. I love that his teacher finds such fun ways to work on goals while keeping the daily routine exciting.

Here's a glimpse of Max in full pirate mode:

He continued "Aaarrr-ing" all week. The sword was broken long ago, the earring is lost, I think the eye patch is around here somewhere...but the Pirate Talk lives on!

**Edited to add: Later, in the grocery store's dairy aisle, Max spied a pack of yogurt drinks decorated with the Backyardigans in pirate hats. He was really excited and grabbed a pack to carry through the store, insisting that we take them home.

-Avast! Do ye yellow-bellied sapsuckers a'fear the likes of the Dread Pirate Max?

-Uhm... Ahoy, there...let's just say I was fully supportive of that particular purchase.

So, anyhoo. Now snacktime is a rather noisy affair, as it inspires me to call out, "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Ru--nny Yogurt! Aaaargh!!" And Max responds with his own gleeful "Aaaarrr!"

We're getting a LOT of mileage out of this one...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Obeying Thy Mother

Max was following me around while I made supper the other night, when suddenly he sat down and took off his shoes -- right there, smack dab in the middle of the kitchen. I told him that the shoes needed to be out of the way, and I asked him to go put them by the front door.

He readily agreed, grinned and said, "Oh!", gathered up his shoes...and took off.

This is what I found:

They really are "by the front door" -- aren't they?!

I know his class has been working on prepositions at school. They've been using the signs, AND pictures, AND words for exercises where they locate objects in the room or in a picture.

I got quite a kick out of his overly literal interpretation of my request, but also found myself wondering if that quirky response was actually due to a new level of comprehension. After all, "by" often means "beside", and "beside" often means "right next to" or even "sides touching" --right?

I think he could be on to something...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Slowly But Surely: The Second Version

The other thing that's occurring slowly but surely around here is my internet service. (Actually, now that I think about it, "surely" really isn't even the right word...)

My connection here is painfully s...l...o...w and somewhat RanDoM, and it makes web-browsing and blog-posting a test of endurance.

I'm looking into other options, but posting will remain light until the situation improves.

Slowly But Surely

We have been in our new home for a little over a week now. There are still boxes sitting here and there, and many more changes that need to be made, but it's definitely feeling like home.

Max was pretty confused the last day at the old house. Most of the moving took place while the kids were at school, so when Max got off the bus that day, things had changed dramatically. He kept walking around the empty rooms and some random blank spot would catch his eye. He froze in the kitchen, staring at the empty spaces under the bar where the stools used to be, exclaimed, "Oh!" and then lifted those enormous, soulful eyes at me and signed "Where?"

We repeated this throughout the house, and he was just genuinely puzzled to realize the beds were gone and the computer was gone and the TV was gone! I suppose bits and pieces has been disappearing for a while by then...but once the rooms were completely empty, nothing made sense. Our lives really didn't seem to belong there anymore.

I kept trying to explain that we would be in a NEW house with our beds and stools and TVs...and he was listening intently, standing very close and still, staring right into my eyes with a serious expression. After I repeated several variations on the "new house" theme, Grandma arrived to take Max to her place for a few hours while we finished up the cleaning and turned over the keys.

Only later, after the keys to the house were handed over, did it occur to me that I missed the most obvious key for Max's understanding: blowing kisses and waving goodbye to each room. I was so busy using my words, and my words, AND MY WORDS...but actions speak louder than words, right? How could I forget this, when the King of No Words is standing at my feet, asking for help?!

I completely missed it -- the simple, direct route to goodbye. It's so obvious in restrospect (this is a boy who often blows the TV a kiss and waves goodbye to it when he leaves for school!), and I have no doubt it would have helped him process the move, but I just wasn't thinking on his wavelength that day.

Thank goodness he's a go-with-the-flow kind of kid (for the moment-to-moment stuff). He joined us at the new house and ran around grinning and excited, pointing out familiar items and enjoying the adventure.

When bedtime came, he was compliant and calm. He helped us put on his pajamas and brush his teeth, took his Benadryl, kissed everyone good night,...and then had no idea how to proceed.

His usual routine (laying on the sofa, watching the Cubs with his dad) wasn't possible. The sofa was there, and he found his favorite pillow and blanket in their usual spot on it, but there was no tv. They sat in the darkness for a long time, but he just could not get to sleep.

So then I took him into bed with me, which also usually works. He snuggled close and held very still, but he kept lifting his head off the pillow and staring at the bedroom window. I don't know if it was the slice of light coming through the curtains, or simply the fact that the window existed, but he was incredibly bothered by it.

(If it's the decor...well, then I totally get his opposition to this thing.)

He kept a close watch on that window for about an hour, then finally started signing "All done!" repeatedly, frantically. He cried and yelled and pointed and kept signing that he was done. Just when I started to think it would never end, he fell asleep.

It was a very short and emotional night.

The window thing seems to have worked itself out as mysteriously as it started, and we finally managed to get a TV hooked up, so the bedtime routine is going more smoothly than that first fretful night. In fact, Max slept unusually well most of last week...but now this week it's a real struggle again. (Sigh.)

I don't know exactly what the problem is -- we usually don't, quite frankly -- though I suspect it is indirectly tied to the new house; it's not literal, like the window protest was, but probably due to the fact that he just isn't "in a good place" yet. (and no, I'm not referring to the pink & green bathroom this time...but I can understand your confusion.)

The weekend was pleasant at the time...but he didn't eat or drink well, and was probably overstimulated; we are feeling the effects now.

In the same way, but on a larger scale, Max made the new house transition smoothly on the surface...but he's clearly still a bit "off" internally.

So that's the scoop here, at the House of Mystery. We're just not quite back to the usual scene (none of us, really, not just Max) -- though I can see it hovering just around the corner.

We're finally aimed in the right direction, and I know we'll get there, each of us, slowly but surely.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Moving Right Along

I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but we are moving. Today!

I've composed so many great birthday posts in my head, but just haven't had time to get them into a form others can read. I was anticipating the start of school so I could catch up on posts here...or maybe NAP?!...but my days have been filled with packing, instead. We've got our work cut out for us in the new place, too, but once the deadlines are all removed (and my internet service is reconnected) I know I'll find time to post more regularly.

This move is going to be a really big change for all of us, but particularly so for Max. He's got his routines here at the old house, and all of them are going to be disrupted. In some ways, this is a wonderful thing, though, because we've got the perfect opportunity to break and change those routines that are causing problems here!

I'm trying to really put some thought into how we will physically arrange things at the new place, what "rules" we will set, and how to make the transition as smooth as possible for him. It will be a good home for Max, (and for Max of the future, too); consideration of his needs fueled much of the decision to buy that particular house.

Earlier this week, Max selected a big, black, plastic bin out of the pile of empty boxes on the front porch. He carried it around for the whole evening, so I decided it should be his own personal moving box. We've been putting all his odds & ends and small, beloved objects in it, and it will be the first box to go into his new room. His bed will be all set up by the time he gets home from school today, and as many of his familiar items as possible will be where he can spot them.

We've tried to talk about the move and prepare him as much as possible, but taking this concept from the abstract to reality will be the real test.

As I've said before, this move will not be an easy one, but it is a good one.

Wish us well! I'll be back soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy 7th Birthday, Max!

The day of your birth -- August 21, 2001.

On your 7th Birthday, signing "thank you" for a present.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Microcephaly in the Media: Wayward Walnut

This image is another one for the Microcephaly in the Media series (although it would clearly fit better in a series called Microcephaly in Mother Nature):

I was sitting outside and noticed a walnut in the grass. Only instead of "walnut", my immediate thought was "brain"...

...and then I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

This is exactly the kind of thing that hits me out of the blue sometimes, and makes me realize that my thoughts about microcephaly are never very far away.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Seriously Mad Wiffle Ball Skills

Max loves the Cubs. I mean, he really, really loves them. I suppose he is mostly modeling after my husband who cheers them on with great excitement, but he is quite a fan all on his own, too. He recognizes the Cubs logo, and can pick one out from a mile away. He routinely chooses the Cubs cup to drink out of, and has been known to carry around my husband's Cubs golf towel as a beloved object. He has a Cubs t-shirt that he loves to wear.

The one obvious bit of Cubs paraphernalia that is difficult to find in Max's size is a baseball cap.

We've come up with a pretty nifty solution, though. We start with a regular, adult-size visor, and make a little twist in the ends before velcroing them securely together again.

Voila! Tiny Cubs hat!

Max LOVES wearing his Cubs visor.

He especially loves wearing it while playing wiffle ball in the back yard. He has a pretty good pitch, though his accuracy is rather random. But if there's any doubt about how much of the televised games he's taking in, take a look at his pitching form in the following clip. He does a wind-up and raises his leg, just like the pros.

His real talent lies in hitting the ball, though. True, he gets frequently distracted by leaves waving in the breeze, or squirrels, or the noise of passing vehicles...but when he is focused, he has a very impressive batting average. Seriously. I know, it seems counterintuitive, because he still struggles with using his two hands together to catch a large ball, but I'm telling you -- the boy can bat.

Sometimes it's way more than mere contact, too. We're talking line drives here. And, though I can't believe I'm going to bare all on a public website like this, I want to show you the evidence of this wild claim.

Behold, Exhibit A:

Ball mark left on my stomach from a zinger he hit!

Notice the perfectly formed wiffle ball pattern that was created by the impact through my shirt!! (Ouch.) I didn't even have time to move.

I'm telling you, this kid's got some seriously mad skills.
If you want to come join us, we'll likely be out in the back yard, practicing again...but bring your protective gear!

Wordless Wednesday: Out For a Ride

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