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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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer Vacation: The Story Behind the Story

We just returned from our annual summer vacation (hence no posting recently). This is the third year in a row that we have spent a week in a beach-side cottage with my side of the family.

While Max's older siblings and cousins have many memories of the previous years and talk about personal highlights, and favorite memories, and planning new adventures together, I'm never entirely sure what Max recalls about the past trips. To help strengthen some memories and build a reference base for him, we spent time looking at photos from last year and talking about the cabin and our plans.

Changes in his routine can be really difficult for Max, as I think I've mentioned once or gazillionty-twice. He'll happily go with the flow...and then suddenly hits a point where he's gone too far. When this happens, he doesn't eat well, doesn't sleep well, doesn't cope well, and things can escalate quickly to a sort of extended plateau of misery. He's matured enough now where short trips can work fairly well, but an entire week is a real test of endurance. I know I've seen big changes in him over the past year, but I was still keeping my fingers crossed that he would be able to handle it.

I don't know if he remembers the trip from last year, or is just so pleased to be there with a houseful of many his favorite people, but he adapted incredibly well this year. I was aware throughout the week of how much he has matured since last summer. He ate! He slept (thanks to Grandpa, who went to bed early with him every single night)! He even tolerated the 4.5-hour journey fairly well!

There were still a few moments where I was holding my breath & still keeping my fingers crossed -- several pukey, clingy mornings, and one short head-banging, hair-pulling tantrum during the night (towards the end of the week), but overall it was smooth sailing.

Smooth sailing with a generous side of splashing.

There were several things that stick out in my mind about Max's week -- things that remind me of how far he's come. Looking at his behavior each year in the exact same setting is a bit like having my own longitudinal study in a pseudo-lab setting. And though that makes it all sound too sciencey, it was a good eye-opener for me. In this parenting journey with Max, where progress is measured in the smallest of steps, it is so easy to overlook the changes that are truly taking place.

The cottage we stayed in is set back from the main road a bit, with a sidewalk, then boardwalk path, and then a flight of stairs leading to the front porch entrance. The dock and beach area are situated directly on the other side of that main road. At one point we realized Max had left the house (where some of us were) and come to the beach (where the rest of us were) all by himself. Gah!

I didn't see it happen, so I have no idea if he stopped and looked for cars before crossing the road or not, but I noticed that several times when we walked across together, he DID seem to remember that we had to stop and look. His uncle gave him a gentle-but-stern lecture about not crossing the road by himself, and he nodded and nodded and said "yah!" And then we sharpened our watch and made sure we verbally "handed it off" when done. (The tricky part here is to announce an impending doze before it happens...)

Now even though I do NOT want him to cross roads alone, it still is a warped type of progress. There was a time when he would have darted out into the street repeatedly, oblivious to danger. There was a time when he refused to hold hands, and leading him was very difficult. There was a time when he would have gone to some other family's beach spot, intrigued by a toy or snack he spotted there. But this year, he knew where to go, he knew how to get there, and he safely held hands and went with an adult every time but one! That is progress.

This photo captures an imaginative moment Max was having. He held this rock, signed "cracker", and then held it to his lips and pretended to eat it. He was pretty pleased with himself and insisted Grammy & I watch his little game. That same afternoon, he also picked up a hand-sized rectangular rock, held it to his ear, and said "Eh-oh?" as though answering a phone.

Max doesn't generally engage in pretend play, except for imaginary telephone conversations (well, and the let's-pretend-we're-sleeping-and-then-I'll-poke-you or the let's-pretend-you-can't-see-me-and-then-suddenly-you-can! type of thing), so pretending one item IS another item -- when they do not look the same and are not usually used to represent each other -- was definitely a noteworthy activity.

Grammy took along this incredible bubble-making wand. Max watched the other kids use it for a long time, and then tried it himself. He knew the loop end needed to be dipped in the bucket each time, and he knew the sliding piece needed to slide at some point (to open the loop), and though he had trouble doing it all in the correct order each time, he managed to produce bubbles the first few times he tried. His excitement caused him to mix up the steps, then, but after some hand-over-hand assistance, he was able to do it again.

Max's favorite pastime was sitting in the hot sand. He scooted through it on his knees, and slid his hands around and sifted sand for hours each day. He even seemed to enjoy the heat of it, preferring to sit and "sand" (yes, it's a verb now) rather than cool off in the lake. I really can't think of any other activity he willingly engages in -- independently, quietly, contentedly -- for such extended periods of time. Truly! I read books, dozed, had was very calming and peaceful for BOTH of us.

Of course, Max also had great fun with all those people around. He is incredibly social and loves to have personal attention from someone. (And with 12 other people in the cabin, that wasn't too hard to find!) The other kids are all old enough now to interact positively with him and help keep him engaged. While some times they were clearly humoring him, other times he was simply one of the gang.

By the end of the week, Max was insisting on specific people for specific activities (lots of snuggling-based games with the aunt pictured below and a water toy Toss & Find game of epic proportions with his youngest cousin), and was verbalizing a version of each person's name. He had a blast.

On the last night, Max insisted on sitting at the kids' table instead of with the grownups. Though my mind immediately jumps to spills and mess and little ingestion of food, my heart knows the sheer beauty of that request.

After eating that meal, we all walked down the road to get ice cream. I ordered for the 4 older kids and then we stood at the counter waiting. The cones were HUGE (And messy. And we were leaving shortly. And he doesn't usually eat his food, anyway. And Is my cup really always half empty??!), so I didn't order one for Max. I figured he could just have a few bites and be satisfied.

But Max had a different idea about that. He wanted ice cream, too. Blue ice cream! He stood at the counter, just barely peeking over the top of it, trying to get the ice cream server's attention and signing and saying "booo" (blue). He was very polite, very appropriate, very persistent, and very independently trying to state his wishes and place an order. It was a proud moment, indeed. And while I know all the reasons in MY mind for not ordering him his own cone, I felt incredibly humbled. He wanted ice cream, too.

This boy? This boy who can't speak? The one I still think of as the baby? This boy is growing up. He's catching on. He's maturing. He's got some big ideas....and I think there's an awful lot he would like to say.

I'm trying really hard to listen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Riddle Me This: Back-To-School Logic Puzzles

Puzzle #1.

  • A school bus is carrying a load of children home from school. School is dismissed at 12:35 p.m., and the bus travels at an average speed of 35mph for a distance of 5 miles. The bus is required to drive through lunch-hour traffic across town, and it must cross one set of train tracks, a minimum of 3 intersections, and a smattering of stop signs along the way. In addition, there is no information provided about the possibility of x number of additional stops that may or may not be scheduled along the route.

  • At what time will the bus reach its appointed destination?
(Answer, 12:51 p.m.)
Puzzle #2.
  • A child comes home from school wearing actual cotton underwear instead of disposable pull-ups. Within 5 minutes of arrival, the child's underwear are...ahem, dirtied. Clean-up requires removal of one pair of double-knotted shoes and 2 socks, the use of one dozen wet wipes, the loss of said pair of brand new underwear, and running an emergency load of laundry. The mother then needs to decide whether to immediately re-dress the child in another pair of underwear or in a pull-up.

  • What are the odds of this situation occurring again within the next 8 hours that the mother should consider when making her decision?

(Answer, ??)

For the record, I really have no idea, but I went with the pull-up...and 5 minutes later it happened again. Personally, I suspect one should always favor the odds that come with leak-proof fabrics, particularly when paired with the sanitary benefits of rip-away Velcro sides and disposability.)


Puzzle #3

  • A blogger types 2 logic puzzles while her son watches The Lion King.

  • How many minutes will she have in which to finish the post, run spellcheck, add labels, and hit "publish" before he abandons the movie and sneakily pours an entire bottle of his sister's bath gel into the sink?

(Answer, 5 minutes previous to typing Problem #3.)


Yep, been there, cleaned that. My computer time is officially over for today.

But guess what? -- SCHOOL AGAIN TOMORROW!

I'll be back. (cue maniacal laughter)

Ahh...The Sweet Smell of Diesel Fumes in the Morning

...accompanied by the glorious music of squealing brakes, and the sunshine-yellow glow of joyful expectation: I LOVE the school bus.

Believe it or not, Max started back to school today! This summer went quite well...but it was definitely time to move on.

I am pleased to report that I didn't see as much of Max's typical summer regression this year, with the exception of a minor step backwards in his ongoing struggle with sleep.

Eating took a major plunge for the first weeks, but he's been chowing down with gusto in the evenings lately, so I'd say overall that held fairly steady, too. But in the other two main areas of struggle, communication and toilet training, Max has continued to progress despite our slapdash efforts and random days around here!

That boy is primed and ready. I'm expecting big things. Very big things!