Posts Tagged "little victories"

The Goo and The Tooth Fairy

Posted by on Jun 6, 2011 | 2 comments

The Goo and The Tooth Fairy

We have recently weathered a great storm.  A constant, unending barrage.  An unpredictable maelstrom.

We have survived Jack’s first loose tooth.

Losing the first baby tooth is a glorious occasion, a milestone eagerly anticipated in the Kindergarten set.  It has all the trappings of great drama: the excitement at realizing a tooth is coming loose, the giddy nonstop wiggling, the breathtaking suspense as it eventually hangs by the tiniest of threads, and the sleeplessness waiting for the Tooth Fairy’s inaugural visit.

Jack had all of those things, but he also had something else: nonstop sensory input.  Somehow the idea that a loose tooth in his head would go relatively unnoticed escaped us.  Silly, silly us.

We first noticed the tooth in question in a rather shocking manner.  I was taking photos of the boys while we waited for the Easter Train, and something looked askew in Jack’s smile.  David looked closer and called me over.  I was not prepared for what I saw.

That right there is Jack’s first adult tooth, already poking through behind the baby teeth still snug in his head.  We just thought one of his front teeth looked crooked.  It was, but that was only part of the story.  Jack had what they call a “shark tooth.”

Jack had been acting out a lot around then, which we were chalking up to not feeling well or challenges at school or being out on a two-week Spring Break.  All of these factors make for a disturbance in Jack’s force, causing problems with listening, paying attention, aggression and just generally being uncomfortable in his own skin.  It wasn’t until someone on the Facebook page mentioned their child had an issue with loose teeth that the light bulb went off.

It made complete sense.  Think about how much pain in your mouth bugs you.  Now imagine you have a problem with sensory input, and turn that bug dial up to eleven.  A loose tooth is no less than an electric current to the brain that won’t stop until it comes out.

Once I realized what was happening, I wanted that tooth out of his head.  Unfortunately, Jack wasn’t on board with my plan.  I told him to wiggle it and make it looser, and to try and pull it out.  He wouldn’t have any part of it.

“The goo is holding it in,” he said.  He said that eventually he would grow up and the “goo” would let go of his tooth and it would fall out on its own.  I was curious as to what, exactly, the “goo” was.

According to Jack, we have bones and skin and goo that holds us all together. “When you break something in your body, you go to the hospital where the doctor layers bones and glues them together with goo until it’s all together again and you can leave.”

Of course.

Eventually the little tooth was hanging by the tiniest of threads, and still Jack wouldn’t touch it.  I begged.  I cajoled. I bribed.  I feared he would swallow it while he slept.  Alas, Jack held to his goo theory and went to bed.  It fell out the next morning while he was getting dressed.

And there was much rejoicing… until Jack realized that the Tooth Fairy would be coming.  While he slept.  Jack was wholly convinced that TF would either a) touch him while trying to get the tooth and wake him up, or b) touch him and accidentally turn him into a present instead of the tooth.  I have no idea where he came up with that one.  Both options made him nervous.

Jack lay awake in his bed until close to midnight.

Jack finally fell asleep and The Tooth Fairy made his appearance (TF is a dude in this house, for some reason).  He brought Jack a shiny Loon (a Canadian one dollar coin) and new toothbrushes for all the boys.

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, the second that tooth fell out of Jack’s head he was back to “normal.”  He was firing on all cylinders at school and sharp as a tack at home.

Then we realized that his other front tooth was loose, too.

Thankfully, Jack took stock of the situation and decided losing his tooth wasn’t the traumatic experience he had anticipated.  He set upon making the second one come out post-haste, and tooth number two came out just a few days later.

Two down, eighteen more to go.  I’m sure they’ll all come out as easily and drama-free as tooth number two.


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You are Me as We are All Together

Posted by on Feb 23, 2011 | 3 comments

You are Me as We are All Together

There is an evolution of language acquisition.  Children learn the parts of speech in fits and starts, usually in the same order as other kids.  So what happens when your child simply doesn’t speak before age two or three, and has to be taught everything, rather than pick it up themselves naturally?  Curious things, I tell you.  Curious things.

As I’ve mentioned before, Jack had only about four words by age two (although looking back at video I can make out a few more that we didn’t pick up on at the time).  Due in large part to the awesome Miss Amanda, speech therapist extraordinaire, he began speaking in earnest not long after his therapy started.

Unlike Jack’s siblings, he had no “baby talk.”  He skipped that part and went straight for the gold.  He had his cute mispronunciations, of course.  One of our all-time favourites is “helicopter,” spoken like a tiny Frenchman as “ell-ee-oh-cop-tayr.”  For the most part, though, he simply picked up what Amanda was putting down, and went with it.

As a self-proclaimed word geek, I loved seeing Jack’s language unfold.  I had always dreamed of having conversations with my child, as every mama does, and for the first time it was happening.   And it was happening in a completely unique way.

Lots of small children confuse proper pronouns and genders and tenses.  English is an extremely difficult language, even if it is your native tongue.  Jack is no exception, although he had to learn the difference in genders through play.  Everyone was a boy for a very long time.  In fact, it was only recently that his favourite train Julia became the girl she was meant to be.

One of the hardest concepts Jack dealt with was with proper pronouns.  He referred to himself as “you” for quite some time, much to the confusion of others.  Having a conversation with him was a convoluted affair, trying to figure out which “you” he meant when.

Jack: “You’re going for a walk.”

Me: “No, *you’re* going for a walk.”

Jack, exasperated: “Yes.  You’re going for a walk.”

You see where this is going.

As he learned, he started putting his own spin on things.  He worked out who exactly “you” was in proper context, and eventually stopped calling women “him.”  He even started naming toys and playthings.

This summer we scored a couple of big car hauler trucks at some rummage sales, and adding in the two smaller ones we had at home, Jack created a car hauler family.  He named them Mom, Dad, and Baby (both of the small ones were named Baby).  Several times I have run from one end of the house to the other after hearing a frantic “Moooommmm!!!” only to find an infant truck in search of its mother.  Repeated pleas to change their names have fallen on deaf ears.

Most of the quirks in Jack’s speech are gone now, as he’s five-and-a-half (what?!?) and on to learning French.  Now he’s mixing both languages as he’s learning, and it’s hard to recall the days when he barely spoke at all.  It’s not something I ever want to forget.

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Who Needs Oprah?

Posted by on Nov 20, 2010 | 3 comments

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, when people all over the world stop what they’re doing to bear witness to wonderful things.  Glorious things.  Oprah’s Favourite Things, to be exact. 

This year is not only the 25th anniversary of Oprah’s show, it’s also her last season, so the goodies were especially outrageous and fabulous.  By now you know what wonderful, glorious things Oprah loves this year and gave to her audience (whether you like it or not). You also most likely know that Oprah’s favourite things do not fall within the budget of most families.  Well, most of them.  We actually took a 10-day vacation to Jamaica on a plane piloted by John Travolta last year.*

I watch Oprah’s Favourite Things show with equal parts jealousy and envy, especially this time of year when I’m engaged in retail battle.  Ok, I do most of my shopping online, but it’s still hard.  My back gets sore poring over Fishing For Deals and Amazon on my laptop for hours on end. 

Thankfully, my children are still young enough that they don’t yet have their own personal wish lists of coveted treasures.  Sure, they scope out new cars and trucks and trains when we’re out at the store, and will happily tell Santa about them at great length.  The days of pages-long Christmas lists full of hard-to-obtain and/or ridiculously expensive objects they can’t live without, though,  are at least another year away.

Every night when I tuck my children into bed, I spend a few minutes of one-on-one time with each of them.  I sit close, stroking their hair, paying attention to whatever they choose to discuss.  The core of the conversation is one question from me: “what did you like today?” 

This started simply enough a few years ago as a way to both help Jack learn to engage in conversation, and to help my boys remember and look forward to things.  Talking things up is important with toddlers, whether or not autism is involved.  When we were planning our first trip to Disney, we chatted about Mickey for a week beforehand.  We did the same with Santa, the Easter Bunny and moving to Canada.  The more we discussed things, the more they got excited.  And the more they remembered. 

These few moments have become a treasured part of our day, and a way for me to find out things they wouldn’t otherwise tell me.  It’s especially helpful with Jack, now that he’s in school all day and not very forthcoming with details when he gets home in the afternoon.

So every night, I ask the question.  They tell me their favourite things of the day, we talk for a bit, and I kiss them goodnight.  Lennon usually tells me about whatever playground his daddy took him to after they dropped Jack off at school.  I think he likes the closeness more than the question, since his answer is almost verbatim night after night.

Jack likes to tell me what particular food in his lunch or snack he enjoyed that day. Occasionally, if we’ve done something different, he’ll talk about that, but it’s always something about himself or something he’s done.

Last night, he surprised me.

“What did you like today, Jack?”  I asked as usual.

“Lennon read that whole book to me today.  He knew all of the words.  You’re really proud of him.”

I smiled and asked if there was anything else he liked about his day.  There wasn’t. He was happy just being proud of his brother. The empathy, the pride, the joy in his brother’s accomplishment… these are all concepts I might never have expected from Jack.  

There are any number of material goods I would enjoy having.  If I had been in Oprah’s audience yesterday I would have been screaming and fainting in the aisles with all the other crazy people receiving gifts they never dreamed of “needing.”  But in all honesty, I wouldn’t trade a single coveted Favourite Thing for the one treasured thing I already have:  a life of wonderful, glorious unpredictability.

*We did not.

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The Evolution of Halloween

Posted by on Nov 5, 2010 | 0 comments

The Evolution of Halloween

Through the years October has become our favorite month.  We celebrate all month long, rolling Jack’s birthday into Halloween – a 31-day festival of family fun.  We decorate cookies, decorate and carve pumpkins, pick out costumes, hit every pumpkin patch within driving distance, and culminate with some trick-or-treating.  We’ve taken small steps through the years, working our way up from simple observance to full-on celebration.

Jack’s first Halloween was a pretty low-key affair; we had just brought him back to Los Angeles, a teensy tiny thing.  He was only two weeks old, so while his Daddy worked, the two of us just hung out and bonded, him in his (way too big) Halloween onesie.

Jack’s first Halloween.

We didn’t do much for his second Halloween.  Jack was still an only child (although Lennon was on his way), and he had just turned one.  We took a stroll around the neighborhood but there wasn’t much to see.  The area where we lived in Los Angeles was full of singles, and they were more interested in heading out to the festival in West Hollywood than staying home and passing out candy.

For Jack’s third Halloween, we finally got our act together.  He and Lennon donned costumes and we all headed over to The Grove outdoor mall in Hollywood for late afternoon toddler trick-or-treating.  Neither boy had any idea what we were doing or why, and were honestly more excited about the trip to the Farmer’s Market afterward for dinner.

 This is Jack as Harry Potter.  The costume is still too big for him, 3 years later.  Back then he looked more like a ridiculously adorable Son of Death than a boy wizard.

Jack’s fourth Halloween was a little more productive.  Both boys went as Thomas trains (Jack as Thomas, Lennon as James), and at least Jack understood there was candy at stake.  Once again we went to The Grove, and, alas, once again the post-trick-or-treating trip to the Farmer’s Market was the highlight of their evening.

 We like costumes with some room to grow.

For Jack’s fifth Halloween, our last in Los Angeles, we pulled out all the stops.  We celebrated on the 30th, because our new neighborhood in Hollywood was no better for trick-or-treating than the last.  Since we weren’t going door-to-door, our little ones wouldn’t know the difference anyway.  The day started at Jack’s preschool, where they had a costume parade and trick-or-treating.

Jack in his preschool costume parade.  My boys decided to mix things up and swap costumes – Jack was James and Lennon was Thomas.  They were happy and I saved money.  Winners all around.

After a break to regroup, we took the party to Disney’s California Adventure for Mickey’s Halloween Treat.  Every year they transform the park into a Halloween wonderland and have trick-or-treating in the evenings the whole month of October.  It was a lot of fun, but kind of overwhelming for the kids, since they were sleepy and had already had a big day.

The boys stayed in the stroller the whole time, but Disney was ready for them.  All of the trick-or-treat stops were stroller-friendly, and the candy was flowing (even for Mom, Dad and baby).  We took home a serious haul, and could have easily doubled or tripled our loot if we’d stayed longer.  (Another plug for Mickey’s Halloween Treat – almost every treat stop offered a kid-friendly alternative of carrot sticks, fruit or crackers.  Disney always thinks of everything, and we’d be going back every year if we still lived in Southern California.)

A long, hard day of collecting candy, but somebody had to do it.

This year was different for a lot of reasons.  Mainly, we now have three Halloween-aware children.  As oblivious as Jack was at 20 months, Kieran is tuned in to all things Halloween.  He’s obsessed with pumpkins, adores dressing up in costumes and attaches the descriptor “Halloween” to everything he loves (ie: Halloween star, Halloween sticker, Halloween bicycle).

Furthermore, we live in a new place.  I don’t just mean a new country, I mean a new neighborhood and community chock full of young children and holiday-loving people.  Jack and Lennon spent the month of October watching our neighbors decorating their homes with increasing fervor, dubbing each new effort a “Halloween house.”  Our neighborhood rivaled Disney for decorations, and that’s no joke.  These particular Canadians take their spooking seriously.

When the hallowed day arrived after a month-long buildup of trips to the pumpkin patches (real ones, not just gourds in a converted parking lot), decorating cookies and pumpkins and watching every Halloween special broadcast, the boys were ready.  As with every Halloween, though, there is the bad that comes with the very, very good.  That, of course, is the long wait from breakfast to go time..

It’s hard enough explaining to a toddler and a young child that no, we can not go hit up the neighbors for candy at 10am.  Little people are not known for their patience.  Enter autism, and the day gets hours and hours longer.  We told Jack that trick-or-treating happens after dinner.  We probably should have clarified  “when it gets dark.”   He wanted dinner at noon.

Once we cleared up that misconception, we had to fill the day.  We put on our “daytime” costumes and went out for a drive, the Halloween equivalent of the Christmas Eve Christmas light tour so many of us take each year.

 Conductor Jack, ready to wait.

We drove around, looked at the glorious Halloween splendour of the neighborhood, and then headed to a playground to blow off some steam with the hopes that the boys would be tired enough for a much-needed nap.

Yeah, that didn’t work.

Dusk finally arrived, and when we would usually be finishing up dinner and starting the bedtime routine, we put on our costumes and headed out the door.  Under-slept and amped up, the boys were primed to hit the streets.

Thomas and Sheriff Woody.  Ready.

All three boys did a great job.  They went up to every door, said “trick or treat” and “thank you,” and required very little assistance from us (although much to Kieran’s chagrin we gave him a lift up and down all the stairs in the interest of expediency).   They collected a haul of treats to rival the booty we got last year at Disney, and are still excited to have their two or three daily allotted pieces from the family candy bowl.

At one point in the evening, standing in line with my big boys waiting to get to a particularly popular house, I took a moment to reflect on our Halloween journey.  There was once a time when I wasn’t sure Jack would ever play dress-up in an earnest fashion.  I couldn’t conceive of him “pretending” to be someone he’s not.  Not only did he become Woody this year (to the point of asking each of us, “what’s my name? Woody!”), he was a conductor at school the Friday before, and assumes any number of characters he’s created on a nightly basis while playing with his toys.

I used to doubt we’d be able to do traditional trick-or-treating.  Our trips to The Grove were quick and Jack collected his candy with much trepidation.  I wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle the stimulation of scores of other children in costume, an onslaught of decorations or talking to strangers house after house after house.  Not only did Jack handle every part of the trick-or-treating process, he did it with gusto.  He charged up to every doorstep and sang out “trick or treat” with glee.  He kept his costume on the entire time and outlasted both of his brothers in the candy collection.

I am fascinated by Jack’s evolution, by my family’s evolution.  I love looking back at where we were to see how far we’ve come, and I can only imagine where we’ll be in another two or three years.  Who knows, maybe next year Jack will actually want to carve a pumpkin himself instead of making me dig out all of the “guts” while he watches and offers helpful pointers.

As our night wore on, exhaustion claimed my children one by one.  First Kieran, then Lennon climbed into the stroller.  Jack was the last man standing, but eventually even he threw in the towel.  We were in the home stretch, just a few blocks from home.  As we walked up the path to a house, Jack stopped and looked at me.  He looked at the neighbor, sitting on her stoop with a bowl of candy.

“I’m tired.  I want to go home.”

“I understand that honey, we’re on our way home.  Let’s just do a few more houses on the way.”  I won’t lie, I was reliving my childhood here and walking past perfectly good chocolate is just not done.

“I have enough candy.”  Say what?  Is this my child?

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”  He looked at the woman with the bowl of candy.  “I have enough candy.”  She looked at him, and looked at me.  I shrugged.

“Jack, this nice lady would like to give you some candy.  Do you think you might want to say ‘trick-or-treat’ just one more time since we’re already here?”  He thought it over, grinned, and held out his bag.

“Sure! Trick or treat!!”

That’s my boy.

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That Would Be A Little Easier

Posted by on Sep 10, 2010 | 0 comments

Where last we left off, we had taken a break in the potty training battle.  Life in limbo was unstable enough without throwing something completely new into the mix.

Just when we thought it would never happen, about a month ago we finally moved into our own home.  At that point, both big boys had already decided that going in the potty was an alright thing to do.  Downright cool, actually.  Except for nighttime and naps, that part was a done deal.

Of course, we still had the daunting Number Two to tackle.  Lennon caught a stomach flu which had him going several times a day, so we started just throwing him on the potty instead.  It actually worked.  By the time his flu had passed, he was at least telling us when he had to go.

When we moved into our new place, we bribed him with a lusted-after toy (a “Mac” semi from “Cars”) if he could go in the potty five days in a row.  Halfway through Lennon’s chart, Jack took notice.

He asked what the chart was for, and where his was.  We made one for him, too, and discussed the terms of the deal.  Five days in a row, in the potty.  Five days and you win (surprise, surprise, Jack wanted a “Mac,” too).

Jack thought on it for a few seconds.  Then he looked at me with that “let’s make a deal” twinkle in his eye.

“I want one without going poopie, mama.  That would be a little easier.”

Ahem.  Yes, yes it would.  I persisted.  We had already rewarded him for merely trying, and I was convinced he just didn’t feel like it.

Miracle of miracles, he did it.  Not only did he complete his five days, he goes by himself now.  In fact, both of my big boys have been diaper-free for several weeks now.  And while Lennon usually has a nighttime accident, Jack hasn’t had any.  Not one.

Stubborn kid.  I’m pretty sure he was just waiting for the right bribe.

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