Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bed Time in a Big Bed

Okay ... so the big boy bed we bought for James this past summer?

Is now in his room and he is sleeping in it!!!! Yes!! Victory over procrastination!

Putting it together:

A bed!!! What shall we do with it? PLAY!!!


Arrr, Mateys!

Happy Guy:

Bedtime stories by big sister:

(now the real test is next morning; I hope he doesn't realize he can get out of that bed and his room by himself!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

CATS: The EoS Party

Yesterday we attended the End of Semester party for Sonoma State University's CATS program. The students who had been working with us and other families pulled together wonderful food and personalized gift baskets and put on a fabulous shindig that left me rather misty-eyed and truly thankful for all efforts of these dedicated folk.

The room was decorated within an inch of its life with holiday ornamentation and poster presentations from the class. The students filled two long tables to the breaking point with savory potluck dinners and sugary treats. Many of the dishes were wheat and gluten-free. Everything I tried was marvelous.

We got a chance to talk with James' student and the kids got over being shy and played some of the games and activities around the room. The parents got to socialize. It made me think of something I read somewhere "being friends means not having to explain why we smell & taste the Play-Doh." I was crazy, fun, relaxing, and heart warming.

Even my daughter came away happy. She won a raffle prize:

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Favourite Tune

I just met this song yesterday. And already it is embedded in my brain x 150 (which is how many times it's been played "by request")

It's all about Rockin' & Talkin' this week! Anyone else been listening to the Kids' Express Train a lot?

Don't get me wrong ... it may be an ear worm, but I am thrilled James is singing and being excited about vocalizing more.

I wonder if I should introduce him to The Bobs or They Might Be Giants? Hmmmmmmm!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Waiting for Now

I remember all the waiting when I was a kid. How endless the day seemed as I hung around, waiting for things to happen. I remembered it all well watching James wait for his SHAPE assistant this afternoon. As the wait for Christmas heats up. And the wait for nap time to be over. And the big birthday Numero Four-o ...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Decking Those Halls

We are starting to swing big time into the winter holidays. This year is so much fun because James is present and full of fun and wonder. It hasn't been like this before.

Last year he was just starting to make developmental and speech progress. He loved to toss wrapping paper and tissue up in the air and *laugh*! The year before ... well, I cried. It was like James was on Mars and the holidays did not exist.

This year we went to partake in holiday mayhem at our gym. Two floors devoted to ornament making, handmade signs & reindeer goggles. The rock climbing wall was in full swing. The kids were jumping in the games and exercise rooms. James' favourite thing? Making spinning art. Some genius had taken an old record turntable and poked paper plates on it. The plates would spin around and felt tip markers could be placed on the plate and make spinning art. Very cool for James, lover of all things Spin!

Bonus, Santa came to visit!!! The kids were good waiting in line, munching on popcorn and downing apple juice outside, then running the length of the room (and checking themselves out in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall) once inside the room to meet Santa.

Amazingly, the kids were not shy or weepy when it came their turn to meet the Big Guy. In fact, we gave him a good laugh:

I like to think trying to talk to James about Santa in a social story format helped him prep for their meeting. Social Stories are on my brain right now. I attended an awesome presentation on them just yesterday.

James did not seem too phased by all the noise and confusion. He enjoyed his special peppermint stick from Santa. Several of the employees knew him well from childcare and called out "Hey, James! Good to see you!" What a nice start to the holidays!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

See Spot. Sit, Spot!

James is a bit afraid of dogs. First, they can be big, loud, unpredictable, and bumpy. Second, his grandparents had an Airedale puppy, whose antics put him further on alert. His sister, meanwhile, adores dogs and puppies.

His teacher has a companion dog, who is helping James become more confident around dogs. This is great because he used to scream and panic whenever he saw a dog. Now he is unhappy but tries "SIT, doggie!!! No touch!" before panicking and then screeching. The great thing is, the words work a lot!

Recently, we've found something else that can help. Our local library has a new (this Fall) "Read to a Dog" program. His sister is just about its biggest fan and recenly I started bringing James along.

I finally brought my camera this week and here's what we did: We had two new dogs to read to yesterday! A Pomeranian/chihuahua mix and a chihuahua. My daughter was in heaven. She was so good with the dogs, who adored her.

The library program is such a neat idea. You follow the dog paw prints from the entry to a reading sofa:

And you read to the dogs. Alvin is on the left. Jalapena is on the right, and was sporting a Christmas holiday dress to help keep her warm. First we say hello:

Then we read (when it's our turn):

And what was James doing? Well, he found he computers with games loaded on them:

We love our library!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This week, James is our $6 Million Dollar Guy. He is stronger, faster, bigger! Than last week, that is.

Around Wednesday he was well enough to go back to school and start up SHAPE again. As we took our regular stroll around the block, I noticed that James looked seriously taller and that I hadn't had to roll up his pants. He ran most of the way. It was like he had springs in the bottom of his feet, and he ran with joy. This made me very happy!

He is full of preferences and tells me about them all the time: *red* po'sickles, *my* b'ankie, *more* (Curious) George, and chi'n ta-ta (not "sham'ich"). He wants "Maisy" as his goodnight book. Still not interested in potty training though. Ah well, there's always *next* week!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ABCs of ER on VaCay

So, we went on this vacation ... and all I remember clearly now are the two hours on the phone with bureaucrats/advice nurses, followed by five hours in the ER.

It started oh so well. So well. James was happy and excited to be someplace new with all of his family. He loves it when we all sleep in one room. The sun was shining and the weather warm. He ate muffins! He had lots of new words.

Then there was a cough. Just a little thing. Then he couldn't settle down for a nap. So I took him for a swim with his sister for about half an hour. It was over 80 degrees in the early afternoon. I whisked both kids out and scrubbed them dry as quickly as I could, then we all went down for a nap. James woke up sick. Fever, hoarse voice, weird cough. Then he tossed his cookies. He seemed to feel better & slept some more. He kept down some water throughout the night and his fever went down a bit.

But by next afternoon, 24 hours later, he was back to tossing cookies, fever, and that weird cough. And listless. Time to call. Here's where it gets tricky.

We have an HMO. With services divided into regions. Bet some of you are already knowing where this is going. Call home region to explain situation and get a new medical number & phone number for region where we currently are. Triage a bit over the phone. This all after 10 minutes of button-pushing, listening to taped messages that have nothing to do with my current situation, and patiently jumping through hoops with a call center agent to reach said advice nurse.

So fine and dandy. I got the new medical number in pretty good time. I always think that if the elevator music hasn't looped on me by the time I hang up. I call the number for the advice nurse in the region where we are now. Oops. Advice nurse gave me the wrong number. I don't even know what it was really to, because I did not want to pay $9.99 so my cell phone could find out.

Called again to our home region to get real number for our current region. Good-bye, another 15 minutes. Meanwhile. James is moaning and hacking on my lap. The bathroom floor hath lost its charm. Thank goodness the tub is *right here* because he's not giving me much warning before doing the old heave ho.

Call the number and pick my way through the new phone tree/taped (irrelevant for me) messages/canned music/bureaucratic phone center agents. Reach new advice nurse. He listens and then tells me he can't treat my son over the phone (my eyes are rolling up and getting a fine view of bathroom ceiling at this point). He then tells me to call 911 for an ambulance.

Wait. What did you just say?

All I wanted was an urgent care appointment (if available) or a recommendation for where to take him. So, there are no urgent care appointments. Okay, So that means the ER. Which med center is closest to us? Please bear in mind that wildfires have been springing up and raging out of control all day here. The air quality sucks and besides the fact that my son's breathing is not normal, going into a fire zone is just plain stupid, not to mention really dangerous. He says if I am not going to call 911 that I should go to the nearest med center. Okay, brainiac, I am not from around here. Where would that be? He gives me a location. I say thanks and hang up. I plug in the address of our hotel and the med center in Yahoo Maps. Goddess, how I love the internet in times like this. Daughter is awake and whining.

Yahoo tells me that the med center is right in the fire zone. Oh, and the two freeways I need to take to get there are completely shut down. Thank you, TV and voices on the phone. So I phone back, madder than spit. I am told by a different advice nurse to call 911. I explain this will freak out my son and make him even sicker. The first med center is in a fire zone. Where is the next closest med center? The nurse explains I need to take my son to the nearest medical center's ER. Yes, which one??? Daughter whining. James throwing up. Me gritting teeth. The nearest med center. He needs immediate care. STAT.

Why the freak didn't AN#1 (in this region) just *say* so? And AN#2: Can you tell me where that would be? This is starting to feel like a sick version of The Dating Game.

No. (That would be telling, #6)

Surprise. Not.

However, AN#2 really was trying to be helpful. She reminded me my hotel had concierge service and could help me. Which they did, bless their hearts. Christine, I will remember you with gratitude forever.

And I have to be honest, UC Irvine was probably the best place to take James. Not only were we completely triaged within 10 minutes of walking in the door (which has never happened with me before), James received excellent care during his entire 5-hour stay.

Final findings: dehydration (over 600 units saline solution via IV drip), croup (my first experience with it can you tell?), and pneumonia (for the bonus points). He had steroids, a 1-hour cool mist treatment, anti-nausea meds, and the first dose of antibiotics. My poor buddy. Thank goodness I brought his blankie and enough brain power to recite his favourite bedtime stories. By the time the monkeys were doing their stuff in "Caps for Sale," James was alert enough to thump his feet along with the story. I was never so happy to see a foot thump.

James is fine now and this is his second day back in school. Wish I could say the same!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Oh Lucky Little Man

James celebrated the end of Daylight Savings Time the way he has the past three years -- he got up 2 1/2 hours earlier than usual. I was up at 4:45AM. That kid is lucky he is cute! He inhaled a lot of food for breakfast too. He is over 40" now, and I guess we are in for another growth spurt. Yikes!

His new favourite thing is watching the Disney Sing-Along video shot at Disneyland. I like this so much better than Caillou! We watched it 3 times today. I also took him out in the back yard once the sun rose. He explored a lot and had lots to offer talking-wise: "leaf!" "Oooh! Whassat?" "kee-tee" and "I want DADDY!!!" That brought a smile to someone's face!

He loves playing with Play Dough. He and his sister shared a big activity barrel of it for almost 45 minutes this afternoon. He rolled out the dough, asking first for the roller ("Roh-er?" Pease?") and then cutting out as many purple stars as possible, before mushing it all together and starting again. Both kids also spent some time playing with their musical toys with their dad. James flipped through many books. He loves one from Switzerland, from some reason. Bern is his muse, I guess? And it has been pouring cats and dogs outside, so we love the fact that he still uses his trampoline. Go get out that energy, James! And please, have pity on your poor mother and sleep until at least 6:30 tomorrow morning!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

This is our first year that both kids really got excited bout and participated in Halloween -- yay!! James was a puppy (gotta love costumes that last for 2 or more years!) and his sister was a fairy queen.

James hung in there with us for about 20 houses. He loved walking around at night and being out with Big Sister. He said "Trick-a-Tee" at quite a few houses and was very good about saying thank you. The only tough times were at the homes with dogs. Especially the one with a friendly collie. "I want UP!!" Yessir! Irony, how I love you so.

Anything with flashing lights were instant fascination for him. I thought we'd never get him away from our neighbour with a strobe light on his front porch. We did get a splashing of rain after a bit, and headed home. James looked very pleased with himself. I am very pleased -- I know there is no way he's going to eat more than 5 of those candy pieces in his treat bag. Score!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More in SHAPE

James has started working with his new SHAPE person! So now he also gets some special one-on-one time Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, instead of just Mondays and Thursdays.

I stayed out of James' line of sight in the next room, reading a book. Just to check in that they didn't need me. They certainly didn't. So after about 20 minutes I moved down the hall to my office. It's dusty! Kidding! Kind of!

James' speech is getting much clearer and he is now saying 3-syllable words that others can easily recognize. Um, I think 3 weeks ago he could not do this. He is working on letter recognition and has a pretty good grip on the alphabet. Listening in today made me smile. There is so much more give & take in the verbal process now in his SHAPE sessions. It used to be almost a monologue for his first SHAPE assistant. He has better focus and can stay with a task much longer than before.

Except if he is cranky. Cranky=all bets off. Cranky prompted throwing of puzzle pieces into the sink (nice arc on your throws, James, BTW) when alone with Mommy and got him another Time Out. Cranky wipes out speech and brings on the screeches and screams. The tears. Cries of "A-Daddy! A-Nana!" And many many tears. James gets tropical storms of emotional outbursts -- fierce, loud, wet, and mercifully brief.

James likes to work with his word cards and can actually talk about what he sees on them. Not a lot, but he's talking!

Sometimes lately, I catch him sizing me up thoughtfully while I am busy at something. His sister does this all the time. I am seeing him do it more and more. It reminds me that I need to watch out for bad habits -- like swearing. A few weeks ago, he repeated a word I'd really rather he forget I said. Yikes! How about a popsickle, James? A red one? Yes, talk about *that* all you like!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin Express

I got to come along for the 4-class bus trip to Grandma's Pumpkin Patch last week for James' first field trip! He liked the bus ride, the mini corn maze, and playing on the old tractors. When it came to choosing a pumpkin, he was uninterested, but maybe his focus on chips and apple juice from another classroom's snack time had something to do with that.

It was a picture-perfect day, with a cloudless deep blue sky and the sun making things warm, edging on hot. All the moms I talked with agreed that we appreciated the fact that the lot was securely fenced. My guy and several others kept checking the perimeter, just in case ...

Many of the kids fell asleep on the ride home. Not my guy. He wanted to drive!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I See You

Sometimes, this is how I feel, with the real James peeking out through a window from behind a wall of autism/sensory integration issues/language delays. It makes me desperate to see more of him.

I want to get him out of there.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Au Revoir, Ennui

Saw this on the blog these are the days. It looks like fun. Here goes!

Two 'Fer(remember, only two):

1. Name two things you did yesterday/last night.
2. What are two of your current favorite foods
3. List two things you are looking forward to
4. Name two things you fear
5. What are your weekend plans

1. I took both kids to the pre-Halloween Trick & treat event at the North Bay Regional Center. It was fabulous! Then I took both kids to a birthday party at Funky Monkey. It was good crazy fun.
2. Just ate them: bacon and scallops (I love Trader Joe's)
3. Our upcoming trip to Disneyland! Having both kids going out trick-or-treating for Halloween this year.
4. The economy. My dad's health.
5. Supporting our PTA fund-raising school carnival (mission accomplished) and RESTING. I wish we could have gone to the rally in Oakland to push for getting therapies for autistic children covered by health care insurance. More on that soon, because my master plan is to NOT GET SICK AGAIN!

Your turn!

Mission Improbable: Potty Training

Warning: Potty talk ahead.

Good news: James has met all but one of his IEP goals and his next meeting for next year's goals has been moved up 6 weeks!

Not so good news: That elusive goal is Potty Training. James is happily ambivalent when it comes to Potty Training. Other people on the potty are fascinating. But sitting on that seat? No way! He literally digs in his heels and locks his knees, yelling "NO!"

It's small comfort to me that the school has been encouraging James to use the potty since he began preschool last This January. I have been shirking my duty. I have encouraged interest in going potty and check in with him verbally if he's gone pee-pee or poo-poo. He became rather good at telling me as the events occurred and I praised this. But trying to take him to the bathroom produced distinctly lackluster results.

So his teacher, SHAPE aid and I all agreed -- potty training starts NOW. I set up his potty seat in the bathroom and have started dressing him in big boy underpants (hand-me-downs from his cousin) and a diaper cover under his pants. We periodically take him to the bathroom, even though James prefers to continue bodily functions under cover, as it were. My stealth guy!

Soon he stopped talking with me about pee-pee & poo-poo, parrying all queries with a "NO!" He stopped having bowel movements until he was in his night-time diapers. Sigh. So then we'd do diaper change #2 for the night and make a kind of burial-at-sea ritual out of tumbling the diaper contents into the toilet, and saying "bye-bye" as they were flushed away.

However, on Thursday, his teacher reported in his handy dandy school notebook that he told her that day as soon as he'd gone pee-pee in his underpants. Progress? I'll take it!

I am also writing a letter of support for his teacher's request to move their classroom to a location that has a bathroom attached. I cannot believe I haven't done this before. I would have gone raving bonkers trying to get a small group of kids potty trained across a school campus and down a corridor from where I was also trying to teach said class. Gah! and Duh! (Two words that I will, of course, not use in my letter).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

That Sinking Nap-Time Feeling

James is having an exciting and challenging school year. He is also starting to give up naps. I am so not ready for that. All those in favour of mandatory nap time until the age of, oh say 21, raise your hand *both hands raised*

Okay, that said, James is starting to initiate speech by coming up with the names of things he sees and wants. Sometimes its a word I didn't know he really knew, such as "rabbit" (I usually say "bunny" anyway).He still needs to be pushed to say "I ... want ... ____", unless he is being ignored; then we get the whole thing, LOUD AND CLEAR!

James is starting to get playing with and alongside other kids. His teacher said that on the way back out to the bus one day James asked, "Where is Jason?" Jason was his bus-buddy last year and has been one of his most consistent classmates. Jason was absent that day. Way to go, James!

He knows and can sort and say his colours, basic shapes, numbers up to 13 (especially the number 2), and is starting to fixate on letters. We are working on cutting skills, sitting in his chair, and drawing circles, and H & V lines. Also, we are working to get him to ride a trike.

James will now swing in the classroom swing and asked to swing on our swingset outside with his sister. And then did it for about ten minute!!! This is huge!

Favourite things right now: Popsickles. Especially rrrrrrrred popsi'lles. Think of Tony saying "Redrum" and you'll know how James pronounces "rrrrrrrred." Kinda cool, in a spooky Halloween way. Also, Cars, WALL*E, Thomas, and long-sleeved shirts striped in red, white, & blue. Playing Mine Sweeper on his Daddy's Sidekick. His teaching assistant. His big sister. Swimming. Playing in water. Looking at animals. reading books, like "Caps for Sale," Baby Einsteins, and "Maisy Goes to Bed." Curious George. Cars. Shaking his blinds. Saying "GOOD BYE!!!!" to people he likes. You can almost always cheer him up with watermelon, especially if it's cold. James still adores music, specially if its live.

Does NOT like: Nap time. Potty training. Potties in general, unless I am using it. Then it is fascinating.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fall Patterns

We are settling into a routine! We all get up, have breakfast, & go to school. First big sister to Kindergarten, then James to his school. I am still driving him. The buses are better at being on time, but still feel better taking him.

James has SHAPE Mondays and Thursdays. He is staying up until about 3:30, when he then crashes for his nap. We are working on getting him to pedal his bike a bit longer each time. He is so good at saying and matching colours and shapes! He counts and is starting to say random letters.

His teacher is getting him to swing each day at school. This is huge because just the idea of sitting in a swing used to send James into a panic, with yelling, crying, and frantic attempts to escape. Each week, his teacher is bringing the swing up a bit. Right now, his toes touch the ground, and he uses this to push himself into some mild swinging. The ultimate goal is to not have his feet touch at all and enjoy some swinging.

We have started the CATs program and I feel very fortunate to have our student partner, who is very motivated, bright, and focused. We attended the monthly parenting class offered by James' preschool and the student had a great time observing James with his SHAPE and teaching assistants. The group was very welcoming of having a student observer and I feel how lucky we are to have such a great support team for James all over again!

We are going through growth spurts again. Before school, James was under 40" -- now he is over 40" and he's up another half shoe size. He is ticklish lately, and very playful and cuddly. I think part of that is because he is growing so quickly he's unsure of where his body is in space. But I am loving the way he puckers up, goes "mmmmm" and kisses me on the lips. So. Sweet!

Monday, September 22, 2008


James has a mind of his own. Many times, he's an easy-going guy. But occasionally he wants a certain thing. A very certain thing and not what Mommy/Daddy wants. Look out! We are loving it, too.

Sometimes, James will go to his closet and point to a shirt and say "Dis one." Sometimes, Mommy gives him choices. If we have lots of time, choices of 3 for shirt, pants, and shoes (well, only 2 kinds of shoes, but still, I offer him a choice). If time is scarce, a choice of two on shirts and shoes. It's a great way for him to work on his colours and appreciate the power of spoken words.

Also? He has a much better dress sense at this age than his sister did. She goes for bizzarro. James has his favourites: orange shirt, orange striped shirt, and the green gecko short-sleeved shirts. He prefers the red, white, & blue striped long-sleeved shirts. He adores his striped blue polo shirt, but it's so nice I hesitate to send him to school in it -- they do a lot of finger paints - Yiiii!

His favourite things to watch are also clearly stated (hooray!!!): "I. want. George/Red/Bear/Green/'Side-down." Translation: Curious George, Shapes: Talking with Dog (in a red library VHS case), Baby Einstein: Baby Mozart (Bear on case cover), Baby Einstein: Baby Shakespeare (Green lizard on case cover), The Upside-down Show.

His favourite books: "I. want. din'saur/caps sayuh/shapes/fwog/li' kak/E'mo." Translation: Does a Donosaur Get Sick?, Caps for Sale, Book of Shapes, The Rainbow Frogs, Little Quack, Elmo's Book of Babies.

He is doing imaginative play with cars and airplanes right now. He still loves things that spin and spinning them. He is starting to ride a tricycle! He engages with us (and occasionally his schoolmates) for playing.

And his newest friend is WALL*E.

Go, James!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Dining Out Challenge

Oh for the days when James just sat in a chair in a restaurant (few though they were).

My kingdom for a phone!One hot & feisty weekend afternoon I decided I was not going to cook dinner. So we brought my daughter's Summer Reading pizza coupon to the local Round Table and I packed a PB&J for James, who has decided he does not like pizza anymore.

My daughter had a ball eating her pizza prize. I am a big pizza fan. We could have spent a good 2 hours there, nibbling crunchy, cheesy goodness, enjoying the a/c, a different room, and our cold drinks. Oh, and making up silly songs. It's a family thang.

James went through his "sanwish" and was *done* with sitting on the seat. In desperation, I gave him my cell phone. He figured out how to set up speed dial (which I have yet to do) and added a new contact to my phone: @.-.!

Their phone number is 1-555-124-1155-555522####6*85##*#327#

When he started downloading ringtones, I had to wrassle him to get the phone back.

How do others cope with restless child syndrome? And sorry, mom & dad. I can guess now what my brother and I put you through l those many years ago!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

School, and a Rant

Wow, it didn't seem like there'd be a lot to do for school with James this year, but there was! Back to School

First day back was August 18th. Yikes!

Same school, room, and teacher. The new assistant for his classroom was his favourite SHAPE assistant from last year. Yay!!!

James is excited and engaged. Talking in phrases and sentences. Looking at peple and trying to talk with them. Doing some imaginative play and using the tricycle. Actually using the classroom swing for the First Time Ever. Starting on patty training Big Time. Awesome!

The school bus system, however is new. The school district brought that inhouse, to save costs. I know that there are going to be bugs in a new system, but the first day was so bad that I don't ever want to do it again.

First, the bus never showed up in the morning. At 9:00, I just threw in the figurative towel and drove him to school. I found out later that the bus had broken down and the bus arrived 2 HOURS late. Note that I found this out from James' teacher; the school's transportation people never bothered to call and tell me this, let alone apologise for the delay. Oh, and school is 3 hours long. Way to go.

Going home, the bus was a good 10 minutes late getting to the school. I know because I called his teacher at 12:25 to find out where he was. School lets out at noon, and we live *maybe* 10 minutes from the school. Last year the bus was never later than 12:15. I knew there were only 2 other local kids on that bus, and one of them lives down the street from us.

So I tried calling the bus coordinator. No answer. Left message to please call me because I want to know where my son is. I repeated this at least twice more. I guess they were out to lunch. In more ways than one. At 1:05 someone finally picked up the phone. She asked me to repeat myself ... someone was talking to her in the background and evidently it was more interesting than me. Then I was told no one knew where the bus was, and put on hold so she could call the driver. At 1:10 the bus pulls up *next door.* I am still on hold, so I hang up.

The bus driver could only shrug and tell me they were driving around all over. The wrong addresses were given and my son should have been first off the bus, not last. I said "Really, so you have been driving for an hour all over town?" (which, BTW, is small). He thinks for a minute and laughs and says "Yeah."

Un-friggin' believable.

So I canceled the bus service. I had to do it over via message machine because ... no one was answering the phone at this point. MUCH later in the afternoon, I got a call back saying they got my message. Would I want to try again next week? Not bloody likely. Oh.

Are these people for real? A busload of Special Needs kids, 2 of 3 who have trouble talking, goes missing for an hour and oh-that-shouldn't-have-happened-but-it's-the-first-week-you-know is the best they can do? I will never know what happened to my son on that bus. I am hoping that it was nothing except a lot of driving. But I will never know.

Oh, and if they know it's a new system and things happen in the first week, why did they just walk away during the homeward route and leave the transportation line unmanned? Especially considering their less than stellar performance that morning? If their lunch break is more important to them than getting my son home safely then I will never use their system again.

Has anyone else gone through something like this? I am not a panicky mom (worried and stressed, you bet, but call-the-cops-my-kid-is-missing, no) and I was on Red Alert.

Oh, and I am staying tuned on what SHAPE will look like for him this year. He only has 2 of 5 days a week covered. And he keeps wanting to take naps because that person can only come later in the afternoon. Then there is the CATS program to consider. Hopefully I should hear in a few weeks what that will look like.

I think I will schedule him for a class that I can take him to on either Friday mornings or a weekday afternoon. Sitting and waiting is not my forte.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I am listening right now to crickets. It's been a peaceful evening. James' older sister is sleeping over at Nana & Apu's. James got lots of extra attention from daddy & mommy, and he ate it up more than his dinner.

James eating watermelon
He played the harmonica & encouraged us to sing the A-B-C song in between harmonica choruses. He wrassled with his daddy. He got bath time and extra loving from his mommy at bedtime. He is one happy camper. OMG, I remember the first two years with my daughter, when night times were still peaceful because there was only one child to put to bed. It makes a nice change of pace from the normal zoo-like bedtime routine.

James likes to read The Rainbow Frogs; Caps for Sale; Little Quack; and The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear at bedtime.

After reading to him, I turn out the lights and pick him up so I can hug and sing to him. He *loves* this. I start with Springtime in the Rockies and Come My Love, Come ... and usually finish with Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Tonight he also got sings like I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles and I've Been Floating Down That Old Green River. (When he is not feeling well, I sit with him in the rocker and sing the theme song to The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- it's worked like a charm with him since he was three months old.)

I love the way he snuggles up to me, sighs, and puts his head sideways on my shoulder when I start to sing. He is getting so big now it's a tight fit. But we'll keep it up as long as we can!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Five Cents for Life

This morning I was reading Mindy on The Mommy Blog and her push to help prevent mother and infant deaths from tetanus by making donations online. Five cents is all it takes to help get a mother or her child vaccinated. Here is her first-hand account of meeting with the people who created this program. Please consider donating and/or spreading the word. I am donating my budgeted coffee, etc. money for this week. It's not much, but what a way to use it. I will also try and get the widget in the sidebar here.


What does this have to do with James? I sat in a room full of people just last week who were committed to helping their children with special needs as much as they could. I see parents and their children every day. I love my children so much. I see their eyes light up when they see me.

Pass it on.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Word Wealth

James has been talking to/with the Baby Einstein videos this morning. He's been shouting out the colours, shapes, and animals that he sees on the TV. I think he also finds the music, rather than spoken words, soothing.

So now the TV is off, and he's doing his best to charm me into putting in more. Nice try, buddy! We're going out to DO things today!


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Word Beads

James is starting to talk in sentences!

True, his most commonly used one is currently: "I ... wan' ... boo ... pease!" = "I want blue, please!" Blue= the Baby Einstein videos ... whose tape guard flaps are blue. But this is a big breakthrough -- hooray!!!

He is sleeping more again and having vivid dreams. I think he is growing again too. A few nights ago he curled up on the sofa and conked out as I was making dinner.

growing is hard work!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Special Exposure Wednesday

And yes, it's still Wednesday.

Here is a picture of James from last Wednesday. He got bored & quietly opened some kitchen cabinets. The cotton balls in the egg carton that bored him to tears in May is a hit in July!
For James: Special Exposure Wednesday

Oh, I am so proud of how far he's come in the past year! When I see him like this, enjoying life and quietly pursuing more, I just want to hug him and give him what I can for his shot at a happy life.

For more about Special Edition Wednesday, check out their page.

5 Minutes for Special Needs

Welcome to CATS

And it's not the musical.

James and our family have been accepted into the Collaborative Autism Training & Support (CATS) program at Sonoma State University. I and the kids attended the orientation meeting today. I loved seeing the campus. There is something joyous for me about being on a university campus -- especially if there are lots of trees. I can smell the possibilities in the air.

The program's mission statement:
To enrich the loves of families of children with autistic spectrum disorders by:
* Training service providers to implement effective interventions
* Providing free respite and family support
* Raising local and broader awareness of autism

Right now I have a binder full of information to sort through. It looks as though we will have a full schedule again for James this Fall.

Despite James being a bit disruptive by wandering around a room and vocalizing very long sessions of "Eeeeeeeee, eeeheeeeee!", I found the meeting to be informative. I was also happy to meet with and listen to other parents. Other parents like us, who love their kids, and want to fight for the best lives for them. How little we know and how much we want to learn!

Here is a link to an article that describes the program, and also features the program's director.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Our day at the Fair

My mom came and picked up I & the kids after 10 this morning and we parked early and got in the gates for the Sonoma County Fair before any lines formed. The exhibit halls were not yet open so we went and checked out the animals. We saw cows, goats, and horses. We stopped at the wildlife rescue tables (birds and animals) and checked out the poultry & rabbit cages. They even had a few guinea pigs on display too.

By this time, James wanted to run around, and the llama arena was ideal for that. They had a covered coral/pen area with a little grand stand area (also covered) set up in front of it. So James went around the stands in a circle for about half an hour while my mom & his sister made friends with Lakota, a sweetie of a llama who also sported a nifty hat w/ cutouts for his ears.

We learned lots of things about llamas, like they have no lanolin so their wool is not greasy. Their hairs are hollow on the inside, so even though they have a ton of it, the weight doesn't crush down. People who are allergic to sheep wool are not allergic to llama wool. Llamas have two toes in front and behind that is like a dog's paw. There are many, many, many llamas named "Kuzco." They have to complete an obstacle course while competing at the Nationals; the hair on their backs and torsos are also often shaved for the Nationals, to better show their lines. Americans are breeding llamas to be taller. The National Championships this year will be held in Nebraska (known for it's llamas ... not). While all this knowledge was being absorbed, James inhaled a whole PB&J "samich" and polished off a bottle of water.

Off we went to see the Flower Hall. James had a great time making animal sounds as we went. The theme for this year's Hall of Flowers was a weird one: Red, White, and Blue/Fall in a New England Garden. Yeah .... right. Those two go together like .... never mind. But somehow, it worked, and I ended up liking this the most of the several years I can remember!

I took eeeexactly a gazillion pics and ran down my battery. Some groupings of flowers were amazing -- I could see the fireworks star-burst patterns in the plantings. Others paired rust orange, purple, & golden yellows with the red, white and blue theme. And it worked. I am still trying to understand that. Instead of building up the framework for all the garden displays (fake mountains, pagoda, and buildings everywhere), the feeling was light and airy in the hall, which contributed to a glowing effects all the flowers had (which I adore).

Most of the faux buildings were right up against the hall walls. The exception was a huge covered bridge that crossed over a large, man-made pond and a lighthouse (complete with cottage and garden) on the far end of the pond. I was charmed.

Some of the gardens looked like they could have been sets at Disneyland (high praise indeed) and one went totally bonzo with a winter wonderland (complete w/ Santa sleigh, penguins, snowman, and fake snow and sparkly ice all over).

If you're a SoCo local and haven't seen it, I'd recommend going. That alone was worth $7 for me and I think we were in there with the kids for over half an hour.

Then we got cotton candy for & a snow cone for the kids. My mom went to go check out the amazing kinetic sculpture of San Francisco while they munched. She was so impressed I had to take a look -- it was AWESOME! And the guy who made it was talking about how he did it, while rolling ping-pong balls through it. Check out this video. I love people who make things like this!

And man I was bummed I'd zapped my battery by this time because it was an awesome piece of art!

So then we left about 1pm, and all the lines had formed to get tickets and in the gates. Our parking lot was almost full. There was no traffic going home. OMG, the perfect outing. Now the kids are napping and I am out in the back with Meow (the backyard cat) and coffee (and you). My husband is happy because he had most of yesterday to relax and today to wrassle with the garage; he is napping too.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Road Trippin'

Yay, we got to take a few mini vacations! My husband is still saving up vacation days with his new job so we made weekend trips to Santa Cruz and Southern California. Both trips involved major time at the beach. Both kids loved it, and by the time of our last day at Newport Beach, James had started to bat away our hands so he could stand alone n the surf, and brace his legs against the waves.

He didn't mid getting sandy, but he remains a picky eater. After some frustrating tries to get more than milk inside of him during the Santa Cruz trip, I made PB&J sandwiches for James to take to SoCal. My husband rolled his eyes a bit, but I've seen the prices for PB&J on the menus -- $3-7, and there's no guarantee that James will like the (1) bread), (2)PB, or (3) jam/jelly.

They home-made "Shamiches"? So. Much. Easier! James gobbled them down. And thank goodness Trader Joe's sells watermelon precut, in a nicely sealed plastic bowl. Money well spent and it kept James happy, still, and hydrated at the beach.

What a nice change for both kids to jump, run, and yell as loudly and long as they liked! They are both really good travelers on long car trips, and it feels good to having something worth their while at journey's end. James kept up his words with "bird!", "wah-er!" (water), "Mennon!" (watermelon), "bwoo!" (blue) ... and "haycopper!" for when the helicopter buzzed us at the Newport shoreline. He also likes to count. He can get up to 14 and count back down from 5. He can sing the A-B-C song, but doesn't really know the letters.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is the Coast Clear?

Wow, one bug, four people, a month of recovery. Let's just say I hate the summer flu!

For a couple of weeks, we all took turns succumbing to The Scourge. Oh, it was fiendishly clever. First it was James, poor baby! He was over the worst of it by Day Three. Um, but on Days One & Two he couldn't even keep water down, so in we popped to the doctors' office; we had to give him 2 shots in his legs to quell the raging ear infection that was his bonus prize. After that got under control, things headed uphill pretty quickly. By Day 5, I was down with it, as well as the grandparents.

My husband and daughter lingered in Healthland through Day 10, then fell to their dooms. By then I was able to make it through bedtime without collapsing on the sofa every couple of hours.

Then, the catch-up. No, not the laundry -- that would have been Truly Hideous. The paperwork, the phone calls, the delayed follow-throughs. James was accepted into the CATS program at Sonoma State U. It sounds like an internship that could be quite interesting. His sister is starting Kindergarten next month and can I just vent here and now about my amazement that this humble grade level involves almost more preparation than I had to do to get into college? The paperwork, lines, appointments, more paperwork, reviews, interviews, assessments ... Holy Rainbow Cow!

Some big shining rays of light:
* James is talking more and more; especially since he started the preschool camp/classes offered through our local city parks & rec.
* James did very well in a mainstreamed environment. His teachers all loved him too and he liked them.
* James is digging swimming. He has gone from panicking and clutching at me to letting me put my hand on his tummy to boost/guide him and he uses his arms and legs to "swim" in proper form. He also likes to get out of the pool, count to three, and then launch himself off the edge to me. This is more than his older sister can do, and she has two additional years and actual swim lessons to her credit.
* James' speech & language therapist says that swimming is great for fostering speech and vestibular activities.
* James gives me real hugs and kisses now. He really misses me if I am out of the picture and shows it with words. For example, this morning I went out to feed the cat. His grandmother said he saw me out there and said "wanna go mommy" for "I want to go to mommy." After a year or more of playing second fiddle to apple bars, this is a great feeling for me!

Oh, and James has been growing. He is over 40" tall and just 3 1/2 years. His feet look Amazingly Sturdy. And we have 6-foot (and more) giants in both our families. He is is still our big sweetie, and we love him so!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

WALL*E Walking, a movie review

**warning, semi-spoilers ahead**

My husband and I took both our kids to the first matinee showing of WALL*E this morning. James did pretty well, considering our seats were waaaay up front and they'd cranked the sound (not that it was needed, the entire audience of all ages fixed rapt attention on the screen).

About 20 minutes in, James had reached his limits of maintaining through storms, explosions, and loud machinery, and we started a slow dance around the theatre. Up the stairs. Then down. On his tummy. Always checking to make sure mommy saw he'd oozed down another riser. Up to the front corner of the screen, getting ready to run and yell. Another 20 minutes, easy. So then we went walkies. I got a bathroom break and he got a noise break. We missed the big jail break scene, but what the hey.

James started showing wear and tear from hunger. He wasn't interested in his cereal snacks and had finished his water. His dad reports the last portion of the movie was spent in the lobby, screaming into the carpet, or superglued to the car video game.

So, hard to tell. Loud noises and explosions: bad. EVE is definitely scary for little ones at first -- WALL*E was really loney! If loud, roaring (or blasting) noises set your children off, avoid until you can control the sound!

Lack of food definitely had a negative impact.

But: James really liked the cockroach. And the singing & dancing. I think the machine noises (that were communication) intrigued him. The robots flying around inside the cruiser made him go "Woah!" in awe and respect.

My husband and I really liked the movie. The ending and end credits blew me away. We'll have to see it again sometime, to catch the parts we missed.

PS: James loved Presto, the animated short that came before the movie. Our daughter loved both films.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thank God I Had Cats

Cat ownership has somewhat prepared me for toddlers and preschoolers. Especially the "I know you really want me to do this so I won't/I'll do something completely different" training ... and all the times I had to wrap and pill sick cats.

Cats hate meds.

So do toddlers/preschoolers.

My daughter has learned to heed the "Are we doing this easy way or the hard way?" question.

James is learning.

He is rather good at letting the amoxicillin sit in his mouth a bit before just letting it dribble back out. His hand moves at warp speed unexpectedly to knock medication from my hands. If I try administering liquid meds with that weird pharmaceutical spoon, he blows and spits it all over before it gets inside of him. Yes, this is the same child who has not yet mastered blowing bubbles and still has trouble sometimes blowing a whistle.

He can also squirm and twist like an eel, showing considerable strength before going completely boneless and oozing out of most grips.

Thank goodness for all my training with wrapping, holding, and pilling cats. Especially the feral ones. Builds confidence. I get best results of we're both on the sofa or floor. I use my legs and upper arms to pin his thrashing appendages and get a hold on his head with my chin and shoulder.

It helps if I can administer the meds while his head is tilted slightly up. He will now usually let the meds sink in slowly through the side of his teeth. I give him plenty of time to absorb & swallow. In extreme situations, I get his mouth open and set the spoon/dropper on the back of his tongue and release. Hardly anything gets back out that way, but I think we both prefer the easier way.

James gets full points for vocalizing during the entire encounter, starting with "NO!" and trying his charm with "All done!" and "Tank you!" We are both happy when med time is truly All Done. Then he gets some milk or ice water. And a hug. And a kiss or ten.

Two days down and only five more to go. Wahoo!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Better! And Need to Know?

After three days of yamminess and really not feeling well, James is better!

He had his first day of preschool school and SHAPE this week. I am so happy to see him back to bouncy and sunny. It was a bit hard, trying to explain to the advice nurse and doctor why I couldn't ask James where it hurt. I never know what lights up in peoples' heads once I mention that he's on the autistic spectrum.

I had to ask the doctor to put his diagnosis in his medical records, as the advice nurse said it never showed up in what she had access to. That felt weird. I usually say that James has language delays and leave it at that. Is it really that necessary to have medical practitioners know that James is on the autistic spectrum? Has anyone else found it to actually be helpful?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bed Bug

Yammy kiddo. Nuff said.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Night Swimming

Not only do I like the song, I like to do it too. Which makes it a great posting title, but I digress ...

It's been unusually hot around here all week. Roast, roast, crisp, and schizzle! James does not do well in heat. He melts and gets cranky. The school buses and summer school do not have a/c. Thank goodness he's back home before 12:30pm!

So on Friday, I took he and his sister to the gym's pool after dinner, right about sundown. It was still like 90° and nice without the sun beating down on us. Big sister has been having swimming lessons, so she put on her inflatable ring/tube and hopped right in.

James was not so sure. He wanted his legs in the water and he wanted to keep his shirt on. After a bit, I coaxed him into going shirtless (this is tough for James). We went slowly down the steps, with James grabbing me as much as I was holding him. He got to watch the kids playing and his sister having fun. The gym is right by the airport, so he got to see a low-flying plane coming in for a landing -- he lit up as he waved to it and yelled "Hi, plane"

After a while, I started getting him a little more wet. James got nervous, and started to talk in babble-speak -- but he liked it too. Then I started singing and moving him. His sister's teacher from last year taught us to slowly tip them side to side, singing "Tick-tock, tick-tock, I'm a little cuckoo clock," so I did that too. He loved that. He even tried leaning over further to drink the water.

We went all around the pool. After about 45 minutes, I got James to float on his tummy, with me just holding him under his arms, and kick with his feet -- yay!!! He even let me float him on his back for a little bit. We all had to leave when they closed the pool.

We all really enjoyed doing this, especially at the end of a long, hot day! It was so hot getting back into the car (in the 80° range) that we stopped off for ice cream on the way home. We were going to get snow cones, but the gym's snack bar had closed.

I am so proud of how much more comfortable James is in the water. I never thought he'd let me float him and start kicking his legs on his own. This is partly because he's been uneasy even in the tub -- he has trouble balancing in the water and doesn't like it splashing on his face. The other part is that I know James has trouble "knowing" where his body is in space, and floating in water would seem to make that worse. Activities that involve the vestibular areas of his brain have been a real challenge for him.

I guess you can never underestimate the power of doing something for fun, and being surrounded by other kids doing the same thing and enjoying themselves.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Toys

What can perk up a hot, tired little boy after a night of "party of one" in his room and a hot morning at summer school?

A SHAPE assistant with new toys! Especially the foam football and Connect 4 checkers!

And now I am hoping for an afternoon nap.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Little Things & the Universe

We had a couple of days just full of little things -- my favourite! A sample platter:
  • James is responding well to prompts that get him to say phrases. Occasionally, he'll pop out with one on his own. Usually "Wanna 'atch Tho-mas" and "Issa ball!" He is digging Thomas the Tank engine (really the songs) and playing with practice golf balls (PGBs).

  • Playing in the sink! With salad tongs! And water! And many PGBs! And foam numbers! Literally: lather, rinse, repeat.

  • Working on scissor skills. I never knew how fascinating he'd find this -- thank you, thank you, SHAPE assistant!

  • Big thing: Oh, and we really might qualify for respite care and get some this summer? Where can I kiss your feet? Little thing that's really big: OMG, my husband and I can, like, go out and just look at each other and hear *nothing* -- yippee!

  • James picked out the green striped shirt, not the orange one. Not hesitation, no reconsideration.

  • Last, but not least: we hatched a tadpole into a frog and released him out back, under a full moon! Neil Armstrong would have liked this audience.

Biggest thing in my universe this morning: first time James said "Aihhhh yuv oo" to me when I went to get him up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Push It Real Good

We just got back from a fantastic trip to the speech & language therapist. First -- we got there ON TIME!!!! We met James' first case worker on the stairs. This is a wonderful woman who walked my husband and I through all our assessments and evaluations and signed us up, fast and furious, for all kinds of services to help our little guy. With a minimal of prompting, he said "Hi, Mary." She was so delighted! Last time she'd visited, he was just starting to say sounds and words. "Call me!" she said, as she dashed out the door to her next appt. and we marched upstairs to ours. The great thing is, she really means this.

I brought my daughter in to the therapist's office because we had to come up with a new appt. date & time. Summertime does that, I've noticed. James was talking so much more while he played, and handled the toys with confidence. After we'd hammered out a new interim schedule, the therapist helped me figure out how to get him to practice saying three- and four-word phrases. Talk about your heady mommy excitement! I remember crying this time last year, because at times I thought he would *never* talk!

It comes down to this: James needs to be pushed. Oh yeah, big guy! We will push it, real good! Meanwhile, I will treasure today -- the day you said "blue fish clock," "I want sucker, please," and "wha' is 'it?" Yay, James!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Adventure is Good for the Soul

I like being able to take our kids to different places, because our children are inquisitive and can enjoy simple things as well as a big show. This summer, we have lots of visits planned to family and friends. We've been to birthday parties, parks, the River, and the beach. Two weekends ago, we attended a big family event about two hours away.

James enjoyed it all: playing around, watching other kids, occasionally joining in a chase, and playing with light switches. But there is a picture that I really like of James right now:

To me it not only shows the person he's always been, but also the sweet, mischievous, fun-loving boy he is becoming more and more each day, as he figures out how to engage more with the world and use his new words.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Take Three

James is now starting to use three-word phrases!

He is also running around and saying "Oooh, pretty!" a lot. Like he did with "Ohhhh, man!"

Curious George is now his favourite thing.

Plus growling like a bear.

I have discovered that if I really want him to get up in the morning, all I have to do is tie his door open. It drives him nuts. I am an evil mommy!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More! Again!

James took it up a notch or two today. When I went in to get him up, he was reading a cloth book. He looked at me and said "book" and "bubble." Why this is big news: Usually he doesn't look at me when I come in, let alone talk to me about what he is doing. The book was turned to the page of a bubble bath. He and his sister took a bath last night, and he was very excited about that.

He started taking me by the hand or finger, talking to me to urge me somewhere and do something. He hasn't really done this before. Once was to change the TV channel, because he wanted Jack's Big Music Show. Once he grabbed my hand and said "up" and "poo-poo" because he wanted me to change his full diaper. He also wanted cookies from the pantry, but he hadn't eaten his dinner yet. He got a time out for throwing part of his dinner on the ground. Took two visits before he acknowledged the time out and said "okay" for agreeing to try again. We compromised -- he ate some alternative dinner and then he got some cookies.

I am thinking the temper storms are only beginning. He doesn't have a lot of ways to communicate. He will say "mad!" when prompted & he is MAD. But what to give him, as a replacement for screaming or hitting? It's the screaming that's the biggest problem. The hitting comes usually when he is tired, and he usually saves it for his family.

He picked out his shirt and socks. He and his sister played really well together on the playground after I voted this afternoon. They are holed up in her room right now, giggling and singing. Yay for siblings! Yay for siblings who play Tiger and tire each other out before bedtime!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Pep Talking

James started visits again to the speech & language center that he attended before going to preschool. He remembered the awkward turn at the Very Annoying Left Turn Light. He was very excited to see his therapist again, and remembered the way to her office.

Everyone exclaimed how tall he and his sister had grown in just five months. I had watched with pride how well James tackled the tall stairs on his own -- he'd either had to crawl up them on hands and knees or it took FOREVER, with me holding his hand. Right away, James started showing off his words, with naming the colours he saw, saying "ball" and "in" to describe his play activities, and saying "close" for "close-the-door-behindya-on-your-way-out-Mommy, why-don'tchya?" He sorted colours appropriately. He knew his favourite toys and their proper hiding places.

So now we have new homework: a "blackboard" with pictures on it and the simple, three-word sentences we will practice together and encourage his too say on his own. Because James is still a single-word kind of guy. (Not always -- yesterday I heard him croon "Oooh, pretty room!" for reasons unknown ... *shrug*)

Even though we had a very discombobulated bus driver this morning, summer school seems to have begun with a promising start!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chatterbox, w/ a Side of Eyes

James has been talking a lot this week. Saying more words on his own that correspond to things he sees or hears, like "a bird!" or "airp'ane!" If I mention the wind, he immediately puckers up his lips and goes "whhhhsh, whhhhhhsh!"

Sometimes, we can have conversations, even if they go like this:
James: "Swing!"
me: "Yay, swing!"
James: "Swing!"
me: "Want to sit on the swing, James?"
James: "NO!!!"

me: "did you do pee-pee in your diapers, James?"
James: (if yes) "pee-pee" / (if no) "NO!"

me: "did you do poo-poo in your diapers, James?"
James: (if yes) "poo-poo" / (if no) "NO!"

He is starting to pick out which shirts he wants to wear. I hold up two, and ask him if he wants to wear the blue one or the green one. Some mornings it's between the orange one or the brown one. He doesn't always match up saying and grabbing the one he wants first try, but it's getting to be a quicker process. It's also a nice way to practice his colours. He has lost interest in picking out his socks. They're totally back to the What. Ever. category.

Of course, with eyes like James', he doesn't always needs words. What a lucky guy!

Home By the Sea

We had the chance to stay with friends down by the beach recently. While not relaxing, it was a lot of fun.

We got together with two other couple friends and our kids, who are all about the same age, played together well and throughout the weekend. Yay playing together! Or near each other! Whatever!

James loved running around after all the kids. He loved exploring a new place. its wall-to-wall carpeting. The windchimes. The lamps that turned on & off with slider switches. Eating muffins for brekky.

Right next door was a school playground. It was a little rundown, but the kids still loved spending about an hour playing all over it. James almost immediately took off his shoes and plopped down to become one with the sand. Our friends' little boy (one month younger) did the same thing. How nice it was to see them playing side-by-side, doing the same things. Just like any two little boys.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Almost Forgot: Wishing You Succes!

I saw this over at What Jen Finds and really liked the concept. Check out her site, and celebrate success!

Success Sunday Banner
"Moi aussi je regarderai les etoiles"
--A. de Saint-Exupery

Thanks for the inspiration!

Find out How to Post your own Success Sunday!

Shake Those Hands

We are spending the weekend with friends and their kids, who are about the same age as ours. Within seconds, the girls were on the floor, engrossed in Ponyland. They haven't seen each other in months, but so what?

James is having the best time, playing with the other kids and their toys. He is talking up a storm again: house, open, fish, duck, car, train, walking, marching ... so exciting! On the trip down, his sister gave him an impromptu speech & language session. She encouraged him to say circle, square, triangle and red. He came up with rectangle and TRUCK! on his own. Driving on the freeway, he had lots of practice saying TRUCK!!!

At the park yesterday, someone was flying a remote control AIRPLANE!!!!! Oh, that was good for 15 minutes at least. We watched it swoop and dive, bank and climb. We got to say "Oooo, aip'ane -- YAY!!!" many times.

There has been much climbing and running, following and meandering. I think what I love the best are the kids entertaining each other. It will be interesting to watch James next week. We've broken out of our routine before, and sometimes James makes huge leaps forward afterwards. It's like he gets a new perspective on things, and they look mighty different when "normal life" returns. That is so cool!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Another Parade

So last night was the tri-town famous, Future Farmers' Parade. Yeah! I sat with my daughter on a float, while my mom stayed with James to cheer us from the sidelines.

This parade wisely starts at 6pm. Our float was one of the last, so we got to the float just before 7, barely in time for me to swing us aboard.

My mom tells me that James loved the parade, waving to everyone and loving all the bubble blowers. I am taking her word for it, because my daughter needed an emergency bathroom break 2/3 of the way through the parade (yes, we'd done the potty break right before the parade). That was an exciting chase through the streets, in search of a toilet. My undying thanks to the household of strangers who saved our dignity in the nick of time! Consequently, we missed seeing my mom & James, & vice-versa. We did, however, catch back up to the float to finish out the last few minutes of the parade.

On the other hand, if there is ever a rodeo or Olympic event for jumping off & on parade floats w/ a 5-yo, I'll be a Contender! This is one of the times that I am so glad that one of the kids is still in diapers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Yesterday James had a complete screaming meltdown. Going to get on the schoolbus.

What in the Jungle?

The schoolbus has always made him the happiest boy in the neighbourhood!

So after it became obvious he was not going to let us sit him down in his seat, let alone ride on the bus, I told the poor driver I would bring him to school that morning. James did not stop screaming in fury until three minutes into his Time Out. During this time, he threw off his socks (I had already removed his shoes).

The culprits:

I am already frazzled from sensitive clothing issues with his sister. Time to breathe. With my eyes closed.

Epilogue: I let James choose his socks this morning. No problemos!

Monday, May 19, 2008


James has always liked water. The fountains on the Town Green have fascinated him since the first time he saw them. This year, he is finally able to explore around them.

On his first fountain expedition, he toddled over to them and immediately tried to get his feet in the water, shoes and all. He'd lean over the sides and stick in his hand, usually up to his shoulder. Once, the entire side of his head almost kissed the bottom. Most un-fun. I'd have to hold him in a flying position and zoom him into the mini waterfalls. He'd let the water spill over his hands and laugh. The gravel nearby was obviously meant to be scooped up and thrown into the water. To be fair, his sister was fond of this too.

This year, James can hold onto part of the fountain and reach out to let the waterfall spill over his hands. He is not so interested in plunking his shod feet in the water. Although he will do it if he is sufficiently bored.

The gravel goes into the grates in the ground.

He walks along the fountain edges, trying to keep up with his sister.

James will also cross the fountain, counting his footsteps. I can tell he is getting much more self-confident, because he is doing it much faster now. And has fallen in twice.

I love trips to the fountains. They are like an OT session. Maybe a little more fun. With a lot less driving.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Things to See

Well, we braved the heat and swung by for about an hour of the Rose Parade yesterday. It got to be too much for James, so we ducked inside a bank, then a used book store, where the kids actually let me browse a good 10 minutes before getting restless.

My daughter picked out The Princess and the Pizza. James took a shine to Sweet Dreams, Maisy. I found Silver Chief, Dog of the North for my mom. And I ... got to smell old books.

I am a glutton for old books and their smelly, glorious pages.

Let me back up a bit and note some Lessons Learned about James and a parade:
  1. The noise will get to him, after about 10 minutes; rest periods, even brief ones, help a lot

  2. Reaffirmation that James does not take heat well

  3. Confirmation that humidity makes him Cranky, with hitting not far behind

  4. All the dogs in the crowd bring his anxiety levels up, although he no longer cries when they push up at him

  5. He adores watching live music, and vehicles that have things going around on them

  6. Bubbles Rule!

The new books were a hit at bedtime that night. I love it that James will now sit on my lap and read a book with me. Last year this time he'd eat, rip, and throw books only; he would not sit on my lap for a bedtime routine. Now, he expects multiple readings throughout the day and holds his arms up to me, so I will hold him while I sing him songs before he goes to sleep.

We had fog last night, so we are cool again this morning. I think I'll take the kids out to the Farmers' Market and then to a playground for lunch, so my husband can keep working on dismembering the disused hot tub that has become a wildlife refuge.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Name that Verbalization!

I admit that I am really bad at processing words that I hear. So when James starts verbalizing and trying to say new words, I get excited, then I curse. Because I stink at understanding what it is he's trying to say. Thank goodness for Dad, who has no such problems!

This morning, at a stately 70° for breakfast, James started saying "a-Pop! aaaaa-Pob!" My husband and I were mystified, until James also started with the Xtreme LipSmacking noises. Eureka: the word was "popsickle!" Who knew? And I hate feeling so helpless!

Sometimes I think James is trying to say "open," before realizing he is excited because he has heard an "airplane," and is trying to tell me about it.

The absolute worst is when he looks right at me and lets out a string of careful verbalization. Over & over. With that hopeful, engaging look. And I can't understand one thing he is trying to tell me.

Talk about frustration and feelings of failure!!

Where is my Babelfish?

I love it when his sister translates for him, though. She delights in the absurd and has come out with some doozies, like "James is saying his fish tank patoobahs his oboes." She and James both laugh, because it has become a Game for them.

On a hopeful note or seven: James is getting much better with repeating a word back to us ... and remembering it for later use on his own.

And right now, James is trying to blow bubbles through the kitchen sponge that he has over his face ... gotta go!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lessons on Becoming a Patient Parent

Most of us accept that when we become parents, we will have to be adults and adopt a more patient attitude, withhold from overt emotional storms whenever possible, and lead our children by our own examples.

Man that is hard when I am not having a great day.

Such as (and thanks to Joe Bob Briggs for the numbering system):
Numero uno: Someone let their dog run and poop on our lawn -- two of 'em, so maybe it was two dogs. We have a fence on 3 sides of our lawn. I hate picking up other peoples' messes. They waited until I'd left to take my daughter to school, help out there, and drop off paperwork for James before letting them loose on our lawn.

Numero two-o: At 11:30 AM it's already 96° in the shade & still big gusts of wind and some dumb guy in a big truck in front of me flips his lit cigarette out his window while speeding down the highway. Right near some fields of dry grass. I lost my home and entire neighbourhood to a wildfire about 16 years back and idiotic, selfish acts like this still make me see red.

Numero three-o: The outdoor cat, whom we've unofficially adopted, brought us another present of a dead rat. Normally, this would be pretty good news, except that my 5 y-o daughter saw her in the process of killing the rat, had a zillion questions and wanted to stay for the whole show. And guess who's been getting the thrilling job of double-bagging those bad boys? In the middle of a big heat wave and thanks, but garbage pickup was so yesterday already? Hint: Moms get all the bestest assignments!

Numero four-o: It's now over 100° and the wind is blowing. I saw big smoke clouds from three different fires in less than 2 hours this morning and a spotter plane & Borade bomber just took off over our house. The hairs on the back of my neck are up and I want to just hit something.

I had trouble going ahead with volunteering in classrooms as planned and held my support phone calls until after the kids were down and out for their naps. I only mentioned the heat when James' SHAPE assistant showed up to work with him this afternoon.

I know there are others out there with more things to deal with, but today has just pushed all my buttons. So I try and breathe. I think I need to be the calm adult so I don't scare my kids and make them neurotic. I sneak off to the bathroom and freak out occasionally. I've made my support calls. And I watch the skies and news reports.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Night Swimming

It was so hot today that I took the kids swimming tonight at 8 after dinner. It was a fantastic experience!

The sun was down and the blue sky was swooshed over with dramatic clouds that threw back orange-pink light on us. The air was warm and still. The water was delicious on our skin. The quarter moon was soft and misty behind some gauzy clouds. I felt like we were in a big Maxfield Parrish snowglobe.

It was one of those nights I hope I'll always remember. Especially the looks on the kids' faces -- total amazement and delight.

This is James' first time in the pools since last year. I think he will like spending more time there and in the River.

First we stood on the steps of the middle pool, and then headed to the wading pool. His sister was very good and gave him a kick board to play with. He immediately called it a boat and put both hands on it, getting more into the water. James' words for this outing: wa'er (water), 'im/s'im (swim), boe (boat), moon, boo (blue), ah-pen (airplane). He put the words water and boat together! He leaned over and got his arms wet up to his elbows, and he brought his face so close to the surface that he got water on his cheek. He learned to get out of the wading pool by himself. He would walk carefully to me and then launch himself into space so I could catch and lower him back into the water. We will work on his re-entry!


Every now and then I catch myself watching the kids. I think I know what's going on, but really I am watching through my Mommy Window into their world.

Right now, the kids are watching a cat in the backyard. James has started saying "mow, meow" when he sees it. He wants to pet the cat, like his sister does, but can't quite do it. He and the cat circle each other, both curious, yet cautious.

What is James thinking? What is he seeing? How does he experience this house and his family? Sometimes I think I know. Others, I haven't a clue.

Sometimes his eyes, looking at me, are more expressive than the words he is trying to say. His facial expressions are more informative than his verbalization. While this is frustrating for us both, it reminds me that there is someone who is very present and aware on the other side of that window; I will keep trying the best I can to look through and open the window so I can meet James even more, and find out what he's thinking. Answer questions, if I can. Share as much as possible with him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This is James: Bus

In the mornings, James adores the school bus. He practically rips open our front door and flies down the driveway, crying "buh! buh!" before he leaps into it. The driver always has a big smile for him and calls him her Little Angel. He giggles, wiggles, and glows with delight while he gets webbed into his seat. Then he'll look at me and shout "Bye!" with a grin.

I always wave to him outside the bus. And James always leans over and puts one finger up to the window. I can see him saying "bye" inside. He doesn't stop until I put my finger to his (on the other side of the glass) and say "Bye James, I love you!" Once I drew a heart too, and he thought that was the Coolest Thing Ever.

Then I wave to him as the bus pulls away from the curb. I wait for the turnaround and wave to him as he passes by, and I stand at the bottom of the driveway and wave some more until the bus turns the corner & out of sight. Mission completion!

Random Bus Thoughts:
  1. Sometimes I have trouble getting James to focus, or sit still for socks and shoes. Usually, all it takes is a reminder: "James, bus" and presto, he is on board!

  2. I wish I could get going as quickly as he -- angelically asleep to completely awake and demanding "muh-muh" (muffins) in 4.1 seconds.

  3. James almost always makes my day happy with his starry smile and big happy eyes

  4. The bus keeps me honest for getting James to school on time -- yay honesty!

  5. I am so glad he gets an adventure so early in the day, while I am still working on that first cuppa joe

Monday, May 12, 2008

Doubling our Fun

James is starting to say two words together! I am not counting one of his earliest spoken words for his favourite treat "apple bar." He can say "Hi, ____" and "Bye-bye _______" and I love it when it is "Hi, Mama."

We can get him to say many words after we say them and he is starting to say words on his own. He is very good at saying "NO!" and will respond "okay" if we are checking in that he understands what we've just said. (if he doesn't say "okay" then we know he either hasn't heard or he does not agree)

Last week, he said "Oh man!" just like Swiper on Dora. He starting to use this instead of "uh-oh!" My husband and I cracked up. It's nice to laugh that way. He is also getting better at hugging and kissing.

Sometimes, when he vocalizes with "Eeeeeeeeeee," we can get him to say a word or two. He is also memorizing his favourite books and vocalizes along with the reader, with occasional clear words in their proper places. I am so excited. He has been doing this with songs for a while.

I set up his t-ball stand for him today in our back yard. He enjoyed whacking the ball. But I really think the attraction was the bat! He also has not taken a nap today. I am not ready to give up the afternoon naps yet, so I am thinking positive that this is a fluke.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Walking for Answers

This is a quick post to let you know I will be participationg in The Human Race, a walk to help find answers for autism. Please look at my team's page and consider making a donation.

More soon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Time Off

We had plans for this weekend. They were different from what actually happened. Another of life's affirmations.

I was planning to join the Walk for Autism event, before going out on an overnight date with my husband. That was before James' allergies started getting worse and my daughter's infected toe. Before I knew it, it was 2pm on Saturday afternoon and I was frantically trying to get the last 3 loads of laundry done. Of course this was one of two afternoons this year that James did not want to take a nap.

We managed to get things ready (enough), complete with two had-written pages of our routine, meds and their schedules, and a note authorizing my mom to get medical assistance for the kids, should it be needed. My husband and I were off for an afternoon, dinner, overnight, and brunch sans children for the first time in almost six years. It was amazing.

My mother said that when she was putting him to bed that night, James was softly chanting "Mama, Mama, Mama." I didn't know whether to smile or cry, so I did a little of both. James hardly says "Mama," but I hated the thought of him being sad, even though I know he was being well loved and taken care of.

So yesterday and today he has been running up to me/into me and pressing against me, going "mmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!" I give him lots of smiles and hugs and tell him how much I love him. Yesterday he started saying his sister's name, then "Dada" and "James" --- yay!!!! The first time I have heard him do that!

One his favourite people came by this afternoon -- she likes to keep track of his progress. She says she is seeing a lot of James finding himself and gave an encouraging take on the increase in screaming, hitting, and throwing. He is testing limits and being 3, his age. He is also trying to come to terms with all the new things he is noticing and trying to do. She suggested gummies or nice crunchy things for his teeth grinding and is encouraged with how much he interacts with people and in his class. James kept giving her hugs and finally collapsed happily in her lap, after taking her pen and playing games with it/her.

A little perspective can be a wonderful thing! But I still feel bad for mising the Walkathon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Getting into SHAPE

I am listening to James working with his SHAPE assistant. He is laughing and singing along to his favourite "walking, walking" song. The tune is like the "Are You Sleeping, Father John?" song. They march, tip toe, and run in circles. What is not to like?

We are working on colours for James. He can say them most of the time, but his matching is not consistent. We also work with his Flash cards, to work on words and sounds. Some cards he really likes, like "happy," "eye," and "apple." Other ones he ignores, such as "noodles," "Heidi," and "oh boy!" We also work on stop and go, as James will run out into the street, looking behind him and laughing at me. It is just a big game to him and one of my worst nightmares.

James also likes to work with the Play Dough, something he wouldn't do at first. He also likes to string beads on a string. He does great, except for that last poke through the bead before he can slide it down the string. After a few "helps" he can do this. Sometimes James will bring out his favourite books for reading, and sometimes the SHAPE asst. will pick the books. I admire so much their patience to work with my son. I learn something new from watching them work together almost every time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Growing Pains

James is still going through what I hope is a transitional phase. He has been using less words over the past two weeks or so, after a small explosion in his vocabulary. His sleeping patterns are messed up and instead of sleeping at night, I can hear a Party of One in his room. This makes working with his SHAPE asst. the next afternoon extremely challenging. He also is doing more screaming and face hitting, which I try to counter with asking "What do you want, James?" and "No hitting," followed by time-outs.

I am trying to look on the bright side. My daughter did similar things before leaping forward developmentally. James has largely been sunny, serene ... and about a year "behind" (developmentally). He still loves going to school and taking the bus. He loves looking at books, the Cars trailers, and singing. His sister can get him to play with toy fish and cars. He loves to do his Flash cards with her. I imagine that it must be pretty frustrating to start to realize all the things you could do ... and then realize there are some things your fingers just can't do right away, or that you are trying your darndest to communicate with people, and it doesn't work. I'd get really tired and cranky too.

So then I try and find ways he can do more things with us, and make sure I make time to just hold him and tell him I love him.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Take Me to the River

My mom and I took the kids to play in the River this morning. My daughter has been there before, but this is James' first time playing in the water. He really liked feeling the water on his legs and getting cooled off on a hot morning. He threw a few rocks, and really got into a game with his Nana. He stood upstream and emptied a bucket of water on himself. Then he'd laugh and throw the bucket into the current, where it would be carried downstream and scooped up by Nana. Lather, rinse, repeat!

He was really looking around and taking everything in. He called out "bird" when a backbird landed nearby on a log. He went "Qak, qak!" at the ducks flying overhead. And when his sister exclaimed "fish!" he did too. He sang his "walking, walking" song as he plowed through the water. He also loved walking through the trees and grasses to get to and from the beach. I am so proud of the way he totally jumped on board and explored everything around him. And how fortunate that he seems to have grown out of eating rocks!

Up until his nap time, I kept hearing the occassional exclamation of "Wah'er! wah'er!" I am looking forward to summer!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ten Things I Love About James

1. His sunny personality; he makes everyone smile.

2. The Look I get when he is testing my limits: part imp, part "I don't care," part "I know you'll love me anyway."

3. The way his face and entire body lights up with joy when he sees things he likes: the moon, the car out back, favourite people, or the school bus.

4. Hearing him say "Mama" in his soft voice.

5. Hearing him bellow "CAR!!!!" when I show him the Cars trailers on my laptop.

6. Hearing him make horses say "moooooo!" ... and then laughing.

7. Schnuggles. Nobody does a happy nestling wiggle like James!

8. Watching him go up to people who are doing something else, bending over while circling and looking up at them, and having them smile and say "hello!" to him.

9. Watching him run, laugh, and be so happy.

10. The way he looks up and smiles at me.

Because I Am

The last few days have been a little hard. James is upset by things that normally don't phase him. He panics when he sees me leaving, which has never been an issue before. There is a little more screaming and a few fewer words at home too. Physical activity really seems to help him, as does music.

Last night after dinner, I took a walk to the local park with both kids. My daughter loved running and James was so excited to see the moon. He would stop and tip his head way up and say "Moon! Mooooon!" I got him to sit on a swing with me for a few seconds, and help push his sister up and down on the teeter-totter. Maybe one day he will enjoy doing these things himself. I hope so!

He liked singing with me at bedtime again. And he is up to listening to three books at bedtime: Rainbow Frogs, The Mouse/Strawberry/Big Hungry Bear and Five Little Ducks.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Music is Magic

James has always liked music. He would perk right up if her heard a fun melody on the radio or TV. He has always adored the Baby Eisntein videos. And if someone sings around him: bliss central!

Last year one of my biggest concerns was helping James talk. I was told that "vocalizing" is very important, and often precedes spoken language. So one of the things my husband and I tried was to sing to James and encourage him to sing back a few simple words. My husband also kept bringing home instruments or things that could be used as such. James loves the guitar, keyboard, and lately the drums (!). Introduce something new like a xylophone or glockenspiel and he becomes fascinated. He loves to watch live music performed at our Farmers' Markets.

And yes, singing did help him to vocalize. Now, I can actually hold him before bed or nap time, and we sing together. It is one of the sweetest times in my day.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


James has been a big fan of cars for quite a while now.

Last summer, during an impromptu diaper change in a beach parking lot, I stood up from bagging a dirty diaper to see my son "driving" our van. One of the first words he said on a regular basis was "Caaaarr?" That meant he wanted to look out his bedroom window to see the cars on the street.

Trying to be a supportive parent, I sat him on my lap to show him the trailers for the Disney/Pixar movie "Cars" on my iBook. Oops. It became his new obsessive thing. On the one hand, it got him to vocalize. The words "car?!" and "more?!" were quickly mastered, but after six showings in a row of the trailers, mommy needed a break.

James quickly learned to get creative. His next ploy was to come up to me, say "car?" and start making kisses (while looking at me in a beseeching manner) when I did not start up the trailers. Well, that was really hard for me to refuse. Then, he learned that please ("pease") opened so many doors as well! He also mastered the art of saying "vroooooom!!!" -- which became the basis of some of his first imaginative play and play vocalizations.

Oh yeah. Cars have been good to us all!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Many Hands Make Light Work

This morning, James was trying to talk with me. To him, I am sure he was talking in words. What I heard was babbling, but with a purpose. He wanted me to get down his special Flash Cards from his speech therapist.

He sat down expectatly and picked out the cards delicately, with one thumb and finger and shouted out the word on his own, most of the time. What a difference a year makes!

One of the biggest reasons I asked for a referral for James was because his babbling had stopped at about 13 months (right around when he started trying to walk, I later realized) and by 2 years his biggest means of communication were screaming and biting. This was very much out of character for James, who is one of the happiest, sunniest kids I have had the pleasure to know.

I had to insist with his pediatrician for the referral in end of February/early March 2007. In April 2007, a Care Coordinator from North Bay Regional came out to assess our son. She found significant developmental delays and ended up writing purchase orders for services from the following clinics: Early Learning Institute, The Swain Center, and Redwood Pediatric Therapy Associates. She also put James on the waiting list for evaluation at the Collaborative Autism Diagnostic (CAD) Clinic. It would be five months before he was seen at the CAD Clinic, and James was very fortunate to begin receiving services in May.