Friday, July 31, 2009


We visited the Sonoma County Fair today. Oh my goodness, it was wonderful! They had a fantastic theme this year: Dinosaurs! (Okay, it's formally called "The Fair Before Time")

My favourite was the Hall of Flowers. It was truly amazing this year. My daughter adored the midway rides and the small dog races. James loved Clo the Cow and Dinosaur Island (aka the Reptile pavilion).

Dinosaur Island was very cool. They had all sorts of fascinating creatures on display, as well as mock dino skulls and heads. James really loved the heads. He saw a teen-age girl putting her hand inside one of the dinosaurs' mouths and squeal for her friends. He thought that must be pretty neat:
James puts his hand in the dino mouth

Because he kept doing it!
James gives the dino his hand again

And when he got bored, he stuck his entire head in:
James sticks his head in the dino mouth


PS: Does anyone else remember J.J. and Good Times?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Go Pictures

"Go pictures?" is James' way of asking if he can use the computer. Both he and his sister love to play games on a laptop:
kids on a laptop, aka go pictures

In addition to the Curious George games, he also loves Clifford, Blues Clues YoGabbaGabba and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. He will purposely do things the wrong way if he likes the sound effect. It's all about the fun. And pushing buttons. And silliness. And being able to do something with Big Sister.

James knows how to use bookmarks, and that they are different on Daddy's and Mommy's laptops. He navigates with ease. The one thing he hasn't been able to do (yet) is Click/drag/drop. Oh, but I am sure that is just around the corner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Special Exposure & Wordless Wednesday: Big!

Can there be anything more fun than the park on a summer afternoon?
I submit that there is not!
James laughing

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

and ... Wordless Wednesday

What's Wrong With the Picture?

So James went to the Swain Center yesterday for his weekly speech therapy session. He loves this. He has a crush on his therapist. She makes him work too. She has a way of enjoying his charms, yet not letting that get in the way of making him work harder.

The past few weeks have been spent on getting him to recognize "he" & "she" and "boy" & "girl." This week his therapist brought out cards with silly/missing items pictures, to see how he reacted. She said she was very impressed that he could identify items on each card, even if he could not verbalize his observations.
pig-turtle silliness

For example, he knew there should be balloons at the top of the strings the clown was holding, even if he could only say "bah-oons?" The card with a person's face, missing the eyes almost worried him. She asked him what was wrong and he said "no eyes."

We talked about how people now ask him "How old are you?" and "What's your name?" and he doesn't respond. His therapist wanted to know how they asked him, and I told her usually like most adults wanting to talk with a child in a park or grocery store line. She then leaned over and said "What is your name?" and the little stinker (I say it with love) said "My name is James."


Oh fine. Be that way. Yay!!!!!!

So she thinks that maybe it's the social interaction that needs work. He is used to charm and initiating interactions. Now I can see that we need to work on responses to people who initiate contact with him.

Meanwhile, the goofy cards sounded like fun. I took a quick look online and saw a book that could be a fun activity to do together, as well as help him have some colouring time: What's Wrong with This Picture Coloring Book, by Anna Pomaska.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Magic Marker Monday: James the Scribbler

James is just starting to play with pencils and markers for fun. Two weeks ago I found my pad of telephone message paper covered with his doodles. One on every page -- nice! His sister did this when she was 2.

The other day, he produced this masterpiece:
James and his marker art

He has made great progress with holding markers and spoons. He can draw straight lines pretty well now, but needs more practice drawing circles. I've also bought a huge pad of drawing paper for him. He adores it! He tends to get excited when creating and his arm sails right off the page. Ai-yi-yi, the marker mess cleanups!

I love it.

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Mondays.
Special Needs Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Riding the Rails

Today was a beautiful, hot summer day. It was a great day to go to the park and play in the spouting water play area and enjoy an outdoor picnic lunch.

When we got tired, we took a ride:
James, riding the train

James has always like trains, but on this ride he gave several train whistles and gleefully said "Tickets, lease" "All aboard!" and "Let's go! Green light!" He hooted in the Haunted Tunnel and yelled with delight when they sounded the train whistle.

He still likes watching "The Polar Express."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Feast for the Soul

One thing I love about summer is that I can move meal times outdoors. It makes a nice break in routine and helps keep the house a little cleaner. This is also good for my sanity. I think the kids like the novelty. As long as we pack Their Foods, that is.

Our town in blessed with a Town Green and some dedicated merchants and council members. On Tuesday nights, we can watch a movie there for free. On Thursday afternoons into evening, there's a Farmers' Market and music concert. A few years ago, a Shakespeare festival began.

I take the kids to these events several times over the summer. Not as often as I'd like, but we'd stay in the house a lot more without them. We also feel good about supporting our local growers, restauranteurs, and other business people. We are supporting local food, green-friendly endeavors, and small-time artisans. We meet our neighbours, friends, and classmates in a different setting and just socialize.

Last weekend, on a whim, we packed a picnic dinner and parked the kids at the Town Green for some food and The Tempest. The kids were interested for a while before the production lost its allure. My husband and I took turns watching the kids have fun at the playground on the Green.

This year, James sat on a chair instead of rolling all over me and the picnic quilt. Such a big boy!
James sits and eats his dinner while watching The Tempest

SOOC Saturday: Train of Thought

Last month I took James and his sister to go see the Disney Train, aka The Disney Christmas Carol Train Tour. It's a cook promotional gimmick for the movie coming out this fall. The train is free to the public and tours the U.S. this summer into fall (schedule).

I know that The Slurping Life is on hiatus at the moment, but I found some great SOOC photos from this trip while looking back at my pics.

I can't decide which is my favourite, so I'll share them all:
* The cool conceptual art car, framed to look like moving pictures in the HP movies with a sunset ceiling:
Disney Train: conceptual art car

* The rendering car, which made me feel like I was in a scene from Tron:
Disney Train: rendering car

* Catching the transitions from warm and florid Victorian decor to 21st Century Hi-tech:
Disney Train: Victorian Maquette car to 21st C. image capture care

* James, being excited at his first visit to a Real Train!
James waits to see the train


SOOC Saturday

The Morning Milk Train

The kids watched The Polar Express last night, and now James is curled up on the sofa, in blankets, watching it again. First he wanted to wake up his sister, so she could watch it again with him; then he asked for "mo milk peese, Mommy" so he could have it to drink for the Hot Chocolate scene. He is just so darned cute.

Am I ever glad I took him to see the Disney Train last month!
Disney Train, James, and ticket

Disney Christmas Carol Train

Disney Train sign

Friday, July 24, 2009

Growing UP

Last year:
James, summer 2008

This year:
James, summer 2009

Not the best photo comparison, but it's the same playground, with James on the same play structure. His head's at roughly the same level, but he's standing on the platform that's over a foot shorter than the top photo. Yikes!

Favourite Things, Again

Jammes, sadly for me, is on a YoGabbaGabba kick. Okay, can I just say how freaky it was to see Paul Williams sing Kermit's Rainbow Connection song with the bad Yellow Submarine graphics in the background?

I told some friends it was like an unexpected acid flashback before my morning coffee. I kept expecting Pat Paulsen to come up next, plugging Sara Palin, it was just that weird.

He is also enjoying Pinky Dinky Doo. He will yell SpongeBob Square Pants to in time to the show's theme music.

He still loves his Who Stole the Cookies From the Cokie Jar? and Photo Guide to Bern, Switzerland books.

We had to remove the CD player from his room. He kept ripping the plug from the wall in a most unhealthy manner. But he loves his songs from school, Music Together, and nap time. Lately, he and his sister have turned "Rockabye Baby" into a comedy routine with sound effects. Creative kids are some of my favourite things!

Speech Update

James has almost finished his first month of speech sessions at the Swain Center. In just over a week he has mastered "boy" and "girl," and is getting pretty good at using he" and "she" effectively. His therapist, whom he has been seeing over the past three years, was very impressed how quickly he picked it up. Big sister also helped.

A lot!

James has been watching my mouth to see how I shape it to make sounds. He still makes his "Ahhhhhhh-ahhhh-aaahhh!" drone when he's wound up and his laugh still has a baby's chuckle in it. But his words and phrases are becoming clearer. Even if it gets caught up in babble, there are enough well-formed words also so I can a least figure out what he is talking about. He can reliably answer questions that require a "yes" or "no" answer, although if you give him a multiple choice question, he tends to repeat the last item on the list.

James still crams his hand in his mouth and chews on his fingers. He likes crunchy foods, like watermelon (watermeh-len), apple slices, pretzels, tortilla chips, and popsickles (especially red and purple).

He also likes to press things against his mouth:
James and the pol scoop

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Too Big

Look at this photo:
James ... is getting way too big!

It's only my parental opinion, but James is getting too darned big! Look at how his legs are just about read to fall off the edge of the sofa. Seems like only a few weeks ago, his feet stuck straight out.

He reminds me of a cowboy in this one; playing his 2-string guitar while resting at his home on the range.

We've been doing the Music Together program again this summer, and again he is loving it! This week he sat in the teacher's lap, completely at his ease.

A Day at the Dentists: First Cleaning

Due to changes in dental coverage, we had to split the kids' appointments and arranged for James to come by himself for his first cleaning. He did really well, sitting on the chair and staying on it while it was first raised, then tilted backward.

James gets his teeth cleaned

He gamely sat and had his teeth brushed, and 5.5 teeth flossed. Then he was "Aaaaall done!" I sat by him, holding his hands and trying to keep his wriggling body and thrashing head in place on the chair. The hygienist got in a bit more flossing before calling in the dentist. Result: James has good teeth and no cavities so far -- yay!

The dentist also got in some fluoride treatment before James had truly had enough. I am so glad we can keep seeing her. The entire office has experience with special needs kids and tons of patience. It's also only a mile from our house.

Our secret at home to getting James to brush and floss? We let big sister "help" him. She does it, he wants it too!

New Phrase Takes Us To Defcon 2

"Hey! That's MINE!"

Age: 4.5 years. Sibling rivalry has kicked it up a notch, and possessions are now verbally protected, as well as physically. Note: James is still being much sweeter about it than she is. Oh, what a surprise his sister is in for -- the day he is bigger and taller than she!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Daddy Can You Spare Your Phone?

James is a wriggly, lively, active little guy these days. This makes eating out a challenge. We try and have drinks and at least crackers arrive as soon as possible to keep him in his seat. Sometimes he will use crayons and try colouring the kids' paper menus. A couple of times we've resorted to bringing a book or toy to help keep him entertained and focused.

Eventually, though, we are faced with needing to use our ultimate weapon:
Daddy's phone!
James, loving the aps and games on his Daddy's phone

James loves phones. What's not to love? There are buttons to push! Sounds you can hear! Screens to discover! Games and apps you can play! We've given up letting him play with my older, flip-open one. He's program several improbably entries into my speed dial list and once I caught him downloading ring tones.

Pool Buoy

Thanks to his older sister's help, James has become comfortable wearing a "floatie" while in a pool:
Pool Buoy

Some days he loves to bounce by himself or with me holding him, yelling "Boing! Boing! Boing! We count to three and then twirl around in circles, right, left, right, and left again. Sometimes his sister will hold his hands with hers and off the will kick together in their "floaties."

Other days he prefers to sit quietly, with the "floatie" to help stabilize him and keep him above water, should he stumble or tip over. On this trip, James seemed fascinated with touching and testing the surface of the water. How marvelous it must feel to him.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


James at the Beach

How much sensory integration can you see in this picture? I am a mom, not a trained developmental professional, and I can see:
* dried sand on arms and legs (& one cheek)
* wet sand on hands, finger, feet, & toes
* occasional water lapping on feet
* wind in hair
* sun in eyes
* gulls, airplanes,and people all clamouring together
* sunscreen lotions squooshing all over everything and smelling like coconut
* smells of ozone, salty brine, and outboard motors

I think that's 10. James seemed like he was digging it. Literally!

Catching Up

We've hit the ground running this week with the Summer Camp phase of summer 2009. For the second year in a row, James will be attending preschool summer camps run by our city. Last year was an experiment for everyone. James had a little separation anxiety last year, but then settled in and had a great time. His language and verbal skills took a huge leap! So I was excited to try this again.

The first day James forgot to worry about saying good-bye to me. He saw a sand table! That was awesome. There was a slight issue of him trying to run off through the park during playground time, but yesterday I didn't hear that it was a problem. The camp leader said he was talking and participating along with the other kids.

I have achieved a level of nirvana! This is what we'd been hoping for and here he is doing it! I am so proud of him! I am so thankful for all the opportunities and help we've received along the way.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I have been surprised by how well James remembers places he's been, even after only one time.

On our trip down to the Los Angeles area, he would pipe up from the back with unexpected observations as "Go see 'chelle, Mommy? Dat way!" as we got close to the offramp that would take us to his speech & language therapist. This is our 3rd summer working with her, and after only two trips there this year he's got it down how to get there -- right down to the strange driveway street turning and recognizing the building from out front. "Candy!" he cried, as we pulled into a parking space there at the end of June, because she used to give him lolly pops at the end of their session. (Aside: Wow! The first time she gave him one, he did not know how to hold it, let alone eat it, forget even saying it!)

As we passed the offramp that we took in Oakland two weeks ago to drop off a changing table, I heard "Go table -- right there!"

Cutting west across the 118: "Disneyland? Go See Mickey Mouse, Mommy?" A little background, grandma and grandpa live around the 118, and we often combine a visit with them and a trip to Disneyland. We used to do it twice a year. Our last trip doing this was December of 2007.

I've always said he was a sleeper (definition #4). Now I have even more proof. The little stinker -- I love him so!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

SOOC Saturday: Morning Coffee Run

Mornings with James while on vacation makes for some special time together. I go off in search of some good coffee and James, my early riser, comes along for the walk.

Luckily this motel is very close to a Starbucks. While not my favourite coffee chain, the have good espresso shots and are very understanding of parents and the early-rising young ones.

Bonus points: This one has a killer, SOOC-photogenic fountain out front:

For more fun, photographs, visit Melody at Slurping life. To find out about SOOC or to participate, visit SOOC Saturday.

Slurping Life

Friday, July 10, 2009

Harbour Cove

Took the kids to the beach today. My MIL found the best beach! We got there about 10AM and pried the kids away finally after 1PM.

James waded in the waves, sat in the surf and let the little waves roll over him, and ran around in happiness. He loved being able to throw sand and YELL!

So many words -- we can see the world through his eyes so much better. The kite that looks like an airplane. The water that is cold! The big hole that was so much fun ot play in!


Thursday, July 09, 2009


I am thankful to be together, on a road trip, for a family vacation.

James had lots of words, and he used them for hours all down I-5. What's new on this trip is that he is starting to express ideas, and try to retell fairy tales, just like his big sister.

He did super great with bathroom breaks -- dry pants all the way down!

Tomorrow: the beach, with GrandMama!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Special Exp. Wednesday: Gonzo

When in IKEA, stick a milk bottle cap on your nose. You know you want to!

James goes gonzo at IKEA

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Nap Time Card

Go directly to nap time. Do not pass gas and laugh hysterically. Do not collect yourself into a corner, become trapped by your bed, and then yell "Hep, Mommy!"

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mini Road Trip

The kids and I drove 65 miles on an errand today. That's about 170 miles round-trip. The kids did really well. I did let them watch the Curious George movie on the way down.

We met up with some really nice people, dropped off and sold some furniture, and had ice cream at Fenton's. Yes, that place from Up. I've been going there with my family and friends since the 1970s. James and his sister shared a huge scoop of vanilla. After a few bites, James was more interested in feeding myself and a friend of mine who'd come with us to the ice creamery. This was before he found the hand crank in the table umbrella's pole. Luckily, the way he was spinning the handle did nothing to the umbrella. I love places that think about the fact that kids will be sitting in their restaurant.

After that, we visited a former work place of mine. It had been a couple of years since they'd seen the kids, and they were very friendly and asked lots of questions about how James was doing. In contrast to the family gatherings this weekend, the kids were relaxed and chatted naturally with everyone right from the start. I don't know, maybe it was that special Fenton's ice cream? ;-)

One smart fellow gave the kids one ballon each. It became the favourite thing for the next 4 hours. These were simple rubber balloons that had not even been blown up. James asked for a RED one, and then asked me to blow it up for him. "Puts air in, Mommy?" was how he put it. He then proceeded to play volleyball all over the department, getting several people to play with him.

My daughter used her pink one to hold air, which she would then release to either make disgusting (therefore funny) noises or blow air on (1) her face or (2) her brother's legs. This held entertained kids for over two hours. I have never heard them both laugh so hard all through a car trip like that. I am so glad they like car trips!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Wading in the Creek

On a recent visit to a ranch, James got to wade in the creek. He was so into exploring and walking around in his bare feet.

His sister liked crawling around on the hot rocks. He enjoyed splashing in cool water and letting the current tug at his legs.

He also liked that he got to wander on his own (kind of):

The world looks different out in the country.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

SOOC Saturday: Explorer

Straight Out Of Camera Saturday

James at Howarth Park

I really like this picture. All the patterns of circles and lines in the background make me think that this might be how James first hears things around him that are so difficult for him to filter and process: conversations, cars, phones ringing, and other children yelling. And here he is, moving away from the white noise. Stepping out to explore on his own.

For more SOOC Saturday pictures and stories, visit Melody at Slurping Life.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Friday Free Day

More fun at the pool!

Today was one of those rare days of unscheduled simple pleasures. We all woke up late and refreshed. James and I enjoyed the back yard under leafy branches and cool (from overnight fog) clear skies. We had conversations about little things.

I had conversations with James. Woah! This seemed like a lightyears-away dream last summer, and here we are doing it!

James seemed a little anxious because today was not fitting into any of his patterns: Daddy was here and not at work. No SHAPE visitors were coming by. There was no school bus. And we weren't hurrying to get anywhere. What was going on?

I tried to explain the ideas of "holiday," "summer vacation," and "free day" to James. We made up a picture chart of what we were doing that day. He and my daughter kept going over to look at it and seemed reassured. It helped my husband and I as well!

I had a nice workout in the late morning while my husband took the kids to lunch and then took them swimming. It was the high point of their day. My daughter kept going underwater (a new skill, and we are so proud of her!) and James seemed to want to only put his feet and lower legs into the water today. I was glad I slathered sunscreen all over his exposed areas. I took him around the pool in my arms, but we mostly spotted airplanes and splashed by the steps.

Afterward, we enjoyed snowcones! It was 2 for the price of 1 this afternoon, and we had the lime and cherry flavours to prove it. James and I took turns feeding each other. He was so tickled to be feeding Mommy. He also ate 3 bananas from the Take One Free platter by the check-in counter and an oatmeal raisin cookie.

Summer is here! It's really here!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

James and the Cat

James was early today because the cat got him up by meowing outside his door. I persuaded James to play quietly in bed for an hour and I got a nice rest while he did that. I tossed the cat outside, after feeding her a bit, so she won't go after the wrens and mockingbirds.

James does not like this cat. I am not sure why. He liked our other cat, who was old and gentle (and not too bright). Maybe he distrusts a smaller animal that can move more quickly than he can?

The cat would love to be friends. She jumps up next to him on the sofa. This freaks out James, however, and he will kick her off the sofa, if I am not there to stop him. I am trying to teach him to pet her softly, but it's uphill work.

What really puzzles me is that if any of the cat's fur touches him, he yells "OWWW!!" This is one of the softest, fluffiest cats I have ever had, BTW.

And: James loves his Nana's cat. Who is elderly and slow-moving. And a relentless moocher and lap grabber. Hmmmmmm.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Special Exp. Wednesday: The Swinger

5 Minutes for Special Needs
One of the first things my husband and I loved about this house was its back yard. It was meant for children to play in, with a lawn, fruit trees, and enclosed swing set play area. Best of all for us was no house towering over us on the other sides of any fences, so it feels really private.

This is the first year that both kids really have played in the yard. I was so happy to see them enjoying it that I grabbed my camera. One of those low-key moments that I hope to look back on for many years to come.

First, James has been using the swing set! The kid who screamed if you tried to get him anywhere near a swing, up until a year ago, is now heading outside several times a day to swing, in his own unique style:
James swings

James swings some more

James swings: the final chapter

James swings: surprise!

And when he gets bored of that, he and his sister play together in the sand box with purple sand:
James plays with purple sand

Visit more special moments at Special Exposure Wednesdays.