Saturday, July 31, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

Screened this one with my husband, as I'd heard a few things from people who'd seen it that made me think we needed to preview it before going with the kids.

Oh so heck yeah. Kids are not going to see it any time soon.

*** Warning: Semi-Spoilers Ahead ***

My daughter would not do well with the issues of toys being made prisoners and being beat to heck in school. She would ask me uncomfortable questions, such as do parents replace lost toys and pretend they are the old ones ... and have I ever done that? She would not be happy with my attempts to plead the 5th. Especially because the answer would be "yes" to the special kitty from a loved relative and her Woody Doll.

I think the hulking mafia Baby doll would freak her out. She'd be seeing it in her dreams and telling her second grade teacher about her doll hallucinations (I know this because last year we went through this with the imaginary rat friend she had).

She'd be worried about Bo Peep being gone, and wonder if the same thing would not, some day, happen to her, or a special toy that she loves.

Also: She does not really get Barbie and Ken. Do we really need to give her more proof that Mommy finds really odd things to be funny? And: I am trying to get her to clean her room. The girl has inherited my clinging genes. This movie would make her lock her door and go into hoarding overdrive.

The noise level for James would be tough, especially the preschool. OMG, the school. He's starting a brand-new one, complete with new teachers and aides next year. Last thing I need him to watch is noisy, violent kids terrorizing the nice, brave, friendly toys. Watching them try to ... escape the school by running away. Dudes! Do *not* put this idea in his head!

The furnace scenario at the end would completely terrorize them. I don't know if James would get the fact that, without a rescue, the toys would all go up in screaming flares of flame and die, as his big sister would. But the noise and very visual distress on the faces of all the toys would get to him, and not in a good way.

Heck, it gave me nasty flashbacks to being in the Oakland Hills Fire in '91, where parents and I had to run for our lives, knowing that our house, photos, and other life things (including my long-loved toys) were incinerated behind us in that roaring, whirling 2,000°+ inferno.

 That said: I loved the movie. The Spanish Buzz and Ken? The poker game at the top of the vending machine? OMG, hilarious. Mrs Potato Head's mystic eye was an excellent and intriguing plot/story device. The little girl who really loves and plays with her toys was so touching, and neatly avoided being maudlin. The final play scene with Andy? Was real and satisfying.

Overall, I thought this movie was excellent. But I don't think I ever want to see it again. I also think that there will be children that will not have problems seeing TS3. Mine just don't happen to be in that crowd. I think when they are both older (say around age 9 or 10) they would enjoy many, many parts of this movie and not be overly bothered about the dramatic, semi-traumatic scenes with toys facing separation, imprisonment, or almost certain flaming death.

The Love CoPay

I have been in my home office for a couple of hours, checking emails and trying to get posts completed and a couple of web projects worked on.

Guess who's come to make an office visit 11 times so far?
(Taken at Office Visit #12)

He's checking to make sure he knows where I am. To get help rebooting his Caillou game on his old laptop ("I need help!"). To give me a kiss. And to inform me my door should remain open.

Make that 13 times.

Ooops -- now it's 14 ...

The Mommy is In. Always.

Random Query

Q: How many underpants does one boy need over 5 days?



(that's eighteen ... 18!!!)

SOOC Saturday: Point & ...

James' dad has upgraded his cell phone. Thi smakes James v. happy, because guess who gets to play with the old one (and the built-in camera)?

James pursues his interests with great enthusiasm. The shot above was taken at a recent outing to the DeYoung Museum (yes, again).

If you are wondering what his pictures look like well ...

Let's just say he gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "point and ....shoot!"

The Slurping Life is taking care of the present. Why not take a moment to visit Melody and check out SOOC Saturday/Sunday entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC Saturday


Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Reading Program

We have loved the Summer Reading Club put on by our local Library for several summers. James has watched his big sister participate, and this year he signed up for the first time and read a book every week.

Besides getting to know the library and librarians better, there were actual prizes! Book bags and picking out a book of his own at the completion of the program.

Today we filled out his last entry, and James picked out this book:
I think it's a wonderful choice, because this truly is what he's interested in right now.

Here is his Summer Reading list:
Week 1: Sign up
Week 2: Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom (also read at summer school)
Week 3: Five Little Monkeys (also read at summer school)
Week 4: Teddy Bears Take the Train
Week 5: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (also read at summer school)
Week 6: How Does a Dinosaur Say Goodnight? (renewed interest from Dino summer camp)
Week 7: Henry's Show and Tell (sister picked out for him)
Week 8: Olivia's Opposites

Horns of a Dilemma

James is currently fixated on playing as much of his Caillou game CD ROM as possible. I know that bad things happen to his temper if he's allowed to play it for too long. On the other hand, he sings along, talks more, and runs to me and gives me kisses before announcing "I need help!"

It's kind of hard for me, sometimes, to cut the cute short. Especially when he occasionally breaks up a playing session to dance around and sing about butterflies, or matching socks ...

4 Counties, 3 Appts, 2 People, 1 Day

Yesterday I had to drive about 150 miles (round-trip) through 4 counties to get James to 3 appointments. Over a 7-hour period.

Were we crying and exhausted by 4pm? Well, only a little bit.

Was it worth it? Yes.

The best was the first (and farthest) appointment, at the tail end of gnarly commute. We spent over an hour with one physical therapist in a brand-spanking new building to formally evaluate James' muscle development through our HMO. The program and department are (I think) less than 2 years old, which is why I hadn't heard about it when I first asked that James be referred for a formal diagnosis almost 3.5 years back.

I really liked this woman. I felt she not only really listened to me but also that she was really observing James, asking good questions, looking at movements I hadn't seen him examined about before ... and she even gave me a great suggestion to take to kindergarten regarding playground safety for my boy. Awesome.

The other 2 appointments were the well-check so his health certificate could be signed and prepared for Kindergarten, and an immunization shot (MMR -- youch).

On a different note, James loved the huge blueberry muffin from Peets just before his first appointment, and his delighted, vanilla ice cream-covered face at Fentons made more than a few people smile back at him. And he was so happy that all he had to do this morning was wake up and go to summer camp (and play in the water).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why Can't He Talk?

James' older sister asked a killer question this morning: "Why can't James talk? Why can't he say things the way I can?"

We've had variations on this subject before, where I've explained that he can talk, and that he's much better than he used to be ... that most people do things in their own time and way.

This morning, we talked about how sometimes the parts of the brain that control what we want to say and the parts that control the muscles we use to talk sometimes don't work right or can't talk with each other very well. It got me thinking about aphasia and some people having to be trained to relearn to speak. The people who want to use one word, but have another come out instead.

I've seen James want to tell me something -- I can read it on his face and in his eyes. I'll watch his mouth open and shut and hear strange sounds come out of his throat. Often, I never get to hear that thought. I've seen him blissfully happy, doing his verbal stimming of "Eeeeee-eeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!" I've heard him do some beautiful mimicking, and scripting things he's heard from tv shows and using them as conversation soundbites -- appropriately too.

I wish I could watch what happens to my son's brain as he struggles to master speech, and understand what is said to him. I wish I has successful progressions to compare it with, so I could maybe figure out a better way to help him not struggle so much to communicate. I wish we could have some of those "why is the sky blue?" conversations.

I am very happy he's come as far as he has. Three years ago, he was nonverbal. Tonight I asked him to find his dad to tell him dinner is ready and he did just that. I still have questions, though. What can I do to help? Why is it so tough for him? What do I tell my daughter when the next question comes up about why her brother is so different?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

SOOC Saturday: New! New! New!

New play/activity alert! James was left to his own devices yesterday morning, and asked me to take down the toy parrot that records what you say and plays it back to you, in annoying, unpredictable bursts. Because he was playing so nicely and not interested in watching videos, I was all for it. (Also, I was picking up the I Spy pigsty, and was glad to have him absorbed in an activity)

Turns out he wanted to play, and have the stuffed toy parrot talk to the talking one. OMG, it was awesomely cute!

For the first time ever, he made one object talk with one voice and made a different voice for the other. He made one be the mommy and the other the baby, with the baby kissing the mommy on the beak. I died a thousand cute deaths watching this.

Then he practiced his social cues:
-- "How are you?"
-- "I'm fine. How are you?"

And then he made them play with each other. All of it completely new (well, at least for me to see it in action).

His sister woke up, upon hearing the unaccustomed sounds of someone else playing out loud with toys so early in the morning. She could not decide at first whether to be charmed with the toy animal play (in which she also loves to indulge) or pout that James was playing with a toy that her Dad bought just for her. Luckily, she's a good-natured big sister, and they had a lot of giggles, even playing together for a bit.

This is right up there with the first time he called me "Mommy."

The Slurping Life shares many unique moments in life, especially with SOOC Saturday/Sunday. Please visit to see entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC Saturday


Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Spy ... a Pigsty

There are days when I feel like I am running all day after the kids, trying to clean up after them (and their disasters), or overseeing their efforts to pick up after every meal or play session. There are even rare days when I can just about break even (those are probably the days spent largely outdoors).

But mostly? Our family room and the kids' bedrooms resemble the Real Life version of I Spy:

You know -- it started out as a clever series of books. It's probably a game on CD ROM or an iPhone app by now ...

And James is really liking the books right now. It lets him practice things he's covered in school, like colours, numbers, and names of objects. When he's gotten frustreated adn ripped off covers of some of his board books (and eaten them) ... the I Spy books escape mauling (knock wood).
"Who me? Harm a book? Naaaahhh!"

I like these books because they are great resources for getting James to talk with me. He related to a lot of the exciting objects in the books. If only he related to cleaning them up and putting them away on his own in the Real Life version ...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Special Exp. / Wordless Weds: The Classic Game

We never seem to tire of Peek-a-Boo. This was poolside, while waiting for big sister's swim lesson to be over.
(Yes, he needs a hair trim. I am gearing up mentally to deal with that ordeal.)

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fundraising With the Monkey

We are still trying to raise money to help keep the CATS Program going. Tonight was a fundraiser at a local business, the Funky Monkey. We met up with some other families and enjoyed pizza, chicken strips, and socializing. We chewed the fat on therapists, IEPs, and plans for the coming school year. At one point, all the kids were in the birthday room, watching SpongeBob Square Pants.

Of course, there are also games, with tokens. James just focused on mastering the sentence "I want more mo-nies, pease." A couple of times I prompted him to say tokens, but the boy knows that monies is monies, pure and simple.

James actually did play for a bit with myself, his sister, and watch a couple of other kids at play. But his real fascination is:

Oh. Yeah!

Magic Marker Monday: Poolside Notes

Even though it's really Tuesday right now, I'd like to share with you some of the drawings James did recently while waiting for his sister to finish her swim lesson.

It's tough to keep Jame occupied around a pool, without letting him get wet in the water. Even though he loves to playy in the water, he can't sit still and take instruction for a regular group session. So while his sister can take the plunge in the morning, he need to be occupied on dry land.

This year I brought along a cheap, spiral notebook and a pen. This was to protect the class login binder from James more than anything else. Imagine the happy shock I felt when he actually stayed at the table, paging through the notebook and solemnly scribbling on each page.

Then I was able to sit down with him, re-arrange his grip on the pen, and help him draw some circles. After a few of those, I guided his hand to draw in eyes. Then James said "Need a nose!" and he drew it! Then he decided to add hair, a shirt, arms, legs, and a toe. I guided him with my hand over his, but he knew what he wanted to do:

Then we turned to another scribbled page, and he asked to help him draw Goofy, so we did, talking about the features as we added them. Than he asked for Mickey ... but then his patience gave out and he wriggled away. Still, I was impressed. This was practically a conversation for him. And I suspect he had fun and enjoyed us working together while his attention was on the project.
(Apologies to the Disney Toon Family)

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

Special Needs Blog Photobucket

Saturday, July 17, 2010

SOOC: Wishes, Birthday & Others

First, Happy 55th birthday to Disneyland -- a place that really understands wishes ...
wishing on a star

... bright colours & fun ...
have some birthday flowers and a hat or 2

... and how to treat kids with special needs like every other special and loved child who comes through their gates:
Mickey gives James a big hug, for the 5th time that weekend

I've loved it before my first visit in '77. James' big sister had her first visit when she was 18 months old and we were expecting him. James' father had many childhood visits, and shares a birthday with the Haunted Mansion. James' first trip where he could see everything was when he was 6 months old. He was such a cutie that I came off a ride with my daughter and found a crowd of picture-snapping tourists around him. My husband said he thought it was a group from China.
baby James' first visit to Disneyland

I have found that one either gets the Disneyland warm fuzzies or ... they don't. I'm in the first group. Add to that:
  • Watching my kids grow up, meeting family and friends, smiling wonderful smiles.
  • Being in a place where I am temporarily trade in wishes for effective IEPs, helpful services for James, and hopes for a verbal son who isn't stigmatized for wishes to share good memories, rides and laughter with those I love.
  • Remembering my still largely non-verbal son saying an unexpected early sentence from the back of the van "We're going to Dis-nee-lan' -- Yayyyyyy!!" as we headed to the parks.
  • Watching the characters interact patiently with the small cute boy who doesn't seem to respond to their greetings and social questions, but who afterward treasures the memories they helped create.

And yeah, Disneyland is a magic place to me. I really like these photos, which are hardly Kodak-worthy, but capture for me the feeling of what it was really like to be there with the kids:
riding the Casey Jr Train while the kids were still little

James and the Matterhorn -- this view will change!

James' ability to tolerate certain rides fluctuates, but his big loves remain constant: Mickey Mouse and ... the Small World ride:
iasw at night

James, loving the Small World ride

So thank you, Disneyland -- for being a great place to visit and to feel like we have more in common with other parents and families than not. Thanks for understanding the kinds of wishes children and grownups have, and helping them come true.

The Slurping Life is taking a trip down Memory Lane too. Visit Melody and check out SOOC Saturday/Sunday entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC Saturday


Friday, July 16, 2010

Saved By Summer Camp

I love James .... BUT ... having to watch him almost constantly while he is in the house and I am trying to get things done? Oh my. We have yelling, frustration, and sky-high blood pressure. Not all the time, mind you, but he has the uncanny knack of unspooling cassette tapes, stuffing toilet paper in the toilet, and teasing his sister into fits of yelling when I need to finish an email, phone call, or a thought.

Right now he also has a DVD fixation, and will push chairs into position so he can climb high to get to all the DVDs and their boxes. Then he'll carry them to the sofa and take everything out, mess them up, and spin the DVDs on his finger or in their cases. Then he'll go get his blankets. Arrange everything Just So. Then dump them all on the floor so he can go get his Ring Toss Game. Lather, rinse, repeat. We have a fine mess at the end. Which he cleans up, but I have to be Right There, guiding him through every step. Over, and over, and over ..... AUGH!

We have a six-week gap between the end of summer school and the beginning of (choke) Kindergarten. In the past, we're been able to use some Regional Center-funded respite hours at the speech therapist's, or for physical therapy sessions. Win, win, win, win, IMO. But, funding cuts and crises ... it's a big no-can-do currently. Add to this more anxiety on my behalf that James needs an extra boost before starting Kindergarten this fall in a mainstream class and you get a very angst-y Mom under pressure. Cooking.

Enter Summer Camp for preschoolers. It's run by the city's Parks & Rec department, so it's local and we're not spending time on the under construction roads, burning gas and fraying tempers. The costs are eminently reasonable, so we can actually afford to pay for the sessions (while supporting local jobs). This is the third year that James has attended the summer camps for preschoolers, so everyone is pretty familiar with each other.

Three mornings a week, James is occupied indoors and out with toys, games, crafts, and activities with his peers and caring adults. I get to spend some quality time with my daughter. We both get some peace and quiet hours. I can actually string more than half a thought together and Get Things Done. Priceless.

Bonus: once again, his language skills are taking a huge jump forward. Even though he is not happy about having to go to Summer Camp (this is the first time he's told me he doesn't want to go), once there he runs into the midst of things and, I am told, has a great morning, participating in all activities.

He has taken up an interest in dinosaurs and plays dinosaur pretend games now. He's painted pictures at an easel. He's been listening to stories. He has the chance to run around and play with other kids. The interest in DVDs is starting to slack off a tad. I now hear him say things like "I already did that" and "Mommy, can I ha' some 'ater?" He's getting into writing and drawing more.

Thank you, Summer Camp! If your dinosaur session is this great, I can hardly wait until the water play one. Oh, and I love the glitter action:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The kids found something new to play this week: Parade! I remember doing this with my brother. Singing, making music with instruments of all sorts. Sometimes bringing along our dolls and stuffed animals.

James' big sister led the way with her princess wand and musical feather. James followed enthusiastically with his yellow feather/horn. At their grandparents' house, they had actual play trumpets. They seemed just as happy with the feathers.

Cheers, kids! I kind of like this shot best: you can see several holidays' worth of decorations on top of the piano. So handy for things like that.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Magic Marker Monday: Digging the Pad

I am always looking for new things that can engage James in creative ways. Sometimes I forget how satisfying a really big pad of paper on the ground can be. With crayons and pencils (of which we have dozens).

James carefully got out the pad and neatly extracted the crayons from their box. I think he just loved having all that paper to flip and decorate at once. Big drawing pads are fabulous:

We had circles, lines, and outlines of James' hand. He got excited and did shorter lines with dots. He called out colours and shapes. I noticed he drew using his right hand, then changed over to his left:

Further proof that getting there is half the fun. He also got a kick out of putting everything carefully away. This is new. I like it!

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.
Special Needs Blog Photobucket

Saturday, July 10, 2010

SOOC Saturday: Lenses

I forget which setting I was trying out on my "new" point & shoot. I was curious to see what it did. James at the playground was fair game:

You know, I remember when he was afraid to go on that thing, let alone ride it. The unpredictable, wobbly motion was just too much for him, as much as he wanted to play with his big sister on them. I've been cleaning house a bit lately and trying to let go of seeing the kids and life in my back-in-the-past mommy lens. It's a hard, hard thing. Especially when I keep taking pics like these:

... and:

If I tell myself it's really about art and experimenting with my camera settings, it's a step in the right direction, yes?

The Slurping Life is all about life and love. Visit Melody and check out SOOC Saturday/Sunday entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC Saturday