Sunday, February 28, 2010

Science Playdate

I belong to an international club called MOMS Club. MOMS stands for Moms Offering Moms Support. Even though I sometimes feel like the other mothers in our local chapter aren't quite my usual crowd, it has really become a valuable resource for me and Jonah. It has been a great way to meet other stay at home moms in our new area, and even though we don't always agree on lifestyle choices, I have made quite a few good friends. I'm sure they all think that I'm weird, but they accept my weirdness and that is the best I could ask for from any friend. If you are interested in this group, go to their website You might have a chapter near you, or be able to start one!

One of the things that we do as a local chapter is play group. There are often several playgroups in a month, and one person hosts a very over the top themed playgroup. Last month, it was Winter Wonderland. The mother had paper plate ice skating, an indoor "snowball" fight, and they built marshmallow snowmen for a snack.

This month, they were having trouble finding someone to host the play group. I was hesitant, because every time I take Jonah to play group, the children are all very much older than him and we typically have to leave early because of his behavior towards the other children or the property of the hostess.

But, no one else volunteered and I did have some really fun ideas. So I decided to host a Science themed play group! I am really, very glad that I did. Some people are asking me how in the world I planned this, so I thought I'd blog about it. It really didn't take me long at all, and the materials that I used are extremely easy to get. Most of them, you probably already have around your house!

Crafts (we called them experiments for this playgroup!): There's always at least one craft at the big playgroup, sometimes two. I decided to do two, because one is very quick and easy, and the other one can be done by younger children as well as older children. The first craft was Flubber.
No one knows why, but kids love this stuff! They love making it too. I can't describe the moment of wonder that comes across their face when they suddenly realize that the contents in their cup has become this gooey little treasure. Making flubber is incredibly easy. I mix a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 Elmer's school glue (I find that brand does make a difference here!) in a water bottle or a washed out soda bottle. When I have a lot of kids, I mix it it 2 liter bottles. I also mix a solution (okay, technically it's a suspension...) of water and Borax. I just keep adding borax to the water until it no longer dissolves. I use an empty water bottle for this, too. Borax is a laundry additive and is usually between the Oxyclean and bleach at the store. When it is time to do our experiment, each child gets a dixie cup and popsicle stick (or whatever stirring device you have handy- spoons work well too) I put a bit of the glue solution in each cup and give them a choice of two colors. If you have more than two choices, it can get chaotic. For coloring, I use poster paint. You can water it down in one of those travel toiletries bottles, you don't need a whole lot. Paint works much better than food coloring. I add the paint of choice to the child's glue and tell them to stir it, so the glue becomes colored. Then I add the borax solution, just a few drops at a time, and tell them to keep stirring. Voila. Flubber is born. If it is too gooey, then you need more borax, if it is too wet/watery then just let it sit and dry for a few minutes. The longer you play with it, the more flubbery it becomes! I like to encourage the kids to figure out if it bounces, what happens if you let it "drip" and then what happens if you pull it apart quickly. They love this stuff! For more on the science behind it, do a quick google on "Flubber" or "Borax Silly Putty" or any of these combos. When the children are done, place the flubber in a ziploc baggie and label it with their name.

The second craft/experiment we did was chromatography butterflies, or tie die butterflies.I chose this one because even the older babies and young toddlers could do it, and I knew we'd have a mix of ages. The child colors on a coffee filter with washable magic marker. It has to be washable, both for cleaning purposes as well as for best results on the "experiment." I gave each child a paper plate to put under their filter, so that the marker didn't get anywhere. When the children are done coloring, they use q-tips to paint water onto the filter. The filter will draw the water in, and spread the dyes around. For older kids, I encourage them to look at the colors around the edges of the spreading. Black markers tend to spread purples and blues. Then you let the kids go and do hands on activities, or eat snack, while the filters are drying. When they are dry, bunch the filter up in the middle and use a pipe cleaner to create the body and hold the wings in place.

Activities: We provided a lot of hands on activity centers for the children to explore with our guidance. There were going to be a lot of younger children here as well as the older children, so I wanted to make sure there were activities for all of the age groups. Ages ranged from 6 months to 6 years!

For the babies, I set out a few different board books and picture cards. I also had our shaker bottles.

Everyone enjoyed the bubbles, and a huge favorite were the Nuudles. The kids across the age board loved these things!
They are made of corn starch, and when you wet the edges, they stick to eachother! Some brands of packing peanuts are the same exact thing, but they are not colorful. I got a huge box of these colored peanuts for only $5 at Hobby Lobby and put them in baking pans on the floor. The older kids enjoyed building structures, while the littler guys liked to just dig in them, hold them, throw them... and yes, lick them.

Here are the only structures that survived until the end of playgroup.Another favorite across the age groups was the balloons table. I put some racecars that use a balloon as a "motor" and the kids had races with them. I also had some rocket balloons that fly across the room with a screeching sound when they are blown up and released, and good old fashioned balloons for the kids to create static in eachother's hair!

I also did a little demonstration using dry ice. You can find tons of experiments with dry ice on the web. If you want to see the demos that I did, google "boo bubbles" "dry ice crystal ball" and "dry ice bubbles" I chose the demos that use bubbles, because I knew that the babies could enjoy that too. The kids loved it, and we spent almost an hour popping cloudy bubbles!

Snack: The snack was probably the hardest thing for me to plan. I wanted it to fit with the theme. After doing some searching on the internet, I decided to create a "Snack Lab"I set out items that the kids could use to make their own party mix style snack. I invited them to mix and measure the ingredients as if they were in a science lab, making a chemical experiment. The kids loved the dramatic play! I set out regular items, but labeled them with new science names. We had: Science Squares- cheezits; Proton Pretzel Rays-mini pretzel sticks; Sugar Modules-mini marshmallows; Galactic Chocolate Discs-mini chips ahoy; Whole Grain Particle-O's- whole grain cheerios; and Apple Particle O's-apple jacks.

The finale was the Atomic Punch. We used dry ice, left over from the demo, to turn the punch into "soda." I gathered the kids around the snack table, and placed one large solid piece of dry ice into the bottom of the punch bowl. This makes for a really neat effect in the punch, especially if you use a cool color of punch such as blue or green. The dry ice creates a fog around the surface of the bowl, makes the punch icy cold, and gives it a little carbonation (a nice alternative to that old 7-up punch that everyone's mom makes!)
Please note that dry ice can be very dangerous. It is -109 degrees F. That is extremely cold and could seriously burn any wandering hands that come into contact with it. If you choose to have it at your play group, BE VIGILANT and let the other parents know that they must, also. Never leave dry ice unattended or where children can reach it. For the punch, make sure that you place just one solid piece into the bowl, so no one gets any stray pieces in their drink. Instruct parents to ladle only from the top of the bowl, don't dip down to the bottom, and don't let any kids stick their hands into the bowl (trust me, it's enticing for them to do so!)

If you want to get dry ice, it is actually very easy an fairly cheap. Most refrigeration or coolant places will have it. If you search "dry ice + your city name" a vendor will come up. Take a cooler and some newspaper to pack it in, and keep it in a cool dry area. DON'T put it in your freezer, but keep it in the cooler and place the cooler in your garage, basement, or outside if it is cold.

I am very pleased with how the play group went! I know it looks like a lot of work, but most of the preparation was setting things out that I already had around the house. This was the first playgroup that Jonah and I have hosted at our house, and we're looking forward to having friends over for playdates and play groups more often!

Life is a Day at the Beach

I'm going to be very upfront and let it be known that I'm an ocean girl. Put me in a place with water, sand, and waves, and I'm one satisfied being. I could very easily live the rest of my life as a beach bum, and be perfectly content.

This gravitation towards the oceanic life is most definitely brought about by some of the most- probably THE most- happy memories I have of my childhood. Once a year, my parents would truck the entire family from Northern Ohio to Florida to visit my dad's family. Our visits were full of orange picking, pool swimming, and of course lots and lots of trips to the beach.This was me, about twenty two years ago. I was doing the activity that I loved most in all of the world. Collecting seashells. And yes, I rocked those flip flops! Today if you had been at the beach on Hutchinson Island FL, you would have seen that same little girl, twenty two years older, bent down in the sand with a red bucket, examining the treasures that have washed ashore. My hair has turned darker, and my sense of style is.. well, better (no more bright blue shorts and pastel flip flops!) but other than that, I can't think of much that would be different about this picture had it been taken today.

I suppose the biggest difference would have been the toddler riding along merrily on my back. He seemed just as content as me, being lulled into the rhythm of the waves rolling in and out. The breeze was cool, but the sun was warm, which has quite a calming effect. It wasn't long after our toes hit the sand that I delved into my childhood task, which so many years ago had seemed like the most important thing anyone could undertake. I stood with my husband and child for a few moments, studying the high wave caps. Scanning for pelicans and other marine birds. But shortly my gaze dropped down to those precious treasures that lay right where the dry sand meets the wetness of the tide. I suddenly found myself using the names that my siblings, cousins, and I had conjured for these most prized shells. "Look, an olive shell!" and "Ooooh, a turkey wing, those are cool." or "oh, there's the perfect butterfly clam!" Now, I have no idea what the proper names of these particular kinds of shells are, and I have no idea how we came up with them. I have a distinct memory of a pocket sized book, that had a blue cover, that gave the names for different shells. I am imagining that our names were the childish renditions of names we saw in the book, or we simply called them what they reminded us of. As I was calling these things out with great glee to my husband, and I went to tell him "I need the bucket out of the beach bag!" the look on his face told me how far I had reverted back to my childhood.

As we walked further down the beach, I realized that I am not the only person sent reeling back to youth by the sight of sea shells washing up onto the beach. I saw the same look, the same feeling of wonder, on every person we met walking up and down the beach. Everyone between the ages of two years to eighty two years. It warmed my heart to realize that some things have no age boundaries, and there will always be a little something, some place in this world, that keeps the inner child alive, no matter how old the external body grows.

Jonah enjoyed his first visit to the beach. He loved when I would squat down, letting the water come around my toes and ankles, and just out of his reach. Every time a wave would come, I would squat down and we would both squeel with glee as the water came rushing all around us. The ocean is still too cold this time of year to swim in, and I could feel the briskness welling up around my calves as the water soaked through my pants. But the sun was warm enough that I was only cold for a few moments. Hearing my son laugh, while we walked along the beach, was put on my list of "life's happiest moments." It's on the list, right in between breastfeeding Jonah for the first time, and hearing Daryl's wedding vows.

About forty minutes into the walk, Jonah became very mezmerized by the waves. I noticed him watching the ocean very intently, and gradually his eyes started getting heavier and heavier. Soon, I felt him snuggle his head into my shoulder blade, and I knew he had drifted off to sleep. The sounds of the ocean, the reliability of the waves coming in, and out, and in and out. It has a hypnotizing effect. I could have lay down in that exact spot and fell into a deep sleep myself.

Slowly we made our way back to the car. We stopped at the burger stand for a nice lunch overlooking the beach, and drove back to our hotel.

Friday, February 26, 2010

First Day of Early Interventions Group Class

This week was Jonah's first Early Interventions (EI) class. The class combines occupational and speech therapy into a group setting. It was a little bittersweet to take him. I was excited to see him playing with children who are more on his level, developmentally. A lot of times when he is with his peers, he is quite timid because they are running around and yelling. Other times this makes him aggressive, and he'll knock other children over out of frustration. Sometimes I think he knocks them over because he honestly doesn't know how to play with them, because they are running and walking, and he can't keep up with the game.

So it was kind of nice to see children who are his age and at his cognitive level, but also not yelling and running etc. He enjoyed the free time, when the children were allowed to go to whatever center they wanted to in the room. He played with the textured balls along with another little boy, and then moved on to the Little People sets with a sweet girl.

He did not, however, like the "Circle Time." Circle time is kind of a hot word in preschool and early ed right now. In just about any daycare or preschool you go to, you'll hear them brag about their "circle times." For those of you who are curious, it is just a time for the class to come together, sing songs together, and do certain activities as a group. In the EI class, the goal of circle time is to play games that strengthen the children's balance, motor skills, and verbal skills. We sang songs that had motions. Even though they are songs we sing at home and that he loves, he did not want to dance with the other children. He clung to me, like a little koala bear. If we tried to pry him off, to get him to play the game, he would not only cling harder, but climb higher up my body. At one point, I thought he was going to climb right over my back trying to get out of that group!

I am hoping that it will only take a few weeks for him to get used to that environment. He used to be the same way with our music class, and he has really begun to get more comfortable and participate there. I'm hoping it will be the same with EI, or else it won't do him much good.

I did enjoy learning from the therapists who run the class, different methods of introducing what we are working on into our daily routine. I was getting frustrated before the class, because I felt that I already work so many of these things into our day to day lives. I talk to him about EVERYTHING. Constantly talking, just telling him about the world and hoping that one day he will repeat a word back to me- any word, I swear if he said "sock" while I was folding the laundry, I would probably shout out to the streets! But he never seems to care. We also encourage him to walk everywhere, rather than carrying him we hold his hands and walk him to his high chair or to his potty etc. We do lots of music. I get puppets out and we practice the animal sounds and different phonetic sounds. During bath times, I find myself talking like a lunatic "You have a B-Ball in your B-Bath! And a B-Boat! That B-Boat is B-Blue!!!" and so on.

I really was at the end of the road for ideas of introducing the concepts and motor skills that Jonah needs to learn, into our activities. And I was frustrated and upset. But talking to the therapists really helped me to get some fresh ideas, and a new approach to certain things. One of the suggestions they had was to put pictures everywhere of familiar objects and people, and to make a little family book that is just for him, that he can get and look at whenever he wants. And whenever he is looking at it, just tell him "That is Mommy! That is Daddy!" I really like this idea, and have already started to put familiar pictures where he has access to them. I don't know why I didn't think of it before, as we did it in my preschool room. It just never occurred to me to do it in the home.

We also discussed the orthopedic surgeon and his walking issues. There is definitely something wrong with his feet. When I do the exercises that his pediatrician has shown me, I realized that I cannot even push his foot to go flat like a normal foot does. Even with me pushing up on it, it remains pointed down and the arches of his feet turn out. His feet are always in the "tip toe" position, even when he is trying to walk. He will be needing x-rays and a series of diagnostic testing to see exactly what will help him the best. I was really worried about the cost of these tests. We've been running into resistance from our insurance to pay for certain things, and medical testing adds up. I wasn't focusing on the "price tag" or wondering if it's "worth it" I was just wondering how we are going to pay for these expenses on top of the expenses of a new baby on the way. When you're already immensely worried that something is physically or medically wrong with your child, it adds about a million pounds to the load of worry when the thought of cost comes up.

The EI nurse gave me some information about a program through the county that will help with the expenses. I always feel guilty about considering county-funded programs because they are funded of course by tax dollars. I feel like I am taking something that is not mine. But my family has reminded me that I do pay taxes as well, and in fact if I didn't need to pay taxes then the medical expenses wouldn't be difficult for us to pay. My little boy needs it, so I will swallow my pride and fill out the paperwork. We need the help, especially when considering that his speech therapy alone may cost us $150 per session.

We will definitely be continuing to go to the EI classes. If in two months, he is still freaking out about being in the group, I may consider some other options, just because he can't focus enough to get anything out of it when he's like that. But for now, I definitely see the good in it. Since starting the early interventions program and keeping in contact with the therapists about certain things over the course of his testing etc, we've been able to make a lot of progress with him. He will now tell you that a cow says "ooo" (his version of moo.) He will look at a picture of a cow and say "0oo" or pick up a cow puppet or figure and say "ooo." He can also tell you that a sheep says "aaaa" (his version of baa). And if you ask him what a birdie says, he'll say "Wo Wo" (woof woof) You might think he is confused, but Jonah's birdie really does say "woof woof." Daryl thought it would be hilarious to teach his mother's parrot to say "woof woof" so now that is the bird's favorite thing to say. If you say to Jonah "No, your birdie says woof woof, but what about the other birdies?" SOMEtimes he'll say "teeeeeteeeeeteee" But most of the time you would have to say it first. This is great progress that I am not sure we would have made had it not been for what we are finding out through the therapists and doctors.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thank God for Baby Signs

My last post was about Jonah and his "baby signing." Jonah knows about twenty signs at this point. I have posted in the past about our signing, but I don't do it as frequently as I should. I am trying to post about it more, as it has become something completely invaluable in our lives.

Jonah does not talk. Not verbally anyway, he does not say a single word. He used to call me "Momom" and he had started to call Daryl "Daddy" but he was never very consistent about either of those words. The only things that he verbalizes currently are "dadadada" (only in babble, not meaning Daryl) "woo woo" (which he repeats after the parrot, who says "woof woof") and "eeehhhh" (his version of "yay")

As I have said in previous posts, he is in early interventions partially for this reason. We are seeking personalized speech therapy. Many mothers have asked me if I regret teaching Jonah signs, or if I am going to stop signing to "force" him to speak verbally. The answers are, respectively, no and no.

On the contrary, I am thankful that Jonah knows how to sign. Without Jonah's signs, I would have no idea what my child wants or needs. He would not be able to tell us basic things. He would not be able to tell me when he has to potty (he can even tell me whether he has to pee or poop!) He would not be able to tell me when he is hungry or thirsty. He would not be able to tell me when he wants his special gorilla, when we've had a "miss" and he needs a diaper change, when he's full at mealtime. He wouldn't be able to tell me what he is thinking about or noticing, like if he sees the dog or his shoes. He would not be able to communicate anything to us. Can you imagine living in a world where you had no words or any way to communicate? If you had to rely on crude gestures like pointing, and crying, to tell people what you need? That would be the most frustrating thing that anyone could experience, in my opinion.

And I have witnessed this frustration of not being able to communicate first hand. When Jonah wants or needs something, and he has no sign for it, the tantrum that ensues is or mammoth proportions. He gets frustrated, and upset, and I get frustrated and upset soon after. When Jonah learns a new sign, the amount of crying in this household is decreased dramatically.

I do not believe that Jonah's signing has anything to do with his speech delay. As a cognitive psychologist who has studied language acquisition and child development both in the lab and in casual observation, I can say with confidence that there is absolutely nothing that suggests signing will lead to a delay in speech. There are so many variables that interact to cause a delay in speech, especially in Jonah's case. On the contrary, I believe that signing can help a child who has a speech delay, by strengthening the connections between words, meanings, and communication.

So no, we will not be taking this valuable tool away from my son. I will not ignore his signs until he produces the verbal word. I think that to do so would be detrimental not only to his emotional well-being, but also to the work we are doing with him to get him to speak.

And everytime he crawls to me and signs "Milk" I do not curse at the thought that he cannot verbally say the word. Instead, I say "thank god he has the tools to tell me what he needs right now!"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Signing Bath

One of Jonah's newest signs is "bath." It amazes me that this child hated baths just a few months ago! Over the summer, we gradually had to introduce him into the pool and the bath tub. One day we would just fill the tub or pool and let him get used to the noise and the whole routine. Then another day we would encourage him to splash in the water. We took baby steps like this all the way until he would let us put him in the water.

Now, he absolutely loves bath time, and will even ask me for a bath! He will splash and play with his boats until the water is absolutely cold, and his hands and toes look like little raisins. Then he throws a fit when we take him out and drain the water. I am really looking forward to our family vacation in Florida this weekend, because the resort we are staying at has a nice pool. It will be too cold to go in the ocean yet, but I know Jonah will love the pool!

He does not yet understand the difference between a bath and the pool. When we look at pictures of him playing in the pool from the summer, he signs "bath." Today, he would not stop signing it, so I was glad he needed a bath anyway!

Here is a video of Jonah signing "Bath"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Eggsellent Activity!

Earlier this week, I had to go to the Target pharmacy to get Jonah's prescription filled for his ear infection. While we were waiting for the prescription, we took a peek in the dollar aisle. The dollar aisle at target often has fun little items that Jonah and I use for activities. I don't get anything from Target for saying this, I just want other Mommies to know that if you are looking for some new activities, Target usually has some things if you get creative.

This week, they have their Easter items out. Easter is on April 4th this year, so I thought it was a little early for that. But, we found some cute boucey balls that are shaped like easter eggs. They are large enough that they aren't a choking hazard (although I wouldn't leave a child unsupervised with them) but they are small enough that Jonah can palm them easily. They came in packs of two, so I got four packs, making eight eggs. Then I found a small felt basket with a cute little chick on it. Perfect! An activity that Jonah will love, for just $5.

I decided yesterday to give it a try. I put all of the eggs into the basket and showed Jonah how to dump them out. Jonah pretty much already knows this game, because we play it all the time with other items. He clapped his hands and then put them back into the basket one by one, while we counted them. Then, he dumped them all back out again and clapped.

He explored them in other ways, as well. He threw them, of course, but was very surprised when they bounced. I think it kind of scared him. He also tried tasting one, but absolutely hated the texture on his tongue. He hid them all and then went back to find them, putting them again into the basket.

In the end, he went back to putting them in, and dumping them out. He could do an activity like this all day and not get tired of it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jonah and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Hello to all of my readers out there. This is Jonah. Mommy is taking the day off from blogging, so it's up to me to fulfill the duties to all of my fans.

You would not believe the day that I just had! First of all, I woke up in a strange place. It took me a while to remember that it was Gigi's and Papaw's house. I was scared, so I cried until Mommy came to get me for breakfast. Then she put me straight into the high chair after changing my diaper. All she gave me for breakast was cold cereal. Can you believe that? Just plain old kix! Where are my eggs? Where are my pancakes? I could see this day was getting off to a bumpy start.

Then, I'd barely finished eating my lousy breakast when she came and got me, and put me in the van. I was still in my pajamas! Mom had lost a screw, I think. I sat in the car for a really long time. At least mommy kept it nice and warm. She kept telling me we were going home. I just sat and sat, and then when we got out of the car, mom was right- we were home!

Then she put me straight into the high chair again and fed me lunch. I didn't even get to see my toys! But, I was hungry so I guess that was okay. Except then, she didn't let me play even after I ate. I had to go take a nap! She said I needed to take a nap because I hadn't taken one in the car. She said we still had a busy schedule today, and wished that I would cooperate. So I went right to bed and took a nap. I guess I was really sleepy.

Then Mommy woke me up just an hour later. She put nice clothes on me and put my fancy cloth diapers on me. I knew something was going on, because mommy only ever dresses me like this if we are going out somewhere. Straight back to the high chair I went. I just wanted to play with my toys! But she gave me yummy cereal bars for snack. Then right back into the car we went.

Where were we going this time? I decided to act up a bit, to let Mommy know that I wasn't happy. I just wanted to play! The car stopped for a long time, and I could tell Mommy was getting mad. She kept saying something about a big train being stopped, and we were going to be late. I didn't care about being late for whatever it was, I just wanted to get out of my carseat! So I took off my shoes and threw them. It seemed logical at the time! Since my shoes were off, I figured I might as well keep going, so my socks came off and I threw those into the back seat, and then my mittens, and then my hat. This train thing was taking a long time, and I needed something to do!

Finally, Mommy opened the car door. Guess where we were. Go on, just guess. The doctor's office. Of all the places she had to take me to, it had to be the doctor's office!!! Mommy was mad that I had taken all of my things off and thrown them. If I knew where we were going, I would have hid them all better.

The doctor was no fun at all, let me tell you! She put that metal thing on my chest and wouldn't even let me pull it. Then she stuck a stick in my mouth and poked at my teeth! Then she stuck something in my ear, and my ear was owie! I screamed and screamed, and all Mommy did was hold my hands and tell me that it's okay. But it wasn't okay! I did not like the doctor today at all! Then Mommy talked to the doctor for a very long time. I just wanted to go play. Mommy wasn't listening to me, so I yelled even louder so she'd get the point. Then I pulled all of the paper off of the table I was sitting on. I made a big mess, and I was happy about that! Finally, the doctor left and mommy got me dressed. But the nurse came back in and Mommy laid me down on the table. I knew exactly what that meant! That nurse gives me needles, and needles are owie! I didn't want them, so I started to scream. They gave them to me anyway, and Mommy just let that nurse do it! She gave me a lollypop, but I was mad at her until we left that place.

And then Mommy had to go and get needles, too! At least she knows how it feels. Mommy's needles took a long time, but since I was mad at her I just sat in my stroller and read my book. I didn't even give her hugs and kisses when she was done. I was still mad.

Finally we got in the car. We're going home! But when Mommy opened the door this time, we were at the medicine place. We weren't home. Mommy put me in a shopping cart and went to talk to a lady about some medicine. Mommy told me that my ear needed medicine, and when we got it, we would go home. But the medicine place isn't just for medicine, they have all kinds of stuff there. Shoes and clothes and food and toys. Mommy made me go and try on shoes. I did not want to do it! I wouldn't let her put them on my feet. I was getting really irritated by now! Finally Mommy went and got the medicine for my ear and we went back into the car. The sun was going to bed already, and I still hadn't gotten to play at all! I was getting very angry. I decided to let Mommy know it. I knew we had to be pretty close to home, but I didn't care. I screamed as loud as I could. I yelled and yelled and I let my Mommy know that there is only so much that a little guy can take before he flies off the handle, and I was at my point! Mommy got upset and started saying some bad words at the car in front of us. I just kept screaming. I wanted everyone to know how mad I was!

Finally, Mommy took me home and let me play with my toys. Daddy was home, and I told him what happened, but he seemed to be on Mommy's side.

So Mommy, can we have a better day tomorrow? I'm thinking that sitting around the house and watching basketball on TV sounds like a good plan.

editor's note: Dear son, all of us have days when we wish that we could just wake up and start the day over. Such is life, but we must embrace the good days with the bad days knowing that the universe is unfolding as it should. And no, we will not be watching basketball tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Early Interventions: The Ball is Rolling

I'm keeping this short and sweet, as I've brought myself to be very matter-of-fact about this whole situation we're finding ourselves in. I think it's kind of an emotional defense system. You have to be matter-of-fact in order to do what needs to be done. Otherwise, you could spend hours dwelling on it and start to become negative and bitter over it... or defensive about it. None of these attitudes would be helpful to us or to Jonah, so at this point we are just doing what we can about what we know.

Early Interventions called last week with the official results of his panel evaluation. It was basically what I was told immediately following the eval, but with a more official tone. Jonah has severe delays in gross motor, and expressive language. He is also delayed in his self help skills and social interactions, but not as severely.

He will be going to the group occupational therapy once a week, and we will be finding a personal speech therapist. The center does not offer individual speech therapy, so we will be going through his pediatrician to get a referral for the speech therapy. He will also be referred to an ENT to see if there is any medical reason that grunting and growling are his prominent vocalizations.

I'm not sure that the ENT will be able to help us. Exactly a year ago, Jonah was hospitalized as a case of failure to thrive. The staff immediately noticed his grunting and growling, and ran a series of tests on his throat, vocal chords, digestive system, and soft palette. They found no medical reason for him making these sounds, other than his reflux. They thought he was making them as an attempt to keep his food down, or to cope with the pain in his esophagus. Maybe the ENT can shed some light on this for us. My hopes are yes, he/she can; but my realistic thinking is probably not.

We are going to write his IEP and list of goals this Thursday. While I would love to make goals such as "walking independently and efficiently" and "calling me Mommy again." I know that the goals are going to have to be much smaller- "standing with balance for three seconds" and "consistently making the mmmm, bababa, and gagaga sounds" will probably be more like it.

After the goals and IEP are written, Jonah will be enrolled ASAP into their occupational therapy program. I was surprised by how quickly they will be able to get Jonah into the program. He will be starting it this coming Monday. I am greatful that they are able to get Jonah help so quickly, but also a little concerned that the reason he got in so fast is because the nurse felt that he was an "urgent case."

We will be revisiting the PDD-NOS possibility at the meeting this Thursday, but the nurse said that for now it would be best to treat the individual delays, keep testing him for PDD and keep a big eye on it, but not to actually call it that yet. PDD can accurately be predicted at this young age, but can't accurately be diagnosed until later in toddlerhood.

Other than this, we are just taking things one step at a time. And adding more and more specialists to our ever-growing list.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

First Haircut

Before I became a parent, I swore that my child would not be "that" child who had what I call muppet hair. Especially if my child is a boy. We've all seen kids with muppet hair. The fine, whispy, feathery hair that won't lay flat. The kind that goes in every direction, and always seems to make it into the eyes, face and ears.

My boy is NEVER going to have hair like that. As soon as it gets too long, it's getting cut!

Well.... several years and one (and three quarters) children later, I present to you:Muppet Mullet!!!!!

And la pièce de résistance:
Why yes, that is my SON'S beautiful full head of hair.
I got mixed reactions to Jonah's lovely locks. Some people admired them. Other mothers agreed that I should wait until it was bugging him to cut it. After all, those baby curls never grow back. Still others said it was time for me to part with them. One mother in our playgroup went so far as to tell me that I have my girl coming, I will have all the blonde curls I want with her but to let my son look like a boy.

I cherished his long curls, however. They were so soft, when he'd come for me to give him a hug I loved putting my fingers into them. I loved washing his hair, lathering it up, singing him our little bath song as I did so. I loved his curls.

But, while running errands one day a few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that no one, and I mean NO one, could tell that my baby was a boy. Even when he was dressed in VERY boyish clothes. It started at the doctor's office. We were going in just to make sure that Jonah was healthy before going on vacation. He was teething, and that often leads to an ear infection, so I wanted to make sure all was clear before we went on an airplane. As we went back, the nurse who had just called his name, and was looking at his chart that SAYS he is a boy, said "What's the matter with the princess today?" Honestly, I've never met a girl named "Jonah" before.... Then the store clerk at Target. Then the cashiers at Giant Eagle and Petsmart. My little boy looked like a princess. It was then that I realized that my child had muppet hair. It was time to cut it. My baby needed to lose his curls!

Daryl's mom cuts all of her boys' hair. Even now that they are grown men, they go to their mother for their hair cuts. I was really nervous about taking Jonah to a salon or a barber, because what if we got someone who wasn't used to cutting a baby's hair? Would they be patient with Jonah? Would they know how to get him to sit still? Would they be careless and cut him? There was a children's hair salon, where they only cut kids' hair under thirteen years old. I called to get an appointment only to find out that they went out of business that very week. Daryl's mother kindly offered to cut Jonah's hair that evening. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before, because who would be more patient, caring, and attentive than his own grandmother. So that night, out came Grandma's haircutting kit.
We gave him a candy cane that was left over from the holidays, and a small toy that has buttons he likes to push. For the front and sides, he sat in his high chair, and that worked perfectly. But when she got to the very back, she couldn't get the scissors between his head and the chair back, so I held him in my lap for the very end. He was very well behaved for this experience, much to our surprise! He even let Grandma use the shaver to style and shape it.

I am overall very happy with Jonah's new look. His hair isn't in his face all the time anymore, and it was getting hard to wash all that hair on a toddler who won't stop (especially in the tub!) It's also easier to clean his ears out, because his hair is no longer falling in the way!And of course, I saved some of those precious curls for his baby book:

Friday, February 5, 2010

A New Kind of "Normal"

I am taking my time writing this post. Ethically speaking, I have debated about whether or not I should even write it at all. One reason being that I don't want to prematurely label my son, but the biggest reason being that I don't want others to prematurely label him. I want to stress here the importance of remembering that nothing has been found for certain, and until next week testing for the most part needs to be considered as inconclusive yet needing more exploration.

Yet even though I felt so negatively about writing this post, I know there are other mothers out there who are going through this, who will go through this, or who have gone through this. I want to contribute to the community of families that are having this experience and offer support, and even hopefully gain support by doing so. Throughout our journey as parents, Daryl and I have hit a lot of really hard places. I think this is one of the toughest places to be in as a parent.

A few weeks ago, I posted about Jonah's screening with Early Interventions. The nurse concluded that he was delayed in several areas of development, and needed to be evaluated by a panel of specialists to see if the Early Interventions program could help him with these delays. At the evaluation, the panel consisted of an audiologist, a speech therapist, a developmental specialist, an occupational therapist, the director of Early Interventions, and the nurse who had done the initial screening.

They asked him to do several things. Point to his body parts, follow simple commands, react to different tones of voice, react to different facial expressions, and different motor skills. They also continued to ask me more questions than I can remember. The nurse brought a worksheet for me that asked different questions about Jonah. I had filled one out when she had done the initial screening, but she said this one was more in depth and they have seen some red flags for a pervasive developmental disorder. Many people do not know what this means, but having gone to school for cognitive psychology and taken several classes in cognitive assessment myself, I knew. They were softening the prospect of the diagnosis by calling it this long name. In short, PDD is a category of disorders that includes autism and autistic features. When someone speaks of "being on the spectrum" they are referring to the class of disorders that is PDD. The nurse didn't know that I know what PDD is. She didn't know that my heart fell to the floor. I filled out the worksheet, but could only fill out up to the 12 month mark. He could only be tested up to the twelve month level, because he will not be eighteen months until next week. They looked over the sheets, compared notes. I saw a lot of head nodding, a lot of concerned looks, and a lot of whispering. The nurse came back to me and told me that we should bring him back to complete the testing when he is eighteen months old. If they do it a day too early, then the test is invalid. She also explained to me that there is an autism and PDD specialist that comes to their center every month from Columbus, and they will most likely recommend that I bring Jonah in to see him.

She said if Jonah does have a form of PDD, it is PDD Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS.) This means that a child shows some similarities to a child who has autism, but is more social and has the cognitive capacity to process certain situations that a child who has autism may not. Children with PDD-NOS often do not use language very well, and seem to lose certain language skills over the course of their development. They might have problems with motor skills such as walking. But they are typically aware of their environment and respond to people who engage them. Jonah is a little confusing to the specialists, because while he does have some tendencies, he is also pretty social.

I have noted other signs with Jonah, such as repetetive actions, sometimes seeming like he has a hearing problem, waving and using other gestures inappropriately. While it is normal for a child to throw objects, Jonah does it to an excess, as if it were an impulse.

I may be paranoid now, noting every little thing that could point to PDD-NOS. But really I am just a worried mother, who wants her little boy to have the best chance at being happy and healthy. I am very upset by the thought that he will have to go through this testing. I know that there are a lot of people who like drama and attention, and they *want* something to always be wrong. I am hoping with all of my heart that we go in for this testing and PDD-NOS is ruled out, or any other diagnosis that falls under PDD. But it is still a process that we are going through at this time, and it is weighing very heavily on our family. If we have him tested and it turns out that there is something wrong, we can get him the proper therapies that he needs now to avoid further delays and other problems. At the same time, we feel like terrible parents for even thinking that our child is autistic or has autistic tendencies. I used to wonder how parents could ignore things that were so obviously wrong with their child, but now as a parent I can see how that is an appealing option. To just say "it will come, he'll do it when he's ready." I want to be sitting here right now, writing a post about how normal Jonah is. But the truth of the matter is that he isn't normal. Even strangers notice that he isn't normal.

In the end, however, no matter what the testing shows, we know that he is normal for Jonah. We will most likely need to make some adjustments in our lives, no matter what we find from these tests. But we cannot compare Jonah's "normal" to another eighteen month olds' "normal." I was pretty much told by the team that we will be back to the centers for therapies. Most likely speech therapy and occupational therapy for his walking. While this may not be another eighteen month olds' normal, it is certainly going to become ours, and we will embrace it along with everything else that we have encountered on our journey down the path of parenthood.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vacation in Arizona: Midweek check-in

Last month, my mother-in-law announced to me that neither her husband nor her best friend could accompany her on her annual trip to Scottsdale Arizona. She suggested that because she would rather not travel alone, that perhaps it would be "fun" for Jonah and me to tag along. And so here we are, in sunny Scottsdale Az, halfway through our vacation.

As usual with a one year old (and a mother-in-law) getting here was half the battle. The flight was nearly four hours long, which isn't terrible but also not a walk in the park. Jonah is at that wonderful age when he wants to explore every new thing. Airports and airplanes are no exception. He did well while he was in the carrier, waving to everyone and watching all of the happenings. When we got to our gate, I wanted to change his diaper and let him move around a bit. He loved looking out the windows at all of the vehicles on the runway (okay, I know that part isn't the runway, but I forget the technical term.)
He was so angry when they called boarding for our flight, that I ended up having to carry him upside down through the gate! He was trying to climb out of my arms, back to the window. The rest of the flight was pretty typical. He slept for about twenty minutes, until the flight attendant decided that a good place to scoop ice would be right next to a sleeping toddler's head. My mother in law found that doritos do not make an ideal snack for a toddler on an airplane (we both ended up covered in neon orange goo) and markers are a definite "no" for an activity. Her intentions were good, but I had to wonder about her logic on this one, since there were also crayons at the ready (which would have been a much better option.)

Despite gloomy forcasts, the weather here has been absolutely gorgeous. While I, having grown up in Ohio, think that it's been perfect weather for the swimming pool, short sleeve shirts, and capri pants, my mother in law (who grew up in Utah) has been wearing sweaters and complaining about the "cold." This is summer weather for me, at nearly 70 F and sunny!

It was so beautiful on Teusday that we decided to hit the outdoor activities. We headed about a half hour north for the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Gardens. Because we are Toledo Zoo members, we got into this amazing zoo for half price! I was very excited to take Jonah here, because it is rated as one of the top five zoos for children in the country. The exhibits are amazing, and Jonah had such a great time. I think everyone's favorite was the Giraffe Encounter. For just $3 per adult, you can spend a few minutes with the giraffes, and even get to feed one! As the Toledo Zoo has a similar experioence for $45, we felt that this was a great deal. The giraffes were amazing! I've never seen one this close before.

Another favorite was the spider monkeys exhibit. This really was more like an experience than an exhibit. They had a pathway for visitors to walk through the monkeys' habitat, with ropes hanging above. You could literally get face to face with these amazing little creatures. There was also a childrens' area that had an American Farm theme. It was sponsored by Fisher Price. There was a playground that looked like the Little People farm set, and a snack shack that had healthy meal options (we discovered this after eating a complete lunch that consisted of junk food from the main food plaza.) There was a fake cow that children could milk, and a tractor to sit on and "drive." Jonah loved both of these activities. He wasn't sure that he liked getting the water on his hands when he milked the cow (yes, water came out when you milked the udders properly!) but he still seemed to enjoy it as long as he could wipe his hands off after each squeeze. But his absolute favorite activity in this area was brushing the goats. I cannot wait for him to walk, because I think that he would enjoy things like that even better with a little more independence.

While walking to the zoo exit and making a quick stop at the souvenier shop, Jonah took a pretty good nap in the stroller. He wore himself out! It took us about 45 minutes to get from the childrens' area to the car, so he had a good doze and was ready to go again by the time we got him in his carseat. Just a quick drive around the corner was the Desert Botanical Gardens.

While we only dedicated a couple hours to the gardens, it could definitely take a few days of exploring to see everything there. I had never seen a cactus before, and was awed by all of the varieties that could be viewed here. I have seen the tiny cacti that grew in the area of Texas that I lived in for a couple of years, but nothing like what they had here at the botanical gardens!

The rest of the vacation has been pretty low-key. Yesterday we took a silver jewelery making class here at the resort where we are staying, and Jonah and I have been spending a lot of time outdoors, enjoying the sunshine. Jonah has discovered the joys of playground slides, and is really enjoying being able to have free reign outside. I'm hoping to get him down to the pool area where they have a fountain for the children to play in, despite my mother in law insisting that it is too cold! It will certainly be hard to get off the plane in Detroit this Sunday, and face the winter weather once again.