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Friday, February 29, 2008

Just an Update -- and Thank-you!

I want to tell you all that your kind words, prayers, and shouts of encouragement were so appreciated and I thank you so, so much. I do believe that Sean-Peter is going to be just fine -- I actually have a hard time believing that he isn't "just fine" already, which is one reason why I found myself grieving so, for this little boy who is so wonderful just the way he is; he just needs a boost to give him equal footing in this world that is not kind to those who can't speak for themselves.

I almost felt a little guilty even writing about it, what with all the things that could be wrong. It's not like his life is in danger, or that what he is struggling with won't improve over time. But I think parents are of one accord when it comes to their child and anything that is different: we all just want the best for them, in whatever form that may be. But more than that, I think, it's about choices and opportunity: we simply don't want them taken away. Just as our Father and Creator granted us our own free will, we want our children to have it as well; we don't want anyone else telling them what their capabilities and limitations are because of any label they might have.

Not that anyone is doing that with Sean-Peter. Or that I would let them. And it isn't lost on me how fortunate we are to have the services available to us that we have in this city. I firmly believe that we are in the exact place that we are supposed to be exactly when we are supposed to be here. It will be a long road, but we have gotten started and soon will be able to see down it a bit further.

And just to update, Sean-Peter had his first two days of preschool this week and they went amazingly well. Even though I knew it had to be my imagination, I could have sworn that after the first day he came home and was already opening his mouth more and giving his words more definition. The verbal report they gave me that day was that he was very "stimulable" [sic].

The second day it was all about the bus. Was that kid ever excited about getting to ride on that thing. When I told him what was coming up he simply uttered an reverent, "Wow". He was definitely quite pleased with himself, all smiles and sporting his very own big-boy backpack.

I never would have believed that I would let my three-year-old ride on a school bus. Indeed, when they first gave it as an option I immediately discounted it. Then I learned that there is an aide on the bus, and seatbelts, and only two other children, both special needs. Then I started thinking about the gas and driving 20 minutes each day, dragging Olivia out to a school that she wasn't going to, and having to leave the house before Conner catches his own bus to school.

If you were to ask Sean-Peter -- and understand what he says -- he would undoubtedly tell you that it's the best part of the whole thing. And there's no going back now: today he saw another school bus drive by our house and he started pointing and jabbering like, "Hey! Where do they think they're going! Why didn't they stop? Come back here!"

Time will tell how excited he is about it all once the novelty has worn off, but we're definitely off to a good start.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I've been wanting to post photos of what I've painted so far -- Olivia's room is done! -- and ask opinions on more painting to come, but it's just going to have to wait a little bit longer while I get through one day at a time over here.

We finally met for Sean-Peter's IEP (Individualized Education Program) appointment yesterday, our second attempt as this pesky winter keeps giving the schools snow days around here. No surprises, really: an IEP just gets everything you've already talked about written down official-like so that services can start. Right now he's scheduled to start preschool tomorrow; it was going to be today but I already had him and Olivia scheduled for dental appointments this morning. Except Sean-Peter ended up not going to that, either, on account of some croupiness he decided to come down with last night. It's snowing like the dickens right now and isn't supposed to let up anytime soon, so time will tell if he actually starts tomorrow or not, croupiness or no.

Did I mention that Olivia has two cavities? Two cavities. Conner and I had our own check-ups last week and came away with one cavity a piece. I can't remember the last time I had a cavity. This is Conner's first. Me thinks our teeth didn't like Italy too much.

But two! And one of them is pretty deep: he's hoping he can just fill it and not have to put on a cap. Poor little thing. And there goes our budget. Every month there has to be something that comes up: February was heating issues; I guess March it's dental, as these things are not completely covered by insurance like they were when we were overseas. Then again, it kind of seems like we got what we paid for...

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around all the facets involved with Sean-Peter and his speech issues. My only real concern going into the IEP, barring any surprises, was that apraxia at least be mentioned as a possibility. Really, we just need to get him started with some therapy -- which is needed to identify things like apraxia to begin with. But having it down in writing that "apraxia has not been ruled out" may make a difference now in what he qualifies for insurance-wise when I go back to get more referrals for off-base care during the summer season. And if he is ultimately "diagnosed" as being apraxic, everything I've read recommends at least three to five therapy sessions per week for children with verbal apraxia. The pathologist at the preschool confirmed this. But while he will receive one-one-one therapy sessions with the pathologist at the preschool, the majority of his time will be spent in the classroom setting. This may not suffice if he truly is apraxic.

After we were talking and I raised the concern of this phrase "apraxia has not been ruled out" as making a difference in how much care our insurance might cover, one of the providers pointed out that this was covered in the assessment we had done at Therapy Connections, the private company that conducted his first speech evaluation and the one the school district had piggy-backed on to save time and resources. And it occurred to me that I had never actually seen the report from that evaluation. I had spoken with the pathologist on the phone about it, but she had sent it directly to the school district, per my request, and I had never asked for a copy for myself. Why hadn't I? I could almost hear them ask the question, and frankly, I was asking it, too.

Seeing the report and the raw numbers that describe my son was shocking. His Auditory Comprehension was at an age equivalent of 2 yrs and 4 mths. He had just turned three at the time. His Expressive Communication was equivalent to that of a child 1 yr. and 7 months old.

I am certain that he has made strides since then, however small. And, of course, there is the idea that they are determining these numbers based on one hour of time with my son. But it was still so disheartening to see it all spelled out. I have been preparing myself for this long road we have ahead of us, but seeing it written down felt like I was viewing the map for the first time, and that road runs right off of it.

I still have so many unanswered questions and phrases running through my head. Sensory processing... does that relate to his picky eating habits and his apparent texture phobia? And why doesn't that ever come up in discussions about my son? I am understanding more and more how these things are all interrelated, and it doesn't seem to make sense to treat them in isolation of the other. Yet no one I've talked to about it thus far acts like his picky eating has anything to do with his language ability, or that the two even belong in the same conversation. I'm not even sure why I think they do, or what you're supposed to do about it if they are, but for some reason I think it matters.

I recently learned of a local playgroup organized by a mom with an apraxic child. This is just one of many avenues out there available in this city to learn more about this invisible thing that seems to have gripped my son. It can get overwhelming, but right now I think we're doing the important thing of just getting started and keeping the discussion open with professionals and parents alike. I'm still waiting for that one person to listen to my son jabber on in that unintelligible way of his and say, "Oh, yea, I knew someone who was just like that ..." and I'll be on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happened next. In the meantime, I guess we'll keep trying to finish that sentence on our own.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Snow and Sense and Speech

I'm sitting here in my relatively cozy home, freshly fallen snow outside with more ice and snow in the forecast, and I'm listening to the local Ohio news station for the latest on school delays and closings. So far, nothing that affects my kids, but they did just finish up a bit about how shoveling your walk and driveway can get you sued. That's right, if someone injures themselves when they're walking on your shoveled walk, they can sue you for damages. But if you don't touch it with a shovel, they can't.

The catch is, the postman won't deliver your mail if your walk isn't cleared. I guess we're lucky our mailbox happens to be on the street.

What is wrong with people?

I'm toward the end of a book my friend Ruth recommended for me, Diana West's The Death of the Grown-Up. It's really been food for thought, the kind of thoroughly researched book that puts so many thoughts into words that I didn't know how to say, and also gives you pause to consider paradigms that you might not even realize you have.

I'm jonesing to get to a few more pages of it tonight before I pass out, and just thinking about it is increasing the sensitivity of my PC Radar. What I like to call the Absence of Common Sense. And other things I can't quite get my mind wrapped around right now because Sean-Peter just started playing Jack-in-the-Bed. Humph. I might not get any reading in after all.

But speaking of Sean-Peter, the weather tonight will affect whether we keep our appointment with the school district for his IEP tomorrow morning, the final step before he starts preschool and speech therapy. Maybe they can teach the weasel to stay in bed on his own while they're at it.

I wonder if their walks will be shoveled.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Can YOU solve the Rubik's Cube?

Rubik's Cubes seemed to be a big hit with kids this past Christmas, Conner included.

I remember the Rubik's cube being really popular when I was in the fifth grade. Everyone took theirs to Karl Radke to solve at recess. He could even tell when people switched their stickers around to try to give themselves an edge. He just put them back where they belonged as he went along. This was before there was an internet with videos and step-by-step instructions on how to solve it. I think Karl's a doctor now.

Conner was home from school today for yet another snow day, and he spent a good chunk of time trying to work his way around his own cube. His attempts have been encouraging not because they've been successful, but because he has persevered in trying. We 80's generation types were bemoaning the lackluster attempts that our boys were exhibiting when they would sort of shuffle the cube around a bit and then hand it over and say, "How do you do this?"

"Whatever happened to working it out and putting in some effort for a while?" We waxed nostalgic for the days before video games made kids think they needed to be constantly entertained and the challenge of solving a puzzle became mundane.

Before reverting back to his own computer game today, Conner did give it the old college try. And while searching the internet for help he came across this youtube.

I don't know if watching this should make you more determined than ever to solve the thing, or make you want to just give it up and call it a wash. I mean, is this for real?

We did wonder if maybe we should let Sean-Peter have a go at it after all. Except Conner has never really gotten all the stickiness out of it from the last time he got his hands on it. Either way, Conner still hasn't solved it. Maybe he should try sitting in a high chair.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Trouble With Thomas

John's Spidey Sense kicked in today. He sought out Sean-Peter and found him doing this.He scolded him sternly which caused Sean-Peter to do this.
And look at him like this.
Meanwhile, unphased, Olivia continued to practice her stupid human tricks.
As soon as I walked in the door and heard the story, and saw the photos, I knew. Remember the books we just got from the library?Who knew Thomas could be such a bad influence. I'm thankful he didn't have time to find the mustard. Or the carpet.

I just saw the quote below from my uncle Don: "When you have a passion for something that early in life it will stimulate the need for a passion later in life--and what would life be without a passion."

That is really, truly, a wonderful thought. And hope. So long as he keeps his passion off of my kitchen floor.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My Son The Thomas Freak

They had a display of Thomas books at the library this afternoon. You would have thought Sean-Peter had been let loose in a candy store, so great was his glee.
He couldn't carry all of them home, much to his chagrin. And it didn't seem quite right to take all of them. But I think we got enough. At least for now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rojo Mojo

I just watched the most amazing video that I just have to share that I found through this wonderful blog that I just love to visit and have kept meaning to share for the longest time but just haven't gotten around to it.

Planet Nomad already talks about the dynamic duo who make guitar magic on this video, and she even got to see them in concert. I am so out of it that I am just now hearing about them (how oh how bad off would I be if there was no internet -- no blogs? oh, I shudder) but already I want their CD (better yet, DVD, because watching that "blurriness which is her hand" is really almost half the joy) and am finally motivated and inspired to start calling around this still newish (to me) city of ours about guitar lessons for my 12-yr-old that I have been promising him for, uh, awhile.

I have enjoyed Planet Nomad for the cultural observations that she makes as an American and educator who recently moved to Oregon after living in Mauritania, with plans for her and her family to make Morocco their home (this summer?). She's also an engaging writer and aspiring novelist of said experiences. But really, she's just fun and real and as a red-blooded american mother of three herself who's been homeschooling her children this year in a french curriculum to keep the continuity (and their spots in the system) during this year-long hiatus I find myself just shaking my head. I mean, some people thought we were crazy for putting Conner in an Italian school while we were in Italy, but that ain't nothing compared to the hoops they jumped through to get their kids enrolled in the French-based school in Mauritania to give their kids the opportunity that would provide. Hence the homeschooling: it was very, very difficult to qualify for the slots; but once you're in, you're in.

I have thought so many times of how I need to tell my aunt (aka "judy", an occasional commenter) and uncle, especially, of this blogger as they are my sole family members who lived for a time (four years) in Africa (Kinshasha, then Zaire), albeit so, so many moons ago. And they were the ones that inspired me to go to Africa myself (Tanzania) for a college semester, almost half as many moons ago. (Is that possible?)

So here's my shout out -- to Judith and Don, and to anyone else looking for an interesting, cultural-observational type read. Go read Planet Nomad!

I'll just let you read her thoughts on these amazing guitarists. So go read them. Now. Complete with how to maneuver a concert crowd like a true Mauritanian.

Suffice it to say that it had us grooving and bopping and beating our hands to the beat on the nearest hard object we could find. Not to mention staring agog at the whir of her...strumming? Can you even call it that?

Me and the kids were getting freaky, anyway. John came home in the middle of our third listening and stood there soaking it in a moment before he gave two sharp claps and said, "Garcon! hey! where's my sangria?" Yea, yea, that's french-like. But you get the idea.

Alas, we have not yet trained our kids in the art of mixed drinks. But they were more than happy to oblige with a performance of their own.

If you haven't already clicked on a link above to enjoy the music and/or the blog of Planet Nomad, I'm posting a YouTube below. Because you must, must experience these guitarists slash drummers for yourself. Especially if you are in a funk. Because you will have to move and tap your hand, at the very least. If you can even stay in your seat.

Then again, I don't have a life, so you all probably already ran into these guys ages ago. (Why didn't you tell me?) It's not like I don't try to get out -- like tonight? Conner and I were going to go to our second Italian session. But John belatedly realized that there was a function that he ought to attend after all. And I sooo don't have the last-minute babysitter hook-up going on here.

But that's okay, because I'll get the little ones down early and Conner and I will watch American Idol instead, and I'll get to see if Josiah the homeless dude gets through despite his major flub-up (I think he will) along with other favorites like the Aussie with the awesome Jimi Hendrix bone structure and the female rocker/nurse who almost died in a car wreck just days before Hollywood Week and sang her rocker heart out anyway with two broken ribs. Now that's chutzpah.

Yes, I just gave myself away, because I am an official 30-something Idol fan. But here, see John? Aw, looks like he might get his sangria after all.

Even if he has to get it for himself.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Go read my post above, then listen to these guys, and be amazed.

And if you already knew about them, shame on you for not telling me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bye Bye Byers

Could we all share a moment of silence, please? We're experiencing a death around here, of sorts. We are in mourning, and it ain't pretty. Please help us to pay our respects by taking a look back from the beginning...

(Well, from the beginning of our digital age, anyway.)

Ah, poor Olivia. For she has parted from her pacifiers at last. May they rest in peace -- I know we aren't.

I have not exactly been proactive about weaning her from the addiction. John took the initiative and told her that big girls don't suck on "byers", so when she turned five they would have to go away. Not in the trash, he assured her. That seemed to lessen the blow a bit. So long as she knows they're in the house somewhere I guess there's always hope.

She seems to understand that it's time: John has spoken to her quite a bit about how they're ruining her mouth and how her big-girl teeth won't come in right once the tooth fairy starts paying her visits. As it is, we already have a vampire on our hands.
Here she's saying, "Help! Give me back my byers!" Not really. Actually she hasn't even asked for them back. But do you see the fangs? Really. Look closer. On at least one occasion someone has asked if she was missing both her front teeth, and they looked twice when told she wasn't missing any. Plus she's got that cute little gap between her front two. She got that adorable little trait from her daddy, before braces cured his. I'm almost sorry for hers to go away some day, too. Of course, we keep spending money on this house like we have been it may not.

We haven't seriously tried to take away her pacifiers since the one time when she was two and we decided little brother had been around long enough and it was time ... two is the recommended age to give them up, after all, and it was the age they were taken away from her big brother, with barely a hiccup.

Not so with Olivia. Oh, no siree. It was one miserable month. That's how long we lasted, so you can't say we didn't give it the old college try. Then we took a trip to Switzerland where she refused to sleep and ended up coming down with pneumonia. The byers came back.

Since then it's been one thing after another ... it just never seemed important enough, then daddy deployed and then we were about to move ... how could I take away her one great comfort? And Lord knows it was a comfort for me, too, and I was just glad she didn't suck her thumb: at least I wouldn't have to chop that off in the orthondontist's office some day. Besides, when her baby brother was nine months old he spit his pacifier out of his mouth and never wanted it back. Further proof To Each His Own, and to Olivia it was, most definitely, her byers.

And still would be, if she had her way. Oh, woe her. It's nothing personal, baby doll -- it's the orthodontic bills I don't like. And you still have your blankie, yes? Please don't look at me like that. And go back to bed while you're at it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Coulter: I'll campaign for Hillary if McCain is the nominee

Okay, I know Ann Coulter can be a little OVER THE TOP, to say the least. And I am NOT ENDORSING A PARTICULAR CANDIDATE HERE. But Ann always makes me laugh, and this is no exception. Now I'm curious if she would actually follow through. (Not that Hillary would welcome her with open arms. Ooh, now I'm laughing again.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Olivia's Super Tuesday

Awww...look at the little sister snuggling with her big brother...Aren't they so cuddly and cute? And she looks ready to drop off at any moment...

...or not.

Tomorrow is Olivia's birthday, which just happens to fall on Super Tuesday this year, such a fitting term for a completely random reason ... but if your state is voting tomorrow, for pete's sake get out there! Cast your ballot! Exercise your right! At least earn your right to belly-ache: If you don't bother to vote then I don't wanna hear it.

Where Have All the Beer and Donuts Gone

Some work we had done in our kitchen is one of the reasons we decided we better try to save pennies where we could. Here's a view of our kitchen back when we bought beer and donuts at will:

And here's a look at it now, not a beer or donut in sight:

New countertops, see? Yes, I am way-excited, cost notwithstanding. I do still wonder sometimes if this was the wisest move financially, but anytime I really start to have doubts I somehow feel utterly convicted that this was the best thing we could've done for resale value, even if the value isn't so much in the amount of the sale but in the sale itself. In this, uh, buyers' market, to put it mildly.

I had this feeling solidified when the guys who did the counters said quite a bit of their current work is in houses that are for sale, which I personally found depressing. I really can't imagine what my mentality toward home improvements would be like if I knew I was going to live in a house indefinitely. But since we already know we will be here for four years at the most (which means our house will be up for sale exactly three years from now) I do know that if I'm going to end up forking out the bucks for a home improvement, I want to do it in plenty of time to enjoy it for awhile myself first.

Replacing the counters wasn't nearly as big of a deal as you might think. Because we didn't so much replace them as simply reface them. No demolition and much less cost. Though not free, naturally.

But going back to the resale, the countertop guy also mentioned what a great neighborhood we live in, and how in a normal market when a house in this neighborhood goes up for sale it doesn't last a week. Something I find no less than astonishing since houses that were for sale on our street when we moved in five months ago are still for sale, and this house itself had been on the market for almost six months when we made our offer.

But it reminded me of a comment our realtor made, almost to herself, when this house came up on our list to look at that day. Oh, this is a lovely neighborhood...houses always sell really well here. Me, I took one look at the white carpet in the living room and thought blech. Not for me, neighborhood or no.

So his comment solidified my feeling that we were very, very lucky to get this house. (Though these things aren't always about luck, are they?) And it gave me hope. Because if John gets this little special assignment thing that he's planning to put in for we could actually be moving much, much sooner. Though that is so tomorrow that I can't even bear blogging about it yet. Needless to say we have mixed emotions about it all: it is an assignment that he has coveted for some time; but we are, um, liking it here, and liking this lovely home we were so "lucky" to get, so it would not be a hardship, not at all, to stay here for the full tour, career disappointment or no.

In the meantime we will hope the housing market rebounds and will continue to make home improvements as we can, both energy and financially wise. The next step in the kitchen will be to get the microwave off the countertop. But that will, uh, have to wait a bit, $ince an even bigger motivator for being thrifty has been sitting in our garage for the last several days, waiting for friendlier weather.

The window guys were finally able to work today, starting upstairs where I figure the bulk of the heat from our wonderful fireplace insert gets sucked out right into the sky. This seemed the logical place to begin since the forecasted rain may very well keep them from finishing all 19 windows until later in the week. Here they are in Conner's room: Or another perspective...
It's still a soggy-wet, misty day, but blissfully downpour-free, so far. Hmmm....those bushes need trimmed, don't they?

I know you all are so excited about all this window news and talk about the housing market. But frankly, when you're spending this much money on something it just kind of seems worth mentioning. And pray for no rain. At least for one more day.

(Oh, and talk about kitchen countertops is exciting, I don't care who you are. And if you don't agree then, frankly, you don't belong here and I have no idea why you've even read this far.)