Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obligatory Back to School Bento Post

Full disclosure: I am not adhering to bento style lunches as much as I am committed to sending waste free lunches in cute little bento boxes. When my regular teaching schedule resumes in October, I will probably not be as committed or able to pack and/or photograph lunches. Rest assured, my children will never show up at school with a lunchable.

The first step to getting back into the groove was to organize and inventory the bento supplies.

Wow, that was easier than I thought. I have a ton more shit than I thought I did.

Okay, next step was to pack lunches that my starving children will actually eat. I say 'starving' because that is what they choose to do. Starve themselves and force me to throw away literally tons of organic delicious food every single year.

For Bubbles' first preschool pre-packed lunch, he got the three foods he will always eat, and a few wild cards for luck.

Pirate booty, rice cake and dried snap peas, bacon, fruit leather strips, and a Japanese rice cracker.

Supergirl got what I would consider a delicious lunch:

Snack container of popcorn, PB&homemadeJam, fresh strawberries and cherry tomatoes.

Supergirl later declared this lunch as being 'too red'. Mmmkay.

MORE on where to buy Bento Supplies here.

Obligatory Back to School Post

Going back to school meant having to give the first grade classroom lizard back. Supergirl was very sad about this. But she is moving on to second grade, and it's time to say goodbye.

We all became quite attached to Holly, the bearded dragon lizard.

I mean, come cute is it to watch her nomnom that mealworm? Awww.....

But there was more to be excited about! Bubbles is going to preschool two days/week. For the first time ever, I have two children in school!

Supergirl's first day of Kindergarten

And two years later, Supergirl and Bubbles head off to school together for the first time!

(weeps softly to self)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Devil's Food Cupcakes Worth Worshipping

We cannot get enough of the cuteness.

Ahhh, the cuteness. Also? The deliciousness.

This recipe for devils food cupcakes is the best ever. If you had the pleasure of eating those little cups of nirvana at the infamous Blogher 08 cheeseburger party, this recipe is damn close to the red velvet cupcakes served there. Supergirl, however, has an extreme sensitivity to red food dye (as in, ZOMG SHE'S TURNED INTO A DEBBIL-CHILE!) and I just say no to the addition of red in chocolate.

I have adapted it from the side of the Softasilk cake flour box. The cake flour will yield the most velvety texture of cake, but cake flour is bleached, so you can make your own very close substitute by using 3/4 cup all purpose (not whole wheat) unbleached flour plus 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, triple sifted = every one cup of cake flour needed.

Deluxe Devil's Food Cupcakes

2 sticks (one cup) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups buttermilk (this is an easy substitute - you can mix vinegar into regular milk, or regular milk into sour cream if you don't have buttermilk on hand)

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy, stopping to scrape bottom of mixing bowl well.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt with a whisk in a separate bowl.
Add 1/3 of flour mixture to mixing bowl, mix until combined.
Add 1/3 of buttermilk and alternate dry and wet ingredients, mixing until combined.
Scrape the bowl well and beat for one more minute

Teeny tiny Joy kid mini-cones or other cupcake liners.
When not using the cones, I prefer those little pleated paper snack cups to regular liners - you just line them up on the cookie sheets.

Fill cups 3/4 full with batter; bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes (for mini cupcakes) or until tops of cakes spring back.

Frost with vanilla bean buttercream or seven minute frosting.

URL Friends, IRL Meetups

Last week was filled with Bloggity Friendship Goodness!

First. there was the almost spontaneous (howabout tomorrow?) meeting with Lunasea at the boardwalk. During which I was somewhat startled by the feral fearless and adventurous natures of my children in contrast to her extremely cautious (and crazily adorable) boys. Our children were happy enough to meet (full adult disclosure: we were way more excited to meet each other than the kids were) and hang out together, but when it came to the rides, they became polar opposites.
I suggested that A and Ben take a moment to watch Supergirl and Bubbs go on the kiddie helicopter ride; no pressure, just watch them go and then decide if they wanted to ride. Of course Supergirl took that opportunity to show off the joystick of the helicopter ride, jerking it forward and back quickly, making the helicopter convulse as rebelliously as allowed on it's no-doubt extremely safe and regularly inspected kiddie ride. Up :{jerk}: Down :{jerk}: Up :: Up :: Up :: Down :: Up :: Down :: Down :: Up ::Down :: Up :: Up:: YOU GET THE IDEA, YES?
Nice job, kids. Scare the sensitive guests. Jeebz when will my kids start using the manners I have been using on them all these years? I mean the good ones.
After that ride it was no better. My kids wanted to ride everything, Lunasea's kids wanted to ride nothing, and all we wanted to do was eat fried food drink beer and talk.
We got along (I thought, though I tend to the deluded side) fabulously, and the children got along very well too - as long as there were no mechanical ride shenanigans involved.
The children's jaunt to the most polluted in all of town beach proved to be their most fun connection of all. Garbage and sewage drains brings children together.

Eventually, we convinced the Lunasea family to go on one ride with us. I was a little worried I was going to get a parking ticket if we lingered, but hell - I was going to go on one ride at least with them! The boys agreed to the merry-go-round. This was, I have to point out, after I was seen dragging my highly motivated (and slightly deluded) two year old away from the log ride and the giant roller coaster to ride the damn carousel already.
First I got my own kids situated. Supergirl predictably chose the highly dangerous outside ring horse, dangerous because she is waaaay to small to reach out and grab for the brass rings, which she does anyway, hanging nimbly yet obliviously and possibly falsely secure - by the strap of leather attached to her painted horse....
Bubbles chose the horse next to Supergirl, and after he was seated securely on his psychedelic steed, he insisted that I also take mount upon a magical ride. I guess standing next to him kind of ruins the experience and demeans his whole dizzy rainbow cowboy fantasy, so I obliged and did a side-saddle (I was a-wearin a-skirt) on my inferior, interior-ring horse.
I looked for my new friends and scanned all the horses before the ride started. I wanted to get pics of everyone on their horses, but I couldn't find them anywhere!
Finally, I saw LunaMom waving at me from (what she called!) the granny bench! She was on the very stationary wide bench that is for...well...grannies. Grampies too. But her small children? They were not amused. Benjamin, flirt extraordinaire and owner of illegally long eyelashes, who is three, was not entirely comfortable with the carousel, according to LunaMom:
Ben started looking around and groused, "Why is there no seat belt on this?"

Me[LunaMom]: "Because people don't usually fall off these, honey. Really. It's not that dangerous."

ZOMG I had to laugh. Because, hey it was the hall of ghostly death MERRY-Go-ROUND! Poor LunaMom looked like she could have used a few rounds on the Giant Dipper. Those damn adorable kids were cramping her style! I can see how she lets them get away with it though....they are HOTDAMN cute! And Momma?? She's pretty hot herself and I cannot believe I let her escape my radar while she was on her one day drop-in Blogher experience. My Bad was in not thinking far enough ahead to booze up have lunch at the local not-so-horrible-brewery which is very close to the boardwalk. We were instead, destined to dine on soggy fries, watery pepsi drinks, and slippery corndogs.
We hugged and said goodbye.
I am a local and cheap and paid for outrageously overpriced meter parking and scoffed at the standard $10 boardwalk parking.
I got a ticket. HAHA on me.

This weekend I had happy hour/dinner/duskytime (this is that time right after dusk, when your kids get sucked into the video you have suddenly started so that you and your friends can chitty-chat) with some local bloggy friends who I don't see enough. Because I am mountain, and I am lame. I don't get out much. And after the fun time I had with the crafty ladies, I don't think you can persuade me to do otherwise. So come on over.
I felt guilty when Michelle asked me why I seemed to say the word craftbloggers with such intensity, as if they were pariahs.
I laughed and said I had been completely misunderstood, because I am way more likely to call those crafty ladies of mystical achievements, messiahs rather than pariahs.
I do not think that had been properly conveyed.
Sara brought a salad which I am still craving more of and was oh-so-deliciousy garlicky bluecheesey. Michelle brought dough. To make fresh naan. And her own very well-seasoned cast iron pans. And chutney. And yum. I made the Grace1 Special Salad (fresh uncooked corn, sliced off the cob, chunks of avocado and heirloom tomatoes, red onion and a few splashes of high quality olive oil), and some grilled chicken and skirt steaks.
And of course the cupcakes. The little faux ice cream cone cupcakes.
Which were eaten faster than I could photograph that batch.

Oh yes, and if you live near me and are trying to find those tiny cones? Don't bother. I got all four boxes in the county.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to the Best Strawberry Farm Ever

Yesterday, during Bubbles' nap, Supergirl and I headed back to the strawberry farm.

In less than 1/2 hour, we had five pounds of delicious juicy organic berries, even with goofing off time included!

Berries for jam, berries with stems for dipping in chocolate, berries to freeze, and some just to eat.

And my favorite kind of berries: Berries with noses.

My preferred method of crushing berries for jam:

This is what I will give you if you come to visit me soon:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Link Love

POPSICLES, ANYONE? This is a classic parenting issue, candid and sensitively written by AspieMom. You will love the surprise ending.

We love bacon. But Sain't Christopher may have just paved his way to heaven with delicious bacon with the generous sharing of the Wake and Bake invention. Easy-Bake Oven's got nothin on this.

Find out how we can save America by marrying the country off to a younger, richer country.

You may like her or not, but I am completely enamored with her accent. Recently, Lemonette was triple dog dared to tell us a story 'bout paynises.

Speaking of accents, meet my new friend Bennie. He has an accomplished redneck accent (claims to have a truck-up-on-blocks in his yard but all I can see is a giant swimming pool), a gorgeous tweenaged daughter, an adorable and exceptional zen master for a son, and a wife who he orders around as his personal redneck chihuahua videographer.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This is my Early Intervention Speech

Hello, Choir.
I will be your preacher today.

Let's do a quick vocabulary review, shall we?
Early: or during the first part of a period of time, a course of action, a series of events, etc.: early in the year.
Intervention: 1.the act or fact of intervening.

Oh, that didn't do it for you? Still not clear?
Let's try this:
Extra Early Childhood Education With Experts For Free (or nearly).

Does that make more sense?

Because if I hear one more parent of a two year old tell me that they are going to 'wait and see', or even worse, that their doctor told them not to worry, and let's take another look in a few months....well, I am going to stick ice picks in my ears to ease the pain.
A few months.
The difference of a few months may be the difference in your child's ability to learn for the rest of their life. The difference of a few months could mean the distinguishable difference in your intelligence as a parent.

Here's something you should know.
You can self-refer your child for an assessment at your local Regional Center. You don't have to wait for Dr. MeansWellButIsMisinformed to agree with your concerns or your gut.
You don't need a prescription or a referral. You just need to call.

Here's something else you should know.
Early Intervention ends at age three, at which time your precious flower will be thrown to the wolves attended to by an emotionally bereft and financially strapped school district. The funding for Special Help ends at age three. My son will likely go from six hours a week of speech therapy to 1/2 hour (or one hour, if I have to pull out my sabre-teeth, I will).
So don't miss the Early in Early Intervention. You may be sorry you did, but you will still be screwed.

I am an advocate for EI, this is true. Which is why it makes me absolutely batty to hear parents who I love, parents who are watching our path with Bubbles, dismiss EI as an option for their child. No, not every child needs EI. But some do. And when a friend, a mother, asks me how many words her child 'should' have at age two, and the answer is clearly a number much higher than what she has recorded, and then her response is to muse out loud, "Well, I guess we'll wait a bit and see..."
IT REALLY FREAKS ME OUT and puts me to the test. Can I resist the podium? Can I stop myself from sounding like a bandwagon driver if she merely thinks I am trying to get her to jump on mine?
So far, I am silent. But it is a test. (Silence itself, is a test for me.)
I will answer her questions, but I will not sound the alarm. I will not be the one she remembers as She Who First Suggested Imperfection.

But, by giving her this space, this respect for her own realizations and her own timetable, I contend with my own guilt. This guilt over the betrayal of a child somehow, with the knowledge and firm belief that It Would Help.

I understand her hesitancy to ask for help, her reticence to need help.
Fear is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is legitimate. But the fear lies in the discovery of something else; not so much in the help.

Who among us as parents, are able to push beyond the fear, through the fear, to a place of just being? To a place of allowing our children to be who they are, and then walking that fine line between maintaining the acceptance of our childrens' capabilities, and wanting to show them that the possibilities for their potential may be limitless.

Teach your children well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This Story is NOT About Unicorns or Rainbows

Supergirl's friend got a duckling for her birthday. It is, as you might imagine, incredibly cute.
(peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep)

Her mom said something about having ducklings as a child, but, she said darkly, "It didn't end well."
I nodded, remembering too well a friend's toddler accidentally crushing their baby bunny years ago.
Being a sucker for predictable endings coupled with a just a smidge of horror, I pressed her further.
"Didn't end well?" I raised my eyebrows and dropped my chin, so I was essentially egging her to go on with my skepticism.
" started at the Library. Our mother told us we could go play around the fountain outside the library while she checked out books. We found a little duckling and started playing with it and when my mom came out we told her we wanted to take it home. Well, we of course were not allowed to bring it home so we put it back in the fountain with it's mother...and then..."
She stopped.
"And THEN?" I prodded her.
"Well...then we watched while the mother pecked it to death and drowned it because we had touched it."
"Well," she went on, "there is more."
I am one sick little puppy because I said, "Oh really? More?" like she was offering me truffles.

"My mother felt so bad about it that soon after, she got us each a baby duckling. But my sister was only two and a didn't end well."
"Oh god don't make me beg for the ending," I begged.

"Well....the duckling pecked her on the chin....and she...well...she...just reacted...she...."


"Umm, no. Not exactly."

She looked around to make sure the little girls were not listening, and lowered her voice.

"She just bit it's head off."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coconut Cake -AND LOOK! The Cutest Cupcakes EVER!

How to make this fabulously awesome and delicious coconut cake:

First of all, promise your readers that you will post the recipe and then don't. Because you are good at making friends that way.
Consider trying to explain that your husband implied that it wouldn't really be fair to post the recipe unless you make another cake. Since the cake that was photographed was actually taken to a going away party which the husband chose not to attend. Decide to not try to explain that because it sounds pretty lame.

Then, get distracted by these.

These will rock your world and cause your brain to nearly explode with the limitless possibilities for these little wondercups.

Yes, that's a quarter. That's how tiny they are.

Get distracted again when you realize that they are made just sixty miles from your childhood home town.
Decide to compromise and make some little joy cone baby coconut cupcakes and a smaller coconut layer cake (for me, since I am lacking small round cake pans, this just meant thinner layers).

3 cups cake flour (softasilk is my favorite), combined with~
4 teaspoons baking powder,
1 teaspoon salt (omit salt if you only have salted butter)
2 sticks (one cup) unsalted butter, very soft
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk (well shaken or stirred)

Using Kitchenaid stand mixer, you will start beating your butter until whippy.
Then you shall add the sugar and whip until it is more fluffy.
Add eggs, one or two (the recklessness!) at a time, beating at least 30-60 seconds between additions.
Scrape bottom and sides of mixing bowl well and mix for another minute.

Mix vanilla in with coconut milk.
Mix flour and baking powder together in another bowl.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg/butter mixture, then 1/3 of the coconut milk, alternating dry and liquid, and scraping the bowl very well after each addition.

Pour batter into two 8 or 9 inch prepared (buttered, floured) cake pans.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

For mini-cupcakes, fill the cones (or cups) 3/4 full, and bake for 15 minutes at 350.

Let cool on rack for about 20 minutes and then (for cakes) flip cakes onto wax paper or parchment lined plates.

While the cake cools, lightly toast some good quality shredded coconut.

Seven Minute Frosting (Kitchenaid version):
2 large egg whites at room temp
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup water
dash of salt

Whip egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until just beginning to hold shape.
Put remaining ingredients into a sauce pan, bring to a boil and boil for one minute (or until sugar is fully dissolved) before removing from heat. Whip egg whites again until holding soft peaks but not dry, and with mixer running on high, add syrup very slowly in a thin stream (take about 90 seconds to pour), continue to mix on high for seven minutes or until thick, marshmallowy and billowy. Use frosting immediately.

Assemble cake:
(Optional first step: Spread a layer of fresh strawberry jam on the first layer of the cake before topping it with frosting)
Spread frosting on the bottom layer, top with shredded coconut and sliced strawberries. Carefully place the top layer on top, liberally frost the top and sides, and decorate with more sliced strawberries and toasted coconut, or however you like!

Frost cupcakes liberally and decorate however you wish.

It's a BABY!

Journeymama (The beautiful Rae) has had her new baby, her fourth child. He was born yesterday in India.

Won't you send her some love?

Big Mouth Reviews

New review for Greenworks soap up over here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Strawberry Picking

We are lucky enough to live about ten minutes away from a coastal organic strawberry farm.

So, we obviously had to go get some of these mutant very extremely incredibly happy strawberries.

We got too many strawberries. Too many for jam, even. Because I am a shortsighted dumbass who underestimated the power of child labor and only bought one packet of pectin for the jam.

When we could have made three batches of jam. But now we have some jam, some frozen strawberries, and I made this:

Coconut cake with seven minute frosting, layered with strawberries (and coconut, of course).

We Have A Foxy Winner!

Congratulations, Jenine!
By the way....ALL of your haikus and limericks were very entertaining. I will definitely be asking for more of those.

Jenine - Please email me your address, so we can send Foxy to you right away!
You should know, I only licked Foxy once. And that was only to sacrifice myself for the safety of your child. I am fine. So is Foxy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Awards, Links, Speshulness

Awards, gifts...I feel like I am all warm and fuzzy all at once and whoa.

I kinda like it.

First, the exciting I Won Big Package Day.

Then? Then I got this from Headless Mom.

Because apparently, I kick ass. Which I do. And she knows that. Not that I'd kick her ass, because I totally wouldn't. I would pinch it, but just a tiny bit and then I would pretend it wasn't me.
Here's the thing. I think she kicks ass, because she is:

  • pretty

  • kind

  • really smart

  • and apparently not afraid of my severe godlessness or guilt by association on judgment day.

So, in turn, I am supposed to award five bloggers the kick ass award. I hate chain letters more than root canals (because with root canals you usually end up with some reasonably good drugs, whereas chain letters? nothing but trouble.), but I love to kick ass, so the way I see it, if every kick ass blogger awards five more bloggers, eventually we all will kick ass. Which will then make it less special, sure, but who are you calling elitist? I didn't think so.
So...I am going to award five women whom I met for the first time this year at Blogher (which narrows it down for me and makes it slightly easier):

  • Rachel, mother of six, residing in Israel and writing about infertility and beyond (yes, six)...we had a meaningful conversation in the shoe department of Macy's with mayhem all around us. I heart Yirmi.

  • Melanie of Left Coast Mom, who found herself partying with the other crazy left coast chicks by some awesome layout of fate. Her mom just died. Her dog died last week. Be extra nice to her.

  • Laurie, of Laurie Writes. Again - another happenstance of meeting, partying and secrets. (Shhhhhhh)

  • Kelly, who is MochaMomma. She is smart and nice and pretty and tall and wears great shoes without falling over and I want to be her when I grow up.

  • Loralee. I can not believe I had never met her before. I am totally smooching her next year now that I know she has no boundaries.

  • (I totally have at least five more. Damn this is harder than I thought! FAIL!)


Then I got notice of this.

I have been honoured for writing about my son Elijah.

A bittersweet honour (I say honour because sweet Kate is Canadian), (and I say bittersweet because I have been honoured for spinning thoughts into words which were spewed out in attempts to hold insanity at bay), but one which bears the prestige of being recognized for sharing one's barest truth. Kind of like a bravery medal.
And one which comes because I have written about my son Elijah. There is no greater honour; and no greater way to honour him.

But to take it one step further, I was also nominated for another post in the very same month. (Thank you, whomever you are...)

Evidently, the emotional arteries are in a clearing phase.

Thank you, Glow, for reminding me to not keep my words to myself.

~Give sorrow words.
The grief that does not speak
knits up the overwrought heart
and bids it break.~


Why We Are At De-Programming Camp

Last Saturday we (Jenijen and myself) went to Grace's house where she let all of our kids run amuck, eat all her food, and chase Malcolm, the world's most patient dog.

We were very sad that NakedJen could not join us, but I fed her a cupcake.

Grace thought she was still hungry so then she fed Jen another cupcake (Gwendomama was getting frustrated that she could not get a picture of NakedJen to maximize but finally gave it up and just went with it.)

Bubbles decided he wanted in on the cupcake action too, so he reclined on Grace's deck, licked off the frosting and offered me the rest.

But then?

Grace attempted to 'gangify' our children, evidenced by this picture (and this one) of her teaching them how to use their hands to start fights represent.

This is when I put my kids in the car and said, "Don't listen to the crazy lady, kiddos - especially when she shows you how to do that 'EASTSIDE' crap! You are MOUNTAIN gang and don't you forget it."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back Away From My Planner (oh yes, and a FOXY GIVEAWAY!)

Yesterday was a jackpot mail day.

It wasn't just that I received a MomCentral sample to check out, try, and - get this - they even want me to give my opinion about this stuff! I got stuff! Link to the big mouth review coming up soon...

It wasn't just that some more gorgeous carvings arrived at my house (gifts for dear friends), as if all of that wasn't enough!

On top of it all, I received a gift box which I won.
I won.
Based on my superior intellect, community service, and selfless contributions to science my card being the lucky one who screamed to be pulled out of a drawing, I won something!

I do not win things.
I have many things; and I have some things even stalking me, but never, ever have I had luck.
So, how excited was I when Parentbloggers sent me this package?


It didn't look very exciting at first, but the thrill was mounting...I removed the uber cool black tissue reveal...


STUFF! Not SWAG. SWAG is (I recently learned from a wiser blogger whom I like to call G1 but am embarrassed to tell you that I just learned this):


And this? This is STUFF as in:
Fish you
Fot (but you didn't and I did, sorry.)

(don't you dare judge me. you can totally feel the message.)(go ahead -you think of something that starts with 'f' that means the same thing!)

WHAT STUFF DID I GET? I can hear you shouting...the suspense is killing you.

Some magical j&j lotions and potions. We are especially interested in the detangler.
And the very appealing nighttime magical-sings-your-children-to-sleep-with-non-denominational-and-not-too-scary-folkie-songs-whilst-delivering-backrubs-and-spoonfuls-of-sugar-but-still-brushing-their-teeth-because-that-much-sugar-would-be-bad-at-bedtime-everybody-knows-that Soothing lotion. I can't wait to try that one!

This cute little bag of things that at first had me puzzled (is it a test? what do a half-eaten pizza, a milk bottle, and one jax have in common?) but then I realized it was a toy that I should stash in my purse and pull out a a restaurant someday so I can entertain my children while I finish my pint my dinner.

I already love it.

Also? This...

This adorable little rubberwood fox came in the box as well. The tag assures me that no children or artificial color plants were harmed in the making. I am going to lick it to be sure. Stay tuned. If I don't have a seizure, I am probably fine. Short-term, that is.

And is it wrong that I love the bag they sent me? Come on!

"Recycle Posts"???? Superb.

But the piece de resistance for me? The never organized virgo living in a sea of slobs different standards?


A Busy Body Book Family Planner.

It's mine. mine, all mine.

But the cute little rubberwood fox on wheels?

Could be yours, yours, yours.
It's only been licked once.
My kids are too big to enjoy this toy (boy child has moved on to interests such as dinosaurs and trains and backhoes. foxes? not so much.), but if you know a child who would enjoy it, please leave me a comment.
Here's the catch.....You have to make up a haiku or limerick with the word 'fox' or 'foxy' in it.

Think of how you too could be a winner. It's not just all about me.

A winner will be chosen Monday, August 18th, at noon - CALIFORNIA TIME. (PDT?)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ABA in Action

Gwendomama: Who wants to go in the hot tub?

Supergirl: ME!

Bubbles: I go-go-go! I hot-dog!

Gwendomama: Great try, Bubs - now say 'Hot. Tub.'

Bubbles: Hhhaaawww...sbrlrghft!

Gwendomama: Try again; say 'HoT. TuB.'

Bubbles: Haaawwwwtttt. Trkpldrqxt!

Gwendomama: (hides eye rolling)(omg/omg/omg)
Try again, sweetie. Say HOT. T...Uhhhh...BBBuh!

Bubbles: (concentrating furiously)(hiding eye rolling)
HAWWTT! Ttttt...... BUTT.


(Dh and I? We high-fived.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Corners Are Rounded

For nearly a year, I have listened to Speech Delay Stories. I do appreciate each and every one. The one about my friend's son who said to his grandfather, "I can too talk. I just didn't want to." The one about the child who never spoke a word until he spoke in full and eloquent sentences. The ones about the (many) children who spoke their own language until they finally gave it up for the preferred household language at age (pick one): two, three, four.
The one about the child who passed all the hearing tests but was discovered - much later - to be, in fact, 80% deaf. The one about the child diagnosed with autism at age 2 whose diagnosis was retracted four years later when he suddenly started communicating verbally.
Almost all of the stories are about boys, and almost all of them have a turning point in their story; a sudden corner is turned, and lo! The child speaks!
For us? We have been traveling on a more circular road.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
No corners in sight.
Our circle is full of friendly people though; people who want to talk about his speech delay now that he is taller and it is becoming more obvious. I am fine with talking about it, explaining what he is trying to say, discussing his ABA-based speech therapy, even sharing my concerns that he may have verbal apraxia. (Tune in in a few weeks for the evaluation results!)
  1. "Is there anything else wrong with him?" some of the helpful neighbors say.
  2. "Have you had him looked at by a Real Expert?" says another.
  3. "I think you are overly-concerned. My nephew didn't say a word 'til he was four." I hear frequently.
  4. "Are 'they' sure he isn't autistic?" some ask boldly. None of these people knows him well.
  5. "I dinnet talk til I's four and I's just fine! Whadda you worried about?" Oh. My.

My answers are:
  1. I don't know. Language appears to continue to be the singular delay.
  2. Yes, a few real experts and few times.
  3. Ummkay.
  4. Well, yes actually, 'they' are pretty sure. He has been evaluated three times. He's pretty fucking engaged.
  5. Well, yes you are! That is remarkable!

My thoughts are:
  1. How the fuck do I know? Do I look like I have a crystal ball or something, cheez wiz? Wouldn't we all be so lucky to know if our child will have any learning disabilities or get cancer or become a doctor or live to be nine years old?
  2. Define 'Real Expert', oh challenger of experts and child development. Who the hell are you, anyway?
  3. Oh. Allrighty then. If I had a freaking dollar for every time I heard this story....
  4. Are you checking because you want to know if he has the plague? Because the way you just asked that, one might wonder. Why did you ask that, anyway? What's it to you?
  5. If you say so.

So, while we are completely fine with The Whatever that may lie ahead of us, we would also love to know ASAP if there is any Whatever with which we can help him right away (stay tuned for the 'Don't miss the 'early' in Early Intervention post', coming soon!), and this is why I have been pressing for a speech evaluation with attention to verbal apraxia.
I have been looking wistfully at the children who have found their corners, and occasionally enviously at the parents who cheer them on as they turn them.

Bubbles, plodding along on our hair pullingly frustrating perfectly fine trajectory of great effort and consistent but small steps forward, has not seemingly found his corner. Or at least, not one that he has been willing to turn.
He has, however, been trying very hard. And he is extremely charming and the master of multi-use communication, so his lack of comprehensible words has not set him back beyond his own compensation skills thus far. Seriously, he has charmed the pants off of a few daddies (he loves the daddies)(but not 'charmed the pants off of' literally because that would be insidiously wrong), nearly getting himself adopted at a recent zoo trip (Oh hi! A dadda! Not my dadda but whatever. A dadda! Bye-bye, Mama!) and manages to make friends in any group or age group.
But still. How many times each day can I remind my child that there is a 'p' sound in the word, 'open'? How many times must I point out the difference between 'juice' and 'milk', and the necessity to express the preferred one by label? Really, how many? Go on, guess.
At least seventeen, easily. Maybe twenty.

Occasionally there have been the glimpses of a corner; the attempts at more than one-syllable words, the finally deciphered run-on sentences, the oddly refined articulation...
"Whassats I wanna go outtdere." "I un wannit." "SSTTO-O-OPPP" (yelled with the most perfect diction ever)
....and then we just stay right there. Walking around. Circles.

Perhaps two weeks ago, we were on our usual 'walk' around the 'circle' and going through our usual speech inclusion methods with him. Including saying things like: 'OPEN has a 'PUH' SOUND IN IT DUDE! IT'S PUH!', and 'Yes, it says neigh but it is not a neigh. WHAT IS IT?'
And then suddenly we heard something that sounded like 'I want more meat please. I want a fork. Thankyou.'
But since it was in the voice of my currently-mono-syllabic-preferenced toddler and it also sounded more like this...
'I-un-mo-me-meez-I-un-fuk. Akkthu.'
...the first few times, I didn't really believe it at first. But after repeating himself with hand gestures and props, we determined that he was, in fact saying, "I want more meat please. I want a fork. Thank you."

On Saturday I was visiting dear Grace, and just before we had to leave, her husband George arrived home and Bubbles ran right up to hug him; love at first sight. He then got slightly embarrassed and ran to hide behind dear Jen's daughter Willow, grabbed her hand and said to her excitedly, "The daddy! The daddy is over there!" (He really liked Grace before, but suddenly her popularity level soared with the discovery of 'her daddy'.)
I looked at Jen and said, "OHMYGOD DIDYOUHEARTHAT?"
(I would just like to point out that I have absolutely no idea where Bubbles gets his tendency to pioneer his language with run-on sentences.)
She did. She had heard that.

The next day, we were getting ready to make the drive to visit our friends, the Boss of Seattle and her family who have relocated to a California town which begins with the letter 'S'.
We were just about to leave when Bubbles had a meltdown.
He came running into the house and cried. It was at this point that I thought I heard,
"I-un go-go-go..(*sob*sob*)..dadda no-no-no!"
I said, "Umm, excuse me honey. Did you say something? Did you hear something?"
In between sobs, my son said to me,
"I. Wann. Go-go-go. Car. Dadda. Suhd. No-no."
I looked up and dh was in the doorway.
"HOLYCRAP did you hear what he just said?"
He nodded.
"I heard it. He threw a fit when I got him out of the car because he was trying to get buckled up and I told him it was too hot and Mommy wasn't ready to leave yet. He said 'I want to go NOW!'
We looked at the Bubbles, and back at each other.
He said again,
"I. Wann. Go-go-go. Car. Dadda. Said. No-no."

{{ !!! }}

This is the stuff that sentences are made of!

I got the car packed in record time and off we went.

Today, his therapist showed up for their session right after we had arrived home with a new basket of beloved trains from the BOS and her boys. He wasn't ready to shift gears so quickly and had a little cry when he saw therapist S and her box of toys.
He then came to tell me,
"I don unt play. I unt Daddy. I unt choo-choo. I don unt toys."

I don't know if I dare to see it...we both are hesitant...but maybe, just maybe...

...Our corners are a bit rounded?

Where I Was

Gwendomama: Hey, Boss of Seattle, I think I will come visit you in your new California home, because I am so excited to see you!
BOS: Do! Do come to see us ever so soon in our new home! We are also very excited to see you and can't wait to visit frequently with our children and much beer present.
Gwendomama: Frabulous! I shall be there in a few short hours! Lo! Wait! Have you the wi-fi signal? I think I cannot come unless you do!
BOS: Why yes! Yes we do!

Three hours later...

((Squee! Squee! You! You! Hugs! Squee!))
Gwendomama: So, lovely BOS, what is that password to the wi-fi here at your hew home?
BOS: '?'
Gwendomama: The password?
BOS: '?'
Gwendomama: LIAR!

Friday, August 08, 2008

When Children Die: More Questions

Lori, who writes here in memory of her daughter, and here about moving forward, asked me the following question, and it is certainly something that I also deal with frequently. Definitely deserving of its own post:

I was attending a planning session for a fundraiser to benefit the
Children's Cancer Association last night and of course told them about my
daughter. This inevitably led to tears (not mine surprisingly) and
multiple "I'm so sorry's" and lots of awkwardness. Have you found a good
response to "I'm sorry"? Cause thank you is not cutting it for me.
It's like they expect me to say more and I just don't know what to say.

This is what I call: An Awkward Moment. But these Awkward Moments happen all the time. Nearly everyone has the same reaction upon hearing about a child's death: shock, sadness, disbelief. But after a year or so, it becomes difficult to hear every time. Not so difficult that we will ignore that s/he existed when you ask us how many children we have, but difficult in the tedious and somewhat depressing sense. And then we thank you for your sympathy, which is appropriate, but then the sadness and head-shaking in disbelief go on for another moment and we feel almost as if we need to comfort you and tell you it's okay.

When I tell people my son died, the usual (and completely appropriate) response is extreme apology, offered within hushed tones.
"Oh I am so sorry. How AWFUL for you and your family."
This is kind, this is meaningful. But guess what? My little girl is right next to me listening to HOW AWFUL IT IS FOR US. And I gesture to her and smile.
Then I address the person who is offering the condolences.
"Yes, it is every parent's worst nightmare come true. But it is also just our family history. It happened. Her brother's name was Elijah, and she remembers him."
Almost always, this evokes some happy memory or delivery of information about Elijah-the-living, that my daughter (now age 7) feels compelled to share.

If my daughter is not around, I pretty much say thank you and remind people that we like to remember him. It makes us feel better.

For us, I guess part of it is the de-sensitization process; the Coping With The Reality, tragic or not.

If the words 'my dead son' continue to evoke ONLY tragedy, then my daughter has far too much to lose.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When Children Die: What to Do. Or Say. Or Not.

A friend called today with a few questions. Her friends in Seattle lost their six month old baby yesterday. Suddenly. Inexplicably. While she was at her first day of daycare. The baby wasn't eating, wasn't feeling well....when mama arrived she saw the was too late. Their baby died.

My friend wanted to know...should she go? And....could she help, how could she help, should her children come too, what should she say, should she say much, and why was this causing some strange emotional clog for her, my friend?

We talked for a while on the phone; when we hung up I felt my own emotional upheaval - so sad for this family, so angry at the sudden loss of this baby girl, but gratified that I could offer any helpful words.

There is no manual for what to say, and one extremely good reason for this is that no manual would ever work for every family, every encounter.

But because I have a big mouth and am a self-appointed public service educator, I am going to go ahead and tell you what was helpful or memorable for us in the immediate aftermath of Elijah's death:

  • If you can visit them or attend the memorial service, do. If you can offer your presence, it will be appreciated. Even if you cannot offer any words at all, just be there. Just that is enough, because we (the parents) know that there are no words.
  • If you can offer words, do express your sympathy, your disbelief, your extreme sadness. There are no effective words of consolation to offer -none. When a child dies, everyone loses.
  • If appropriate, do say 'this is so fucked up' to the parent(s). It is probably what they are thinking anyway, and may feel comforted that you can say it aloud with them.
  • Do allow room for anger. Sadness is to be expected, and sometimes the anger is a delayed reaction, but for many it is immediately interspersed with the extreme agony, and sometimes is a hard emotion to justify or accept. I felt very ripped-off and angry, but I also felt like it was a 'wrong' emotion to be experiencing at the time.
  • If there are other living children, do bring them gifts. Any small new shiny object that captured my daughter's attention and distracted her from noticing how incredibly sad and checked-out I was at the time, was greatly appreciated and remembered. The day Elijah died, a friend came over with a new doll for Supergirl. One observer thought it a bit morbid; bringing a baby doll over to a girl who had lost her baby brother. They were wrong. It came with clothes and accessories and kept her interested for blessed minutes, maybe hours...I really can't remember. Another friend overnighted a package to me which contained a doll and some small games for Supergirl (which I still have and remember their source) and books about loss and grieving for me. I still have never read one of the books, but the thought and desperate desire to help that went into that package was palpable and memorable.
  • Do bring food if you live nearby, and/or organize a community food drop-off and/or freezer for the family. Something I will never forget as long as I live, was one of my dearest friends driving up our mountain only hours after Elijah died. Hours after we had retrieved our daughter from her house, leaving there with one carseat empty. She came bearing at least three grocery bags full of pre-made salads and ready-to-eat gourmet grocery food. She sobbed as she stocked our refrigerator, "I'm Jewish. We feed people. I don't know what else to do." We would never have eaten anything until our family showed up if it had not been for her. Seriously.
  • Do go to the funeral home with the parents if they want you to (especially for family members and closest friends). You may think it is a private meeting meant for just the parents, but they have no idea what they are doing and could probably use someone nearby to hold them up or offer them a valium when the funeral director asks them: "Cremation or burial?" Also helpful if someone can just write that damn check for them. Our cremation bill was not at all on the high monetary end, but having to see that check to the crematorium come back in my bank statement was agonal.
  • Do delegate responsibility to others you see who wish to help and appear to need direction. The last thing you want to ask of the parents is any sort of coordination efforts at all.
  • Do not bring a child who is near the same age of the child who died unless you are specifically asked to by the parents. Really. Especially with babies, and I am not kidding At All.
  • Do smack politely intercept the person who may try to violate the above suggestion. Offer to hold their child for them so that they may offer their sympathies and then leave.
  • Do not repeat useless and meaningless platitudes just because you have heard them in previous similar circumstances. Unless you are unfortunately accustomed to frequenting the funerals of children, you have never been in similar circumstances. Examples: S/he is in a better place; (God) never gives you more than you can handle, etc...
  • On another note here, because this is a whole separate post (that I believe I have written in several segments already), but if the child who died was a child with special needs and not dying a horribly painful death, then I cannot stress enough, DO NOT EVER suggest that the death was a blessing for the child or family in any way. EVER. These are the most insulting words ever: they imply that the child who is lost was loved less than your own (or their own) 'typically developing' children. Do not even hint at or suggest that there is relief of a burden lifted. EVER.
  • Do not ask the parents if they are going to 'have another baby'.
  • Do not tell the parents 'what you think they should do' regarding having another baby, waiting to have another baby, or not having another baby. Actually, don't even utter the words 'another' or 'baby' and you are probably safe.
  • If you are close with this person, do call them after the memorials or funerals are over; after their friends and family have left, after the initial aftermath. There is much loneliness ahead, regardless of the number of people around them. And the reason I said, 'if you are close' is because I mean you need to call her/him every day or every 48 hours. And for months. You should not demand a conversation, just leave yourself open for one and let your friend know you are there. This 'small' act by a friend very possibly saved my life more than once.
  • Do not tell the parents that you 'really should get together more', or that you 'want to help' if you: can not, will not, are too hurt and afraid yourself to be of support, or just live too far away for it to be feasible. It's really okay if you are unable. Like I said, when a child dies, everyone loses. And everyone feels lost. But disingenuous offers are just that. Disingenuous.
  • Do not tell the parents that they are 'stronger than you are' or that 'you would not be able to get through this'. While the good intention behind these words is obvious, they fall into an open gaping wound and come across to someone in a very sensitive place, sounding more like, 'I cannot believe you have not killed yourself yet. You must not love your child as much as I love mine. For I would not be able to go on.' Also, the 'stronger'? Bullshit. Nobody wants to have to be that strong. Cry your fucking hearts out. A kid died. Let your legs buckle with the blow of it. 'Strong' is for fan belts, triathletes, and the airplanes which carry me up in the sky.

  • Do ask me if you have any questions...or helpful hints of your own.

Edited to add reader suggestions:

  • Do be willing to undress the person who is grieving if she passes out drunk, and/or put her children to bed for her. Thank you, Squid. Very important and realistic information.
  • Do consider carefully before you send flower arrangements or live plants, as Julia mentions: One thing I would add is that many bereaved parents I know had a hard time with the flowers that people sent to them-- they felt like the flowers needed tending to, like letting them die was another (small, but somehow significant) loss. So it might be good to try to figure out how the parents might feel about that before sending. Two people sent us edible arrangements-- these are cut and decorated fruit baskets arranged to look sort of like flowers. You'd think it would be morbid to eat those under the circumstances, but it wasn't. It was strangely satisfying to pluck things off and consume them. - Indeed. Thank you, Julia.
  • Do not, in the months following, frequently place your baby on the bereaved mother's lap, saying 'Here! You need a baby fix!' Unless the mom grabs for your baby, no she doesn't. And you're making her feel very awkward about hating your baby on her lap.
  • Do ask everyone you know if they have any friends or family with a vacation home they could offer to the family. Chances are, the family will want to escape for a while after the memorial. Cheers to Lori for reminding me how incredibly important that one was/is.
  • Do show up and clean the floors, tub, or do laundry. Thanks, Tricia.
  • Do not clean everything of the child who died. Do not clean anything or put it away unless the parents ask you to. (I did. I asked others to put his things away for awhile.) You do not want to remove every last trace of this child's scent from their lives. Thank you, Bree.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Journey of Hearts

A few years ago, I bought a piece of jewelry at the farmer's market in Hanalei. It has become almost as much a part of me as my long hair or my funny shaped ears.

It's a simple open heart, carved from a coconut shell and strung on marine quality thread. I love it so much, that when I recently got dressed up in my fancies to go somewhere, I removed the heart necklace and put on pearls. Right before I left my house, I switched out the pearls for the necklace that is 'me. I couldn't go out without it.

The Christmas after I bought this heart necklace, my sister in law gave me a memorial pendant. I had asked for a small memorial necklace, so I was touched to see it: a silver circle with his name and the number of days he lived engraved into it, with his birthstone hanging in the center. For a while, I wore them both. Perhaps four months after wearing the memorial necklace, the cheap chain broke and it fell off.

I was livid. We eventually found the pendant, but I was furious that a business would advertise something as a memorial necklace and then put it on a dimestore chain, thus ensuring that the person wearing the memorial necklace would soon be crushed by another loss - even if it was just the loss of a symbolic piece of metal (as if there is more room for being crushed).

Eventually, it became obvious that I already had a memorial necklace; it was the one I wore every single day. The one that never, ever fell off.
So... I contacted Eleni, the coconut necklace artist from Kauai.
I explained the story; how meaningful the necklace had become to me, and asked her if she would be willing and able to carve Elijah's name into my heart.
(haha - I just read that. It just came out. I am so dope.)

She said she would be honored to be able to fulfill such a request.

Of course to do this, I realized just now, I will have to remove the necklace from my neck and put it in a box, offering it up to the care of the USPS.
Someone hold me.

Tomorrow, my heart will be mailed across the pacific, back to an island that stole my real heart many years ago. With any luck, it will return to me in a few weeks, bearing the name of the child who also stole my heart. And cracked it wide open.

Wish us luck.