Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hierarchy in the crayon box

Informed, just now:

"Mommy, I think that blue is the boss of all the colors."


"Because it is the color of the sky. And most of the earth."

Someone Deserves A Smackdown

I love free stuff!!! LOVE IT!! But because I am a bad blogger who has yet to review (waiting for the reports from some slackers, okay?) some certain fabulous product, I rarely get free stuff!
But yesterday I received an invitation to a fashion show in LA.
And, beginning with the fact that I cannot make it to LA to attend this fashion show, there is just so very much wrong with this. I don't know where to begin?
Let's just have a look at the invitation, shall we?

Hi Gwendomama,
I have limited availability for press at an invitation only baby and toddler fashion show at Social Hollywood followed by a luncheon catered by Citrus on Tuesday, April 8 at 11:30 a.m. PT.
Thirty up-and-coming boutique fashion houses will debut their spring and fall collections on a team of professional models from 18-months to 5 years old, who will be styled and coiffed by Hollywood's best make-up, hair and wardrobe stylists in a Candy land meets urban-hip theme.
Check out the event details here:
Let me know ASAP if you'd like to attend. I'd really love to have you there and I don't want to run out of space if you're interested in attending.

[name edited out because I am nice that way)

Schwartzman & Associates

Wow. Can you imagine what I am going to miss here? I can.
I know, it is hard for me to resist the urge to make plans to go when that link takes me to a world of temptation:

• Toddler models ages 3 to 5 strutting the catwalk in never before seen fall and spring fashions
• Infants wheeled in baby carriages with iPod integration and under carriage lighting

OMG! I am going to miss THAT? I doubt I'll ever recover from the obvious defecit in my life. A gaping hole is sure to be mine after this.
I mean they had me hooked at the mere prospect of being able to witness the parading of a "team of professional models from 18-months to 5 years old, who will be styled and coiffed by Hollywood's best make-up, hair and wardrobe stylists"...but then they brought tears to my eyes when I was informed of the always classy for toddlers "Candy land meets urban-hip theme".

Tears, people.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In like a Lion, out like a Great White Shark

I am hedging away from March as fast as it approaches. For days now, I have been going to bed in tears, waking up in confused and angry dream states. March is just around the corner, I heard my brain tell me. And just as fast as the thought was born, I pushed it to the far corners of my mind to have a time-out and gather dustbunnies. Fuck that. As if a month or a season could screw with someone like that. As if.
I refuse to let that someone be me.
But when I go to sleep, my rational and always in place defenses also go to sleep.
Dreams that I once implored my subconscious to provide me, now taunt me with both the sweetness of seeing my son, and the horrific realization that he is gone forever.
I mean, realizing he is gone forever has been something that has wormed itself into my being in small toxic doses over nearly the past four years. Realizing that forever is a long fucking time is, well...suckish. Realizing it day after day as your face gets rubbed in it, your nose gets buried in his neck...and then that sweet neck?


Gone again. Forever.
Does it make me want to not open my eyes in the morning or not close them at night? Both? I'm not sure.
I should be grateful for these moments in dreams - these precious whiffs of the vanilla and cedar smelling bodhisattva, these rare glimpses of my son's eyes when they sparkled and saw the fairies - they are gifts, right?
And I am an ungrateful and cynical angry bitch who still shakes her fist at the universe for stealing him away. What need did the universe have for him? Was it more important than allowing him life? Was it more important than allowing us our son?

My dreams are not all of neck-nuzzling. There are far too many snippets of the feeding, the endless feeding. The hours and hours each day it took to feed this baby, stuffing him with high calorie foods to show the doctors (who did, indeed, want to be shown) that he did not need a G-tube. He could swallow. Slowly. But what did we have but time? (The universe has an evil sense of humor)
He did not like it, but he put up with it, as any bodhisattva would. He patiently opened his tiny little bird-mouth again and again, allowing us to stuff him until his cheeks swelled and shone, but his body still refused to grow.
"A G-tube will help him to grow!" The doctors insisted.
"Can you be sure? He just seems to get fatter and fatter, but never taller than a three month old." We were suspicious.
The answer was, "Probably."
Which was not enough to convince us to put him through surgery.
I kept skimming my pumped breastmilk (using a gravy skimmer, to allow the milk to separate and only give him the high-fat creme, making every effort to suck or swallow worth more calories.), we kept mixing it with careful ratios of cereal and butter and formula to achieve the perfect high-calorie food.
He kept chubbing out.
He never grew taller than a three month old. He never did.
There was the growth hormone. I still can't even talk about it. He should never have been given that. It was not approved for a neonate, and his size warranted that lable more than it did 'one year old'. He died so soon after the HGH injections began.
His cheeks got wider and shinier.
He kept opening his mouth, we kept shoveling it in. For hours each day.
I believe he was weary of it. Too tired to fight.

I have so much anger, guilt, agonizing memories of this time. And now I get to dream it.

I fucking hate March. I get to endure, not celebrate, a birthday.
Bear with me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

He's fuckBLEEPing Ben Affleck!

I woke up today and it was not a happy bluebirds on my shoulder morning.
No, it certainly was not. I flicked a few banana slugs and tarantulas off and went on my merry way to kick puppies and make babies cry.

Thank goodness this happened today. Or I may never have guffawed all day, even once. Now, I have guffawed, snorted, and clasped my hand over my mouth in sheer glee.


And please, if you didn't hear it before, you should probably know first, that Sarah Silverman is fucking BLEEPing Matt Damon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Brownies and Secrets!!!

Gah! I've been tagged. Right in the middle of the 'Really, I swear my son is not autistic - not that there's anything wrong with that either - and here again is the reason we are doing ABA....' post that I was am still writing...(stay tuned for that one, though!)


And, since Cindy knows that I am, more or less, a sitting duck this week with no more to do than pop motrin, keep it elevated, and read blogs....ahem. Okay then. A Friday meme.
Five things....Since I am normally such a private person (cough cough) and have revealed so very little of myself (cough::heartonsleeve::cough), I will try and cover five things that I may not have mentioned (too much) before.
(turns out, this is very hard for me, because, turns out I have a really big freaking mouth, and if I haven't mentioned it, it's probably because I shouldn't or can't!)

  • ONE: Before I had my babies, from about 1995 to 2001, I spent nearly every weekend plus a few longer trips hiking into remote corners and to the tops of well-known peaks of the Sierra-Nevada. Here I am at Florence Lake in July 2001, about three weeks before Supergirl showed up a month early. I don't even want to think about how far away from civilization we were that weekend. A little side note here...that backpacking actually how, why and when I met Cindy. Sharing a nalgene bottle of lukewarm emergen-C on the way up to (or was it down from?) Dusy Basin. We smelled so pretty that day. Here's a shot of me on my 31st birthday trip - Mt. Whitney. (BTW, emergen-C packet+snow+tequila+salt= the backcountry fizzy margarita.)

Yes, my shirt says 'goddamn sonsabitches' and I am flipping you the camera off. See? I was badass back then, too.

  • TWO: Dh was the long-time partner of my ex-boyfriend's sister. Got that? This diagram should help. Or maybe not.
  • THREE: We still have not done anything with Elijah's ashes. Except this:

See them? Under the groovy African tapestry?

There's a box. Filled with my baby.

  • FOUR: I wouldn't wear a bikini back in my twenties when my bod was probably somewhat righteous. I was waaaay too self-conscious. Of course, after giving birth three times, any shred of modesty I had maintained went out with the bathwater, and now I can be found flaunting my muffin-top and cheesy thighs in no less than a Brazilian demi suit. Because I think I'm so hot? Nope. Because when I wore a bikini while I was pregnant (see#1), I realized what an idiot I had been all those years, and I'm not missing out on that belly tan anymore.

  • FIVE: One year ago, I was pregnant. It didn't work out.

Now I suppose I am expected to tag five more people? I don't think I have that much confidence in my persuasive powers. If I could bribe them all with brownies, maybe....
  1. NakedJen (because I miss her and want her to come back home to California and collect her brownies)
  2. DottyNana (because I never can get enough of what she has to say, and she only doles it out in teeny tiny doses. harumph)
  3. MaryP (as in Poppins, because she is my new most respected internet crush love and I wish she lived near me instead of cold, cold Canada so she could be the awesomest teacher in the world for Bubbles. I think I would get a f/t job just to put him in daycare if she was my neighbor.)
  4. DadaMama (because she is the smart cookie and knows of what she comments)
  5. Jenijen (because I think I can get a visit from her out of this - she'll totally collect on the brownies)
  6. oops - did I just go to SIX? Well, I'm going to take a chance on Grace, cutting her some slack on the obligatory meme-ing, but since I owe her some baked goods, she just might participate to get me to hurrymyassup and make her some damn cupcakes!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Looky! I'm Not Caving! I Am Badass!

Bubbles is, right this very minute, screaming at his ECI (Early Childhood Interventionist). I am, right this very moment, remembering the part about how it gets worse before it gets better.
I am also vaguely remembering that I heard the word 'breakthrough' from both teachers working with him last week.
Last night I watched a recording(which I had requested) of Bubbles and the behavior specialist working with him two weeks ago. It was one of the most painful things I have ever watched. I had to pause the forty minute video at least three times. I knew it was one of his hardest sessions - I think it was the one that prompted the question, "How is he when you leave him with other people?"

Hard doesn't begin to describe watching your child go from deep, breath-catching sobs to checking out, closing his eyes and wobbling to keep his head up as he wills himself to sleep, and the only sounds heard from him are the deep residual sobbing gasps in between long silent breaths. The ABA requests don't stop; the teacher is gentle but she shows no mercy for the sudden nap, she has seen it before. If the checking-out-of-session to sleep is reinforced (simply by allowing it) this time, then it will be that much more difficult to un-do.

I support her, I believe in her, I believe in ABA, I really do.
I repeat this to myself in mantra form.

I can defend this method to anyone who dares to question it. You think I am creating a trained monkey? Well, my monkey will hopefully be able to function in a world of differences and expectations. You wonder why I put him through rote training 6+ times/day and ask him (force him with a 3-step if needed) to touch his head - touch his tummy - shake his foot - clap his hands - say "GO!" in quick and repetitive succession? And I tell you what I tell everyone else I have determined does not really anticipate a qualifying answer from me as much as an opportunity to question my motives, "Because, how else do you expect to get a child to say something? Repeat after me? Say this? Have you ever tried that with a two year old? A two year old who loves to say 'No!' if you even so much as imply that he should perform on the spot?"
(really, my two year old does look at you like you just asked him to perform the encore to Phantom of the Opera if you so much as ask him to use the label 'milk' for such a thing as 'milk'.)
Bubbles is suspicious of requests. He is getting better. Much of the speech therapy he is receiving now is just getting him used to following requests; Hello, ABA.
About one month ago, we tried something with him called Constant Time Delay (CTD), a bit too early. We knew he could say the 'b' sound, so we chose something dear to him to make him work for: Bottle. He didn't need a bottle to receive nourishment, but he loved bottles enough to work for it, we figured. We figured wrong.
After six days of using CTD to get Bubbles to say some (any) approximation of 'bottle', we gave them up. He was more attached to refusing to say anything on demand than he was to getting that damn bottle. I mean, he is two - it is more than time enough that we said goodbye to bottles. But really? A child who would rather tantrum than get the bottle? Who was this child, and more importantly, who the fuck had dropped him off at my house?
Once I refreshed my memory about the genetic stubbornness and pulled myself together, I wept a few more tears for not being the parent I want to be, and bucked the hell up.
I recalled one of the first questions I had asked the director of Bubbles' ABA program, "What he doesn't improve? What if it doesn't work?"
Her answer was the one that sealed the deal. "If he does not make improvements, then we are doing something wrong. It 'not working' is not an option."
How could you keep from kissing the person who said that? (By nodding quietly and resisting that impulse, I case you were wondering.)
At any rate, I took that part on as my own responsibility as well. If it wasn't working, then I had better request some changes. If it wasn't working, then what more could I do at home to help him?
After my six days of tantrums (his) (believe me you'd thank me for the condensed version rather than the play-by-play hours of tantrums which made up each and every one of those six days) and ultimate failure with CTD, I emailed J and waved my white flag. And do you know what she did? She put herself back on his program to work with him one:one. She revised his plan - ditch the CTD for now. She patted my ego and convinced me that I had not failed, but merely tapped into a clearly difficult level of demand from him. She reminded me that we had been understanding and following his nonverbal requests so well and for so long, and now he could not fathom why we can't (or refuse to) understand him, and that his frustration level would likely get much worse before we saw improvement.
Dark days, I tell you.
Easy to defend your methods and choices to those who question you. How dare they? Being a parent is hard! And it simultaneously subjects you to and exempts you from such commentary which is so often received as judgment.
But it is harder, so much harder, to defend your choices to yourself.
To your gut, which is wrenched and knotted from watching your child sob and sob and heave and sob. To your heart, which is ohsopainfully breaking as it witnesses these cries of angst, this inconsolable frustration. To your brain, which is grasping for intellectual justification as you watchyour child, wavering and half-asleep, barely able to focus, but still following instructions to 'tap chair' and 'put ring on stacker' in desperate hope that this person will just leave him alone if he puts the damn ring on again.

This is much harder to defend. To look past this and convince myself that I am helping him.

This is the stuff that motherhood is made of, I tell you. holyhell.

But, are we making progress? Yes, I would like to think that we are. Bubbles did not spend more than half of his session today screaming. His parroting and babbling have increased by leaps and bounds (this is a huge step towards sound-pairing and articulation), and he will occasionally say a word upon request.
He tosses out the occasional sentence, often said so quickly we don't understand it - but if we could slow down his tape, I think we would find he can say way more things than he gets credit for.
Yesterday, he moved the mouse and it changed the large computer screen in front of him. He reportedly said to Daddy, "Whatdiditdo?"

He even took a chance on a See'n'Say, and allowed it to 'tell him what to do'!

Note his very dramatic 'woof woof'.

Word of the day?


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chocolate + Salt = Better than you'd think!

The latest food adventures in my kitchen (before the klutz-o-the-month accident) started here:
I made this dark chocolate macadamia nut bark for a certain someone (sshhhh--don't tell dh) on Valentine's Day:

The chocolate is 72% cacao bittersweet (from the pound plus TJ's super bar), the mac nuts are from Australia; the salted variety, also from TJ's.
And then? Because I like it, a fine sprinkling of sea salt. Of the French variety, because I am so fancy in the kitchen. Yes, salt and chocolate, together. Mmmm. (You doubt this? bah! You like the chocolate pretzels, don't you?) (Have you not tried the salted caramels from TJ's?)

Sooo.... I got to thinking...I couldn't be the only one who had the craving for the dark chocolate + salt combination.
Could I? Am I?

Turns out, no.

I am not.
I found out that there are others who share this fondness for the salt and chocolate combination.
And then I came across a recipe for Brown Sugar Brownies with French Sea Salt.
After I hauled myself up of the floor, tucked my tongue back in, and recovered from the coldcocked foodieblog moment, I took three deep breaths exactly one half a deep breath to compose myself and another to inhale the scent of chocolate, and then immediately went about making sure we had the ingredients to make those brownies.
Right away.

I may have gone a little crazy on the salt, admittedly. But if I did, it's because I got a bit carried away and had somehow convinced myself that it was indeed some special french flaked faerie dust sprinkles! Which are all sprinkly and hard to get the hand to control in a reserved fashion.

But still? Yum. How can anything made of chocolate that is nearly flourless and covered in a shiny happy chocolate ganache with yummy french fairy salt sprinkles not be good?

Monday, February 18, 2008

A contrast in Feets

A little update on the accident:

Here we have my right foot, hideously deformed in its own right, but not because of any recent maiming.

I have pure genetics to thank for that, thank you very much!

And here, we have my left foot. Notice the cankle all the way down to the toes.
This is new. As of yesterday. And more today.

Even when I was nine months pregnant, my foot never saw this kind of madness.
You can't really appreciate the muted rainbow of colors that is beginning to appear, ever so vaguely.

The side by side contrast:

OhHolyHell I want my feets back! This is pretty good, actually. This was after 800 mg of motrin, and they almost look like they belong to the same unlucky person! (get a frackin pedicure, woman!)

Another Embarrassing Short Story - NOW With Photographic Aids!!

This is Gwendomama's front step. It is a Big Hard Rock.

This is what Gwendomama did when she twisted her way down the Big Rock Step yesterday:

This is where Gwendomama's friend drove her when she found Gwendomama crumpled in a heap of slimy tears:

This is the manolo blahnik super special shoe that the doctor gave Gwendomama:

This is the awesome set of hardware that Gwendomama came home with because the doctor refused her request for a walker with tennis balls and a mesh bag for a TVGuide:

This is Gwendomama:

And here is where Gwendomama will show you her colorful and swollen foot, just as soon as she can -ooooowwwwww- get her sock off as soon as her camera battery charges up again:

Thursday, February 14, 2008


What's better than having school cancelled due to a power outage on a beautiful (albeit, a bit windy) day?

Having the power go back on! But school?

Still cancelled.

Oh, yeah baby. Happy Valentines Day to the neighborhood!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I don't like your dog* and I vote.

Dear FuckwitAsshat At the Beach:

I don't know what I was thinking - how presumptuous of me to believe that I could take my son for an impromptu romp in the sand without incident. Today's gloriously blue sky beckoned, and I ditched the trip to the grocery store for fruit (my piano students must have fruit! they cannot concentrate otherwise! this is their story and they are sticking to it!), stopping instead at a local farm stand for a bag of kiwis. And then across the highway to the beach.
I said to Bubbles, "You know? It is so gorgeous, but I am going to take you to the beach anyway! Even though I don't have my camera with me!"

Wouldn't you know there was a river! Of water! Running through the sand! Straight out to the ocean! All this is very exciting when you are two years old and realize that rivers of water? They carry STICKS! Out to the ocean! On the river! Of water!
The sticks, they go in, they swiftly head for the ocean, they get stuck in the rapids and bob around a bit, and this? This is HILARIOUS! We must laugh and laugh and throw more sticks in the water, until we have run out of sticks and we find a rock! And when it goes in the water it makes a huge splash, which is also? HILARIOUS!
And the sand? The sand is all in the wrong place, and it could take all day to move it to the right place! Which would be back in the ocean, of course!
We were feeling mighty pleased with ourselves, our only company a few gluttonous seagulls who eyed us with disgust when they saw our hands devoid of food.

When suddenly, out of nowhere, came...OUTOFCONTROLDOG, spinning out right towards us. I started yelling. "NO! NONO!! DOWN! GO!" but it was too late. OUTOFCONTROLDOG jumped up, bounced off of me and hurled itself into Bubbles, who ended up getting pinned down with a faceful of sand before I could knee the dog off of him. He was shaking, sobbing, "Up! Upupupupup!" (Note: new word!) and I just held him. Meanwhile, the owner of the dog, a shirtless twenty-something STOOPID ASSHOLE, muttered, "Uhhh...sorry. Sorry."
(Oh- your voice DOES work? Do you know how to tell your dog 'NO'? Would you like a little lesson in 'No'? Should I kick your dog in the ass and then would you tell ME "No'? Or would you prefer that I kick YOU in the ass?)
I couldn't be bothered too much with 'accepting' his apology; I was more concerned with letting Bubbles get through the shock of the moment and recover. As I nuzzled into his trembling neck, telling him it was 'okay', I noticed that the dog had actually drawn blood where he had pinned my son down with his paw. A lovely long gash across his neck and a print of the dog's nails. I looked up and saw that the guy with the dog was long gone. A car drove away.
Okay, I can appreciate you removing your dog from the scene, but really? Leaving entirely? Without even asking to see if my child was okay? Your dog attacked took down my kid, and you left with your tail between your legs. Were you afraid of a lawsuit? Has this happened before?
You are the reason that towns institute county-wide leash laws. You, who treat your dog as if it's your child, but, unlike a responsible parent, you think that your 'child' will just be super on its own! Dog owners who choose NOT to train their dogs or control them MAKE ME CRAZY!
My child cannot rip your child apart at the neck with his teeth. Or let's just say it is very unlikely.
And if my kid DID happen to go to preschool with another REAL CHILD and DID happen to BITE them, you can bet your sweet boobies that I would not ignore it.

So, fuckwit from the dodged a bullet today. But if I ever see your lousy OUTOFCONTROLDOG again, I will throw rocks at it. And also at you.
I promise.

*You? Reader?? Your dog? No, not your dog! Your dog is lovely! Your dog is well-behaved and trained and does not belong to an asshat!!! Because YOU? You are smart! And you KNOW that if your dog attacks my kid, your dog will die and you will go to jail for being an asshat!
So no, not you.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Part 2 of The Barf Bowl

(update on this post)

I have received a few baffled comments and emails, wanting more explanation for how this mysterious magic trick works.

I won't assume you read my reply in the comments section, so here is my update.
(I was recently obliquely chastised for making a comment on a post without having read through someone's comment section. I read blogs because I am interested in what a certain author who captured my attention before might have to say again. Not so much what their 245 advice-slinging commenters have to say.)

When I was shown this technique, the therapist/ECI actually held it in front of him as if the bowl would catch the barf. She also acted all like she just didn't care if he threw up or not. So he was thrown OFF completely!
This was a valuable modeling lesson for me to watch - I instantly saw that our reaction had been way too exciting and motivating for him.
The presence of The Bowl makes him (and, apparently, almost every other child who gets offered The Bowl) get so distracted or angry that he doesn't throw up anymore. She said a few kiddos do throw up - but only once or twice in the bowl. When they realize there is not going to be any reaction or clean-up flurry, they generally give up the barfing!! I think she has a 100% success rate.
As far as the color? The bowl does not have to be blue - it can be any bowl, any color. I have found that, for my little puker, it helped to have it be the same bowl each time - because there was no mistake in his mind if I was bringing him snacks or offering him the dreaded barf-bowl.

I don't know why it works so well, but it does.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Breathtaking Brilliance of The Barf Bowl

I have mentioned before that Bubbles has a barf-button.
By this I mean that he is able to make himself barf. It didn't start out that day, as he was enduring and protesting some horrible parenting injustice (like putting him to bed), he tantrumed enough that he screamed in the back of his throat, and :::whoosh::: = VOMIT!

(I am sure that right now, Anonymous is clucking her tongue at me for not getting the 'obvious' autism Dx of my child...)

That was a memorable night! Bubbles soon learned that if he threw up, we would come running to:

  1. make sure that he had not choked,

  2. get him out of the crib and clean him up,

  3. toss him in the beloved tub,

  4. ultimately, delay the inevitable: Bedtime.

After this incident, Bubbles found that it was not only not at all difficult to throw up, but more often than not, watching the resulting mayhem ensue was even better than being allowed to watch 'The Jungle Book' instead of going to bed.
As you may imagine, this did not make his parents very happy.

But! Then the woman with The Answers; the ABA/Behavioral psych expert (who really, let's face it, is better than Supernanny, because she solves the problem without national coverage or exploitation of my parenting transgressions) came into our lives!!

She said she could help us with the speech, the sleeping, the eating (or lack, thereof), the tantrums! She could and would help us! And not only that, but the vomiting? Oh, she could cure that in just a few minutes. (I admit, it may have been at this point that I questioned her confidence and her credibility...a few minutes? really??)

So one day not so long ago, I took Bubbles to her office for a session. He was not happy at all. He screamed. I talked over him and ignored him. Some other stuff happened. He continued to be very unhappy. He started that throaty cry, he started gagging....he was definitely threatening to be Barf Boy again.... Janice turned around and grabbed something bright off the table behind her, whipped back around and held it in front of Barf Boy.

...who immediately stopped gagging and looked at the bowl in front of him with annoyance, then pushed it away. Again, he ramped it up and started gagging. Without making eye contact, Janice again held the bowl in front of him. I watched as he stopped crying again long enough to do a double take at the bowl, look confused, and push it away.
He stopped gagging.
Seriously, that was it.

He tried to revive Barf Boy at bedtime one night at home, but as soon as he saw me coming towards him with The Bowl, he ran screaming (but not gagging) away.

I have to give full credit to Janice and Ginger, the directors of ABRITE, for this is their technique. Janice seems almost as shocked as I am that it is so incredibly effective (on almost all the kiddos they use it with!). When I told her I was going to have to write about it, I also mentioned that I would not be able to take credit for something quite so brilliant.

Mama Time: Is that legal? (oh, and a recipe for sweet rolls)

I am so incredibly proud of myself my babe!
He went back to the sitter (and her two year old) yesterday- he cried for three minutes. Louder than the first time, because he saw me leave (and probably thought he could stop me with his bionic shrillness), but not a minute longer.

I am thinking: I could get comfortable with this 'having mama time' thing.

I still have a hard time focusing on a task while he is gone, as if I am expecting a call any minute, or perhaps I am just not accustomed to doing things uninterrupted any more.

I think next time, I might just have to make my new favorite thing: sweet rolls. I had never made sweet rolls before last week. I never wanted to make sweet rolls before last week.

But suddenly I did, and because I am incapable of following a recipe exactly, I came up with this:

Caramel Pecan Sweet Rolls

  • I like to use my bread machine on the dough setting, so this is the order in which I put the ingredients into the machine (dry, then wet). You can also use your kitchenaid mixer with a dough hook for this first step, but reverse the order of ingredients.
1 1/2 teaspoons active yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour (I prefer King Arthur)
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 cup warm milk

  • Place ingredients in bread machine on dough setting, or make in mixer or by hand; knead well, let it rest for about 20-30 minutes.

Make caramel:

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3Tbsp cream, half & half, or whole milk
1 cup chopped pecans

  • Butter a glass 9x13 baking pan.

  • Melt the above ingredients together in heavy saucepan over medium heat until uniform smooth texture (just bubbling); pour and spread in the 9x13 pan.

Combine filling:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, depending on your taste

  • Turn dough out onto a floured surface; it may be sticky, this is fine, just feed it more flour until it is manageable, then roll into an approximate 10x15 rectangle.

  • Brush dough with: 1/4 cup melted butter

  • Sprinkle filling as evenly as possible over the dough

  • Roll up as carefully and as tightly as possible, so that you have a 15 inch roll; pinch together

  • Using a piece of dental floss (or a sharp knife, but nothing is as efficient as the floss), cut into one inch pieces. Hopefully you will have 15.

  • Place in pan on top of caramel topping, 3 x 5 across, cover with parchment or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place 1 1/2 to 2 hours; or until doubled in size.

  • Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven

  • For 15-20 minutes

  • Immediately (and very carefully), turn upside down onto a platter or pan to cool

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Baby Steps for Mama

I just left my son in the care of a babysitter. She lives about 1 & 1/2 miles away, and we are fortunate that she has provided her own two year old as entertainment and incentive.
I stayed and had coffee and chatted for a while, getting to know her beyond 'friend's friend's daughter', ignoring at least two attempts by Bubbles to get me to 'gogogogo' with him out the door (back to the car, no doubt) when he saw his backpack and caught on to my plan. I double checked (who I am I kidding? checked for the tenth time at least) that she was up for the challenge of a potential 24 minute cry (precisely the amount of time he cried yesterday after I left him at a speech appointment in town), and the separation anxiety of a child who has never had to deal with separation before, and she assured me that she could...and I reached into my pocket, pulled out some scissors, and *snip* cut that apron string.
In theory, I don't agree with the sneaking out, but in reality? Way better.
My goal is not to get him to say goodbye to mama, rather as much as it getting him to understand that he can be without mama and still be safe and even have fun. We'll get to the goodbye part later. I want him to be successful at this, and for that to happen, he needs to be distracted. A dinosaur movie worked nicely for both two year olds (the talking one, and mine), and I slipped out the back door. Oh, judge me if you must.
I told her I'd be back by noon, and I haven't yet received a phone call...tick tick tick...

Three whole minutes of crying. THREE! She timed it! We are going back tomorrow or Monday.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What are YOU lookin at?

I am feeling a teensy bit defensive these days.

I mean, it's one thing to feel questioned by others - parents and not, friends and not, or just people who cannot mask their judgment in conversation - but, on top of this, it's another thing to be judged most harshly, most relentlessly, most irrationally, most fucking myself. Not like most parents are unfamiliar with this technique, which involves many sleepless nights, migraines, and countless hours of guilt, which just pile up. I have certainly been practicing for years, so I know I am very good at it.
It's one thing to write a post that introduces our latest (quiet) endeavors into the world of speech therapy, into the world of ABA, and be all 'I defend my attention to modifying my child's behavior'.
And it's another to come home (dammit too, if I could have just stayed away 10 minutes longer...I am new at this timing and have a few things to learn) to my two year old screaming his bloody head off, having been screaming more or less the entire 50 minutes I was away. With his most favorite teacher.


Seriously, the boy had lost his shit when I drove away the second time. Which was my huge mistake. I intended to be way gone before his teacher showed up...hoping that he will not associate me with leaving after the teacher comes, which I think is worse. I had to teach music at the preschool 2 minutes away. But I was slightly late getting socks on him for the fourth time, and instead of just letting it go and letting those tiny toes freeze, I was slightly late leaving the driveway. After I drove away the first time, dh had him calmed down within moments and told him his teacher was coming. He was fine with that. But at the top of the driveway, I ran into (not literally) the teacher, about to pull in from our one lane road. Instead of asking her to back out, I backed back into the driveway so she could pull in, which Bubbles could see from the house. I know, I know. I'm with stupid. So, the second and real time I left, he was a basket case. Not very helpful for his teacher. Or him. For apparently, the next 40 minutes.
Watching a portion of the video that she had so kindly taped for me was seriously painful. I wanted to sob, much like my son on the screen in front of me (in real time at this point he was fine, now that I was present). But I didn't.
Beyond the initial pure mama-gut reaction seeing Bubbles so completely inconsolable, it broke my heart to see him trying (and succeeding for a few minutes) to fall asleep during his session. Fall asleep. One of our little pet names for Bubbles is 'Enemy of Sleep'. Get the irony?
It was sad.
Also sad? Seeing the unfazable teacher (a woman who holds at least as much of my respect as supernanny) looking stressed when I did walk in (early, remember? because he had just calmed down 10 minutes prior to my return), and watch her genius wheels turning as she - once again - re-assessed this child of mine and started -once again- to revise his program.
"That Damn Child!", I thought. (Just kidding.) (Sort of.) Fist shaking!, I visualized.
"Don't cry while his teacher is here!!!", I begged my eyes.

She asked how he was when we left him with other people.

I'm sorry, what did you say?

"How is he when you leave him with other people?"


Leave him?
With other?

Oh. I think I see part of the problem here.

'We' don't leave him.

I have a whole load of reasons why, but none of them really matter now, do they?
What seems to matter, is that, not only have I managed to somehow foster these challenging behaviors (although the stubbornness? he comes by that genetically, I am sure), but I have also managed to throw yet another obstacle in his path to language...because I have never left him with a sitter?

I never knew that I could ruin my kid's life by hanging out with them too much.
I am not being facetious here; I am absolutely confronting one of my many parenting flaws.
Okay, maybe 'ruin' is too strong a word. But still?


And I am still - just - flabbergasted.

Enough to use the word 'flabbergasted'.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

My kid is more special than yours.

I have been so uncharacteristically quiet about the early intervention and speech therapy that Bubbles has been receiving for the past two months. I could spend more pre-sleep hours trying to analyze that one, or I could just jump in.


Bubbles has an expressive language delay. Back in November, around his second birthday, I self-referred to our regional center, the early intervention referral center. I mentioned to a few people that I was concerned about his speech; that I knew he was supposed to be using more words at this point, and I wondered if we were dealing with a language delay, or if the delay was pointing to something more serious. Every person I shared this with was incredibly helpful with their comments of how I was 'overreacting', and how they knew a boy that didn't talk until he was (fillintheblank) three, four, two and 1/2, etc....and he turned out just fine, and I should stop worrying, blahblahblah. And so I of course, stopped worrying stopped sharing my concerns with everyone and made the phone call.

A long, long time ago, I was going to college to become an early interventionist. When I was just 18, I made a choice to work with children with cancer through an internship (that I kept for two years). It may not have been a wise choice, because it ended up thoroughly confusing me about my future, and caused many internal struggles that ended up confusing my career path for years to come. But the background (early intervention) is still there, and coming from this perspective, it seemed to me quite negligent if I was able to pinpoint a real delay in my son's development, and then choose not to do anything about it.

Another thing I want to say about this (only because so many people express surprise when I tell them that we self-referred Bubbles for an assessment) is, that most people seem unnecessarily afraid of these services. Afraid of a label? Afraid of being involuntarily recruited into the 'special needs parents club'? Afraid of HELP?

We were fortunate enough to receive EI services with Elijah, and our experience was that this county is well-funded and well informed about the benefits of early intervention, and one would be a fool not to take what they have to offer. When a child turns three, their therapy (if still needed) will not be funded or provied by EI, but a family will then receive an IEP through the county office of education. Most parents should know that services are much harder to receive once in the hands of the impoverished school districts, and even more difficult if the services were not in place prior to age three (through EI). Also, EI is just that: Early Intervention. Why wait until three or four to deal with something that could be addressed at age two? If you know anything at all about a child's brain, you know why these are called the formative years.

So, when Bubbles had about six words at eighteen months, and still about six words at nearly two years, I knew I had to turn him in make the call. Within two weeks, the regional center coordinator came to my house with a child development expert (who is also a behavioral psychologist), who did a full developmental assessment. Seriously awesome. In another week, we received the results and a conference with the specialist, who made her recommendations for service: two hours/week for speech therapy. We would be receiving services/therapy from her organization, which uses ABA as a primary method of treatment. The results of the BDI had supported my 'overreactionary' claims; Bubbles indeed had a language delay - in November, just after his second birthday, he was assessed at a TEN MONTH level for his expressive language.
The good news was that this appears to be a singular delay (he tested at a developmentally appropriate level or above in other areas, including receptive language), and when the delay can be isolated rather than part of a group of symptoms, it usually means that it is just what it is (a language delay), and not a red flag for a more serious delay.
Of course, now that we are working with an ABA program, I have even more judgment to deal with than what I received for merely being concerned about his language development. If I go into detail of his behavioral-based therapy or even mention the term 'ABA', within the moments following, I am sure to be heard saying "No, he is not autistic." Because, invariably, the only people that have heard of ABA, have heard it only when paired with autism and treatment for autism. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)
But oh! People have opinions! That must be shared, and usually with superiority and/or disapproval. While we are home fussing and making a big deal about Bubbles' language delay, fretting and freaking, there are people who are not wasting their time, they are putting brain cells to task with their grave concern over our inappropriate parenting. Because when you tell someone that your child is receiving therapy for their behavior, then the instant interpretation in their brain goes like this: "Behavior therapy=problem! Ohmygod, that woman has a child with a behavior problem. I am so glad that my child does not have a behavior problem."
And interestingly enough, even when you say this to a friend who lets her own toddler get up in the middle of the night and 'have snacks and play for two hours', this same friend will remark about what a good thing it is that you are 'nipping it in the bud'.
So my lesson here is, if I mention that I have a stubborn little two year old (redundant?) with a speech delay, and that we are working with a behavior-based therapy to get him to use language because we have determined that it is more based on his desire and incentive to speak rather than a physical issue (or apraxia), then my child is instantly labeled as a behavior problem.
Wow. If I cared, that might really bother me. It doesn't really bother me, it just slightly ticks me off and makes me file away tiny little petty grudges against these people.

Way more to come about all of this. But I can't spend the entire day blogging. I have to go now and crush my little boy's spirit stubbornness.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Fudgiest Brownies (IMHO)

I have been making many brownies lately. I love to bake things with chocolate, so I have tried countless (literally) brownie recipes over the years, only to come back to my all-time favorite:
Scott's Killer Brownies. Scott is a caterer-friend I knew long, long ago. He shared this recipe with me, and never said it was a secret. Since it is really that awesome, and because I am such a giving person by nature, and because I believe in the ultimate success of chocolate-based endeavors, I shall now share it with you. In just a sec - listen up!
The best thing about this brownie recipe is that, if you have any leftover the next day, the high amount of chocolate in it has settled on the bottom to form a very lovely fudge-y crust. The likelihood of this occurring is slim, so stash a (wrapped) piece away in the cupboard or fridge if you really want to test this challenge. Are you ready for the chocolate-y goodness?

Scott's Killer Brownies

1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2TBSP water
12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips (or, if you are feeling very indulgent and serious about your chocolate, you can try 12 oz of the TJ's pound-plus 72% cacao bar, chopped)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350; butter an 8x8 glass pan.
Melt butter, sugar and water until simmering. Remove from heat and pour over 1 cup of the chocolate (about 1/2); stir until chocolate is melted and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.
Add combined dry ingredients, mix well, stir in remaining chocolate chips (I boldfaced that because I sometimes forget to add the rest of the chocolate!!) (nuts, at this point, are optional of course) and spread/pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350.

Cool before cutting.
I know, the waiting will be difficult. But it will be the difference between spatulas and spoons.

Let me know if you tried and/or liked them.

Someone very special came home today...