Archive for the ‘Elliot’ Category

Elliot Wants the Big Knife

The meta version is that Elliot likes to watch this and talk to the baby in the video.

The Graduate

Elliot got the boot. Was told to hit the road. Don’t let the door hit you on the heinie, little guy.

He’s officially an early intervention graduate today.

Eight months ago my nearly-speechless baby would head butt me for attention. He still head butts me, but at the same time he will yell, “I bonk you, Mommy!” So, progress.

He also says things like, “Alden take my rocket ship!” and “I shoo the kitties. Shoo shoo kitties!!” and “I bite you nose? I bite you nose!!!”

Now that he can talk, he likes to narrate.

— I look at that race car, Mommy?

— I take it?

— I vroom it?

— I frow it?

He’s going to do those things no matter what I say, but he enjoys the Q&A.

We get so much joy hearing all the crazy things that have been swimming around in his brain. Now that the impediment has cracked open, it spills out all day every day. He called me at work the other day to tell me there are “zhombies in the dollhouse.”

His sensory issues faded to almost nothing over the time we were focusing on his speech. Sandy feet was a reason for a meltdown a year ago. Now, total non-event.

He still has some oddities that I expect to unfold and change, maybe coming on stronger and maybe fading away. Some of them, like military-precision toy aligning, feel comfortable to me because I know I did the same thing when I was a kid. His speech therapist offered to re-evaluate him in a few months to make sure he isn’t stalling or slipping. I’m going to take her up on that. The University of Tennessee speech therapy lab has been a wonderful resource for us.

Speaking of, Tennessee Early Intervention Services was the source of all this important assistance for our family. It’s free and all Tennessee families are eligible regardless of insurance or income. I had a heck of a time finding them, though, so let’s let Google help them help people.

For speech delay evaluation, speech therapy, developmental delays, motor skill delays, early intervention, cognitive delays, communication delays and adaptive delays, you can contact Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS) at 1-800-852-7157

More information on eligibility can be found here.



Merry Christmas!

Wishing your family a warm holiday with no sketchy Santas.

Late Talker

Nearly six months ago, our speech therapist gave Elliot a hard-to-read evaluation. She tells me now that they felt fairly sure he was autistic, but wouldn’t have said that to us then. This whole time she refused to offer us any diagnosis, saying it is too early and he’s too young. Oh how I wanted a diagnosis. I wanted specificity so that I could customize our response, work up a battle plan, research resources. I asked her if she thought it might be apraxia. “Maybe,” was all she would say. In the meantime, we treated the symptoms without knowing the source. She was right, of course. Even at the time I acknowledged it, and I definitely didn’t want to get the “wrong” label and wind up going down an unhelpful road. It wouldn’t have been good for us or for Elliot had we heard, “There’s a good chance he’s autistic” at the outset.

Now after another battery of tests we have our official answer. Late talker.

Elliot’s speech appeared. And then it surged. Now, at just past two, he tells (terrible) knock knock jokes.

He tore through the tests (when he felt like it), and wound up at a much higher age level. I’m not going to invest in this idea that he’s now advanced, any more than I believed that he was in the first percentile half a year ago. He was behind, now he’s ahead. He’s always been fine.

I’m so grateful. Even it it’s the case that he never needed such intensive (or any) intervention. We’ll never know and that’s fine. A small group of talented, compassionate adults stepped right into our lives and got to work for no other reason than a baby needed some help. I feel like every person involved likes and cares about Elliot and our family. We don’t pay a penny for any of it. I know our tax dollars do, but since when does being the recipient of social services guarantee you any kind of respect or compassion?

He says a lot with his eyes.

There’s an interesting little something with Elliot and the way he communicates with and perceives the world. He still has a little sensory strangeness. Just a few weeks ago he refused to walk on a floor of highly-polished marble. He still doesn’t like sand on his feet, but he’s graduated from screaming to complaining. He lines up his toys by type and color. He loves toy stores because there he can line up the exact same toy, snaking them through the aisle until the supply runs out. He’s a quirky boy.

In our intake interview last March the woman asked us how Elliot’s delays were affecting his life. I told her honestly they were not. Her question, though, gave me clarity on exactly what I was looking for. It was help for Elliot before he was affected. I didn’t want him to get to preschool — a year and a half away — and struggle to communicate. He’s so cheerful and sweet, and I will go to some pretty great lengths to protect those qualities in him. Some day I’ll expect him to be resilient enough to maintain in the face of adversity, but maybe we could let him get out of diapers first.

I’ll keep watching, but soon I expect this period will fade from the front of our minds. We’ve agreed that Elliot’s therapy will stop at the end of this semester, in three weeks. We’ll let his in-home teacher go at the same time. I love them, but it isn’t right for us to insist on holding onto scarce services when someone else could be using them.

I’m so glad we did it. I’m so glad we’re finished.

Parenting Tip: Say Yes to Everything

One of the unintended consequences of nine days (NINE DAYS!) of all of us living in one small hotel room is Alden’s exposure to commercial television.

Do not misunderstand. We love TV. I’m not going to even pretend. Our kids watch at least some TV almost every day. They watch Nick Jr and PBS and Disney Jr. They also watch Monster Truck Jam and Dancing With the Stars. Through the magic of Tivo, though, the knuckleheads almost never see a commercial.

It would take a mother made of much sterner stuff than I am to deny my kids the TV while we were on vacation. Not only did I let them watch, I encouraged them to watch. An hour of Jake and the Neverland Pirates was sometimes all the stood in the way of me forcibly turning them into Lost Boys and hightailing it back to Knoxville.

So, commercials. To Alden, this was information on countless ways to make his life more wonderful. The first few days I spent a lot of time belaboring points about equity and privilege, thrift and values. Every 12 minutes I delivered a new lecture.

Then, as I tried to reason a 4-year-old out of Dragonball Z or Transformers or Robot Killers from Space, Damon just said, “Sure! You can totally have that!” And the conversation was over. Then another commercial. Another request. Another approval.

That was the key. “Yes” to everything. Every. Single. Thing. Just hearing that he could have that toy discharged his interest, and we were on to the next thing. He was so happy, and he instantly forgot each toy as it vanished off the screen. I tried the same thing as we flew home, with the Sky Mall magazine. To everything he liked, which was everything, I said, “Sure, you can have that.” We got off the plane, and he left the magazine behind.

I absolutely cannot believe that worked. I know it won’t forever. It sure does buy us some peace, though, at the moment.

Deciding to Have a Second Baby

I wanted to be a mother because I felt like a child would make me the best possible version of myself.

The decision to have a second seemed much more academic, and we couldn’t get off the fence for a long time. Then, as often is true, emotional events swept all logic off the table. I found myself facing down a devastating family event without the support of a sibling. Damon was an absolute hero, but he could only walk up to the periphery. He couldn’t be fully in it with me. It wasn’t his family.

We couldn’t tolerate the thought of Alden in that position, and so the decision was made.

When Alden was an only child everything about our relationship felt unique, special, amazing. It wasn’t being close to A baby, it was being close to THIS baby. I knew how fast he breathed, how much he blinked. I could count the flecks of yellow in his iris. I didn’t want anyone to come between us.

I don’t know what I’m missing, but I do know what I got. Everything that is writ large about motherhood for me is the same with both boys; but the intricate, tiny details are specific to each kid. I can have eloquent, silent conversations with each of them, and that shows me that exquisite connection can be had with more than one child.

I now see that having a brother can help the boys be the best possible versions of themselves, too. I will never know who I would be as a sister, but they at least have the opportunity to be awesome brothers.

Which is not to say they always take advantage of that opportunity. We just returned from a vacation that left me wondering if anyone would notice two more children added to It’s a Small World. Which brings me to the part of having two that I did not adequately anticipate. Having two is so much harder than having one. It’s going from having one small, charming sidekick to having fifteen rabid monkeys living in your house. Or so it often feels. The competition. The fighting. Think two little kids can’t find a difference between two identical Bone Shaker monster truck toys? Think again. “He’s got it” is enough of a reason to prefer the other one.

I would guess that a one-child household has a lot less headbutting.

Still. When I ask Alden whether he wants Elliot in his preschool class he always insists that his brother stay with him. “He’s my friend.” They may slap fight until I want to go into the Witness Protection Program, but heaven help the person who threatens Elli in front of Alden, and that goes for the nurse who is trying to get a vaccine into Elliot’s fat thigh. Bet she didn’t see that waist-level attack coming. Any time Elliot gets loved on, his first questions is “Alden’s turn?” and he never had two mini marshmallows he wasn’t willing to split.

Goodbye to the Baby

Pre-Alden, when I just could not get pregnant, I wasn’t sure what I’d make of motherhood. I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I would work hard to do it well. I believed that, overall, it would be worth it to me. I wanted a baby. I couldn’t get pregnant. We tried to adopt. That failed. I went back to trying to get pregnant. It hurt, but I don’t think it’s the rosy mists of time causing me to minimize that when I say that I don’t think I suffered as badly as some women do. For me (for me!) adoption was a fine solution and so, some day, some way, I could be a mother.

I had a clear-eyed view that not all mother/child bonds erupt with ferocious love the minute the baby makes the scene. I said we’d just see how it goes. I asked Damon to be mindful for signs of post-partum depression. I was eager, but not ecstatic.

Then John Alden arrived and I was every cliche of maternal joy. I would stare at him, fascinated, not counting the time. I laid in the hospital bed with him that first night, and I could feel the world turning. Struggling to describe it, I could only say that he rearranged my atoms and made me into something new.

I flipping love having a baby. I love having one around. I love actually, physically having one. (I got off so, so easy — very talented pelvis.) I would walk barefoot over glass to experience those first 30 seconds of my babies’ arrival into the world — over and over.

Fortune smiled and we had Elliot. The peerless, beautiful experience I had with Alden… totally matched. He came into the world serenely, joyfully and I was so happy that I might have collapsed on myself like a star burning out.

I am so fortunate.

I could, theoretically, have another baby. I’m 40, though. Still so sad from losing my father (and my stepdad before him), I am acutely sensitive to protecting the time my children have to be mothered. Also, if I can be mundane for a minute: I don’t like being pregnant, I don’t think my body would recover very well, the demands may tip me beyond the ability to do my job (which pays our mortgage) well, I have been nursing now for more than four years and am not eager to sign up for a multi-year extention, I like having at least a tiny bit of money, I don’t want to buy a minivan, what if I don’t have a girl, what if I have a girl?

So. I think I am finished.

I never saw it coming that grieving this would be so much harder for me than facing the idea of never having a baby in the first place.