Tag - words

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Looking Up (And Moving On)
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Of Slides and Such
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El Gato
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Back in Teletubby Land
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Words
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My Sons, Pure Poetry
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Tigers Roar
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When Enough is Enough
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We’re Having a Beach Party
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July 26: S is for Strep

Looking Up (And Moving On)

Signs are everywhere, did you know? They are on houses and in stores, they are on TV and in school — and of course they dot roads and highways. They are part of the landscape but you don’t really notice them, do you? You just accept that they are there, all with messages we’ve heard before: No u-turn, slow down, curved road ahead.

Hexagons and triangles, like STOP and YIELD, are John’s favorites. From the time he could walk, he’d race towards the tall and towering: his gaze up, his feet fast. Strapped in a stroller, he’d lean forward and flap with excitement at the sight of the 2-hour parking signs that lined our road. At each one, he’d turn and follow it as we passed, like they were having a conversation.

signs1 copy I’m not sure when he began counting the signs as we drove past them, but maybe he was all along.

“ONE sign,” he says as we drive to the library, passing a YIELD.

“TWO sign,” as the SPEED LIMIT 35 MPH appears.

“THREE signs,” he says, U-turn ahead.

He counts not just the ones on our side of the street, but the ones with their backs to us on the other side too (so that now even I’m craning my neck to see what they say).

He is my backseat tour guide.

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After school we drive down our long dirt road and here? Here there are signs posted on trees. So many trees, so many signs — mostly with warnings about not going too fast. I don’t see them anymore. Why? Because I am gripping the wheel over potholes and bumps. I KNOW the speed limit is 10mph, thankyouverymuch. The talking from the backseat goes up and down with the car’s movement. At first I think it’s Elmo’s World, He’s scripting a video. It sounds like Wansinitry, tasinitry, thrasinitry — Elmo talk.

And suddenly I understand he is saying:

“ONE sign on tree… TWO sign on tree… THREE sign on tree.”

When we get to the last one before the driveway, he proclaims, “SEVEN SIGN ON TREE! WE’VE EARNED A STICKER!” and he waves Elmo high, triumphant. Now he does it every day and each time I smile. His face is so happy.

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The comfort of these symbols nailed to trees and on posts — that at the end of a long road you are home. You struggle with disappointments big (we already know those) and small (the clouds for the beach, the Teletubbies CD already checked out at the library) — but at least the signs are there, if you’re looking and listening for them. Signs to point you home.

I suppose we all do the same, marking off touchstones one by one: The morning alarm clock, the coffee brewing, the cat rubbing against a leg to be fed. Meals made, lunches packed, work at the computer. Time passes and you trust in the familiar signs you’ve come to recognize as yours.

And if all the signs, ALL the signs were there all along? What else is to be done but to forgive and move on? Not the ones who hurt you (although they say that is necessary to your survival and you know it and you’re working on it but it’s not easy and not imminent). You stopped looking up, you see. Signs all the way back to the very beginning had you known to look. Like magic, you believed in the trick and ignored the sleight of hand.

No —forgive yourself. It’s time.

January 2007

January 2007

Of Slides and Such

We are surrounded by hundreds of sunbathers at a very public pool. Even though you are nearing me in height I must hoist you up into my arms (to the amusement of those around us), and walk deliberately into the water. Long ago I mastered the ability to keep my face calm as the icy water envelops us.

We are in now, and as always, you are glommed onto me. Every 30 seconds I say, “John, not the neck!” and pry you from my windpipe. We bob on the water, you and I, and I see you relax in increments. We look for Sam and I point to him high up on the water slide.

You say, “Go water slide?” and I repeat, “Go water slide? Yes or no.” You say, “NO!” Okay. We bob some more, we glide from one end of the pool to the other. With a splash, Sam lands in front of us. You grin. Sam says, “John! Go water slide?” You are excited and flap your hands, I know you want to, how you want to!

“John,” we say together, “Go water slide? Yes or no.”

“YES!” you say. So out we get and Sam grabs your hand. I am hopeful but this scene has played out before: we always come down the slide… just always the wrong way.

We begin our ascent and fall into line behind at least a dozen kids. You are still excited. Sam says, “John, it’s so much fun! Go water slide?” and I see your face waver and fill with doubt. You say, “Go home.” I tell you that it will be great and not to worry, Sam will go first.

Finally we arrive at the top. There are two slides, a blue and a green. Sam shoots down one and I hold your shoulders until the lifeguard gives us the signal. I glance behind me: the line snakes below.

This is it.

“Green!” shouts the lifeguard. You break free, scream and say, “GO HOME!” I glance at the guard, certain that what I see will be impatience and I steel myself for the long retreat down the stairs. Instead I see compassion. He says, “Take your time.” Other kids fly by us while you stomp your feet and yell “ALL DONE!” We are quite the spectacle up here at the top. A few kids stare at you but most smile and tell you, “Hey, it’s fun! Don’t be scared!”

I think this gives us both courage. I kneel in front of you. “John, I know you want to go down this slide. Mommy is going to help. I will put you on it and meet you at the bottom.” You yell your protest again but I see a small smile, which baby, is your dead giveaway. I explain to the guard what I’m about to do and I hoist you again (you are getting so big) and sit you at the top of the slide.

One push and you’re off.

Even though I know the pool at the bottom is just three feet deep, I panic for a second — now what? The guard, who is the calmest, most adult teenager I’ve ever seen, says, “if you shoot down the blue slide you’ll beat him down.” Now your mom hasn’t been on a water slide since the 1970s and really doesn’t care to change that but here I go. I hurl myself down the tube and land what seems like an eternity later with a splash below. I look everywhere for your bobbing head. Are you okay? Did you already get out?

Thirty seconds later you appear (indeed your slide is slower), and the grin plastered on your face is a beautiful sight. I catch you, and hug you. “John, you did it! Baby, you did it! I am so proud of you!”

I see that you are proud too.

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El Gato

Dear John, as I awoke to your smiling face I could see you were in a hurry — I figured you wanted to get back to your papers full of pink words — the ones I made you leave downstairs on the kitchen table. It was time to stop sleeping with them when you began to get up in the dead of night like the old days, clutching them and demanding to start the day at 2 a.m. Oh no, no. We are not doing that again.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve now taken to watching youtube videos in Spanish. You hit pause when a new word appears and demand that I write each one down. You listen to the word, repeat the word, “Nutria,” then say, “Write nutria?”

What a lengthy relationship you’ve had with Baby Einstein. All of the DVDs, all of the puppets, all of the books and bath toys and plush characters: I’d guess the entire merchandise line, even the music.

“Time to get up, Mommy? Go downstairs? Ooh-kay!” I was about to oblige but you pulled me to you instead and gave me a hug. That was just fine with me. I wasn’t ready to slide my feet on the cold floor just yet.

One quick hug and then you were ready to split but I stopped you and said, “Hey John? How do you say ‘cat‘ in Spanish?” I waited one beat, two beat, three beats — and you whispered, you said, “Ga-to.”

Seriously. I stared at you in disbelief — could you have memorized a bunch of Spanish words? I tried another: “How do you say ‘dog‘ in Spanish? “Perro,” you said a little louder this time. “How do you say ‘blue‘ in Spanish?” “Azul,” you said.

I laughed aloud at all that you keep hidden, at how very smart you are. And in the silence that followed you said to me, “How do you say ‘red’ in Spanish?” I waited and you answered yourself, “Ro-jo!

And I chased you downstairs to begin our day.

Back in Teletubby Land

My eyes open to your silly grin. As always, I hug a sliver of our king-size bed — you’ve trained me well over the years. Even when you don’t come bounding in at 2 a.m., I still awake curled at the very edge of the mattress and wonder why my body feels so tense.

There you are: peering over my pillow. You laugh and say,”Tubby custard!”

Really?

I have the odd sensation that I am in a video, trapped in Teletubby Land and you, John, are the eerie baby sun. Much cuter, of course.

“Uh-oh,” you say. “Mommy time to get up? Time to say hello?”

I will not lie: I had hoped we had seen the last of that foursome. Do you remember how you WOULD NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE without your Po doll in hand? There was the time you dropped her in a crowded store and we didn’t realize it until we were all the way home. Your daddy was so mad and so frantic to find her. (He did, of course, cursing her all the way.)

One day, John, you just stopped carrying Po. I placed her on a shelf with the others and three years passed.

And then this morning.

It’s the same but so very different. Back then you were silent — you certainly never recited lines from videos or locked eyes so intently with mine. So, yes —okay! I’ll sing with you! But can we leave Po at home today?

Tinkywinky. Dipsy. Laalaa. Po.
Teletubbies. “Teletubbies!”
Say, Heeeeee-lo! “Eh-oh!”

Words

At the pool during adult swim: 
I want to go swim big pool with Mommy Daddy Sam John?
Holy macaroni, a 12-word sentence uttered by a most quiet boy.

Time to eat scrambled eggs s’ghetti meatballs dinner time?
A most quiet boy who this summer is something else: a boy who wields his words instead of pulling me places. Not all the time, of course, but people!

Tubby custard, I want go airport library grocery store?
Most of the time I get the gist but sometimes…? He stomps and yells if I don’t understand. I so want to understand! As his language has multiplied, his temper tantrums have intensified.

It’s a beautiful puzzle.

My Sons, Pure Poetry

If there’s one constant about my boys, it is this: John is always in motion and Sam is always talking.

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John’s hands flap, fingers flick, solo then together. Legs skip to a beat he surely feels but we don’t hear. He jumps and runs and flies through the air. Give him a wide open space: the backyard, or a football field, or a park in springtime and he’s off. Movement is his poetry.

When he was younger — two and three and even four — he was oblivious to everything but his pursuit of lines and shadows and above all, street signs and lampposts. There’s this new documentary called Loving Lampposts? and I can’t wait to see it — I have dozens of photos of John doing just that. When I think about that time, which is not so long ago, I think about the panic that tinged every facet of my day with them. Normal trips to the grocery store or to the playground were wrapped in a layer of impossibility and responsibility. While most children stay with their parents when they go out into the world, John’s first instinct was to bolt. I felt like his very survival depended on my not letting go of his hand.

I still think that it did.

But something has changed with my boy. He stops when you tell him to stop. He turns when you call his name. When we go to the playground now he is still drawn to the same things but he’s also the boy going down the slide and the boy saying “Swing Mommy Push?”

Sometimes when he strays too far, that familiar panic begins its rise in my belly. I’ll begin my sprint after him but just as quick am frozen in my tracks when he turns and stops at the sound of my call. It’s kind of a freaking miracle.

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Ever since Sam was two and learned his alphabet, he started to talk and has not stopped. If he is not talking about anything and everything under the sun then he is humming. He hums while drawing, he hums while playing, he hums while eating, he hums all the while. When I draw his attention to it, he’ll be quiet for maybe 15 seconds and then busts at the seams with sound. It is his poetry.

Sometimes, shame on me, I tune out. I almost missed this loveliness. Something about the language was different and so I stopped cutting vegetables and exclaimed, “Wow, Sam, was that a poem you just spoke aloud?”

“Yep.” he said. “It’s called All Around the Year.” I asked him if it was in a book he was reading and he said no, his teacher had read it aloud to them in class. And he remembered it.

“Honey, do you think you could write it down for me? I’d love to have it,” I asked, once again completely and utterly amazed at his memory.

A Poem
All Around the Year
Now, winter that
mean polar bear. Goes loping
inside its lair. A melting
river tugs loose its terrible
bear hug.
Winter
Spring
As Earth starts to seethe
As plants grow. Willow
branches grow high.
And so will I. And so will I.

Tigers Roar

John surprised me today…after reading a book about animals, we pulled out toy animals (tigers, bears, birds) and John began to do some pretend play! He took two tigers and made them roar at each other and march along the table. He played with the animals for 15-20 minutes… Go JOHN!!

—John’s teacher

This child amazes. The many things this boy could not do and is doing. He is reading books. He generalizes words from his programs and can transfer knowledge to a book he’s never seen before. There used to be a time that bed time consisted of my sitting on Sam’s side of the bed to read a bedtime story but every night John demands: Read story? and I plop myself between them.

Amazing that we are here.

When Enough is Enough

Vacation. Family. A party. Dozens of people I don’t know. It is all I can do to keep my eyes on John as he flits through crowds of people on the lawn. Sam has waited anxiously for a boy to arrive who I later find out is 14. Sam first met him last summer when, impossibly, they were the same height. He has challenges of his own I am told, there’s a cognitive delay and he has Down syndrome. I remember him as a sweet boy though, they were well matched and fast friends just one year ago.

At last he arrives and Sam practically hums with excitement. He runs up to the boy, “You’re here!” he cries, but I see right away that he does not match Sam’s exuberance. Instead he is quiet, uninterested. Someone helps guide him to say hello and he does so but is reserved. Sam hugs him with such joy and pulls him so immediately into his orbit that I am gratified when I see a small smile squeeze out.

They spend the afternoon playing with cars and trains on the lawn. I keep a watchful eye after finding them down the hill locked in a barn. Sam is too unaware to lock doors like that and it made me nervous. They were just inside the door but I told them to come back outside where I could see them.

As these things do, it happened so fast. One moment they were there on the lawn, the next they were gone. I see a flash of red, feet running back down around the barn and I think — okay, they’re back inside. As I near though, I see them run up the stairs to the loft and my feet pick up speed. Another adult sees too and we both arrive at the barn door at the same time.

Again it is locked and this time I cannot see either of them. We yell for them to unlock the door and call Sam’s name over and over. No response. At first I am mad — surely Sam can hear my voice and will come running down the stairs? When minutes go by and still he does not emerge, I find a rock and am this close to smashing a glass door when my desperate fiddling of the screen latch finally gives.

We pound up the stairs and find the boy blocking a closet door with his body while Sam sobs and pounds from inside it. Oh, dear god, dear god, dear god. The adult with me removes the boy and yells at him as I scoop Sam into my arms and hold him tight, so tight!

He says “Mommy, did you hear me yell for you? You heard me yell for help and you came to save me, right? You were mad, Mommy! Were you mad at me? You weren’t mad at me, right?” I rock him and tell him no! I am not mad! he is safe, and Mommy knew and yes, Mommy came to save him. I ask him if he is hurt. “Yes, Mommy, I am. I am hurt.” I suck in my breath, preparing myself. “But not the boo-boo kind of hurt. I am feelings hurt.” I marvel at how even under these circumstances he is so aware.

For two hours we lie in his bed and talk about how the boy is being punished, of course, and how he won’t ever hurt him again. He wants to go over it again, moment by moment (“you heard me call for you, you saved me, the boy is being punished”). He wants to know WHY his friend could do that, if he’s really his friend, HOW could he do that? and he dissolves into tears each time as he relives it. We are stuck on this record until he’s done.

We later find out that the parents of the boy lock him in his room because they can’t deal with him, his anger. Even as I rage against him, I feel bad for him too. I wonder about parents who could do that to their own child and try to find compassion for them.

Enough. I can’t feel for the whole planet.

There are moments in this mom business that make me cry, moments so much bigger than me. How do I protect this innocent, beautiful boy from a world that sometimes is all too eager to exploit it? How do I give him street smarts? How do I teach him that not everyone is to be trusted, not everyone is your friend? And how can I be everywhere at once?

We’re Having a Beach Party

Trying to blog on vacation and constantly foiled by little boys who want to go to the beach — can you imagine? Seriously. Life is rough around here.

John’s feet slide off his bed, hit the floor and it’s all “Mommy, beach party? Go beach party?”

He packs up his crew in the “Monster Bag” and starts undressing. By himself. He finds his swimsuit, my swimsuit and thrusts them at me as if saying, Hello! Did you hear me? Let’s go! I say “John, it’s too early,” or “John, it’s cloudy,” but really? I would probably take him in the rain.

Now, granted: he will absolutely, positively, no way, no how — step off the beach blanket or enter the water. But he will sit or stand for long stretches as long as he has them near — his harem of happy monsters.

I’m more than a little jealous, as I imagine they are privy to more of him than I am. Why, for example, is this summer different from last? Why won’t he step off the blanket and run down the beach with me in hot pursuit? Not that I’m complaining — it’s been much easier to be at the beach together. But why did he hide under the blanket the first day as if his ears hurt from the surf and now he can smile serenely and be just a few feet from the crashing waves?

He brings his monsters up close to his face, lovingly, and talks excitedly to each. I make out, “Wake up Elmo…hello Zoe!” then watch as he lays each back down on the blanket, gentle as one must be with one’s babies.

July 26: S is for Strep

The last week has been interrupted by a bout of sickness. John had a really stellar week up until Friday night, the night that began with him throwing up his dinner just as we were tucking him in. After he came home and asked to hang the dog, he spent the rest of the week requesting left and right — not just for Elmo and fruit snacks and street signs, but to go to the potty too.

But then Friday, followed by a miserable weekend, followed by today home from camp… When we go in, the doctor says it’s strep. I am amazed when John says “Go see doctor?” as we arrive, as if that’s something he’s been saying forever. When she steps out with his culture, the one she took with unprecedented ease, he says again, “Doctor? All done?”

He’s taken his antibiotics and is supposed to feel better soon, but still — there’s a fever like a blanket over my little guy. He is silent and lethargic and sad. All he wants to do is carry around Elmo and Zoe (and Cookie Monster and Grover and Count) all at the same time. This is a lot for his small hands and they fall one by one as he pads around the house. Frustrated, he drops to the floor with a sob. I search for a basket with a handle and we pile them in. He carries it held out in front of him like a proud parent.

It’s late afternoon and Sam is home now. I am in the kitchen when I glance to the other room and see that John has removed his shirt — an unusual sight unless Sam is involved. I yell “Sam? Please leave your brother alone! He’s not feeling well,” and return to the dishes. Ten minutes later John runs in stark naked. “Swim?” he says. “Let’s go swim? Go see Daddy and swim?”

I yell “Sorry, Sam!” and turn back to John. I tell him he’s sick, we can’t go to the pool today but oh, how proud I am of his words — and hey, can we please put some clothes back on his sick little body? He says, “Big S, little S, what begins with S?” We have been reading Dr. Seuss’ ABC book. I hug him, waiting for: Sammy’s sipping soda pop…and instead hear, “S is for swim. Go swim?”

I think he may be on the mend.

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