Saturday, January 30, 2010

Easing Into Kindergarten

Longtime Elvis Sightings readers will likely remember that we decided to have Joy wait an extra year before starting kindergarten. With her early-summer birthday, Joy won't be all that much older than others in her class, and we really wanted to see what additional communications gains we could make in the extra year.

Well, we've got a school-district team that really helps us put the "Individual" in "IEP." When we put together the plan last year, we decided to do a mid-year modification to get Joy into the school building for at least some portion of her itinerant therapy during the second semester, to build some familiarity so that kindergarten won't come as such a total fruit-basket-upset.

The time has come. As of this coming Tuesday, Joy will spend a couple of hours each Tuesday afternoon in kindergarten practice. At the school.

The schedule looks something like this:

  • 1:00 Joy to arrive at Kindergarten doors (through playground)
    OT meets her for locker routine -- removes boots & coat, hangs coat and backpack in locker [she's got a LOCKER!]

  • 1:10 Joy to walk hand in hand through hallway and stairs -- end up at OT/PT room

  • 1:15 Sensory activities in OT/PT room

  • 1:30 Concentrated fine-motor activity -- sitting at table for stacking, cutting, drawing, etc.

  • 1:45 Transition to special educator -- in gym or continue table tasks in OT/PT room

  • 2:15 Hand-in-hand walk in hallway to block area in Mr. M's kindergarten room for table tasks from bag of familiar tasks.

  • 2:35 To locker to get on boots, coat, backpack.

  • 2:45 Leave with JoyMama.

I'll have the option of either staying at the school and volunteering in Rose's classroom or the library, or heading home for a bit of get-stuff-done time. One neat opportunity that comes up quickly -- Rose gets to be person-of-the-week around her birthday the second week of February, and she's really excited that I'll be available to come celebrate and that I can bring Joy to meet Rose's classmates after her Tuesday activities!

Hard to believe that my baby is really going to school. This coming week. Wow.

Friday, January 29, 2010


When I was a kid, one of the most anxiety-producing situations for me was when I felt that I didn't know what was happening. (Still true, in fact...) I needed things to be explained, laid out, with some idea of what to expect. One bright-edged sample memory dates from a community Easter-egg hunt when I was maybe about Rose's age. Mom dropped me off, a nice organizer lady told me to go stand on the far side of a big gym full of people I didn't know, I had no idea if I was standing in the right place, and I didn't know what was going to happen next. The memory still makes my stomach clench.

Rose likes explanations too.

We experienced this with her earlier in the week as we began to work our way through a sad event at our house. When JoyDad came downstairs to feed the bunnies first thing on Wednesday morning, he found that there was only one bunny to be fed. The senior of our two bunnies, Phoebert, had died unexpectedly in the night, at the ripe old age of 11.

Phoebert was Rose's favorite, though she loves Ellie too. We had to quickly plan how to tell her, how to arrange a bunny-body to let her see (opting for a cardboard box lined with a towel), how to comfort her. She has been doing really well, all things considered. I think this is partly due to the fact that we had to work through a much more serious decline and loss in 2005, when Rose was three and my mother died of kidney cancer.

However, JoyDad and I did have to decide what to do with a bunny body. The ground is frozen hard this time of year, so burial was not an option. We didn't much like the thought of putting him in the deep-freeze till spring. So... um... we bagged his remains in multiple layers and put the bag into the trash bin, which is its own kind of deep-freeze this time of year.

We were really hoping not to have to tell Rose, that she would let us get away with saying that it's mommy's job to take care of and you don't have to worry about it. Yeah, right. Guess what was the first thing she asked when I picked her up from school?

"Is Phoebert still in the house?"

I tried one feeble "you don't really want to know" attempt, and then told the truth. She seemed pretty philosophical about that part of it, though she did cry herself to sleep that first night. She's been thinking about Phoebert and Ellie a lot, but no more tears since.

So. That leaves someone else in the house who is in a very different place in terms of explanations.

What in the world do we do for, and with, Joy?

For the most part, we have had to keep her away from the bunny enclosure. The poops look like raisins (acck), she stims on the hay and spreads it everywhere, she rattles the cage. The bunnies were just not very much a part of her life.

We don't even know if it makes a difference to her that there's only one bunny she's being kept away from now, and not two.

Which totally begs the question of talking about death. Our verbal communications with Joy are generally so stripped down, in accordance with the Hanen precepts of speaking with a child using language that is not TOO far above the level you want them to aim at producing. We usually speak to her extremely concretely, about objects in the immediate present and actions in the immediate present or very near future.

Bunny is gone. Bunny is dead. Bunny is not coming back. This is different than when a therapist doesn't show up for an expected session, or when we have a personnel change, or when a friend moves away.... oh dear, that's a lot of words.

Good grief, it's hard enough to explain to a neurotypical kid!

On the one hand, we're lucky in a way that Joy rolls with the punches of change, at least seems to do so, much more than a lot of kids on the spectrum. She doesn't explode at changes in routine, though if we change too much at once she does get frayed around the edges (like any kid).

But it makes it hard to know how much she even notices. And how much explaining we need to be doing, which may be more than we are doing, just because we don't know how much explanation is helpful.

This is not easy. I don't like not knowing if I'm standing in the right place, not knowing what's going to happen next.

I do know that we'll miss our bunny.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Four Responses

Joy has developed four different positive responses for one particular request.

  • She tucks her chin down and presents the top of her head.

  • She leans in and presents one side of her face.

  • She doesn't incline her head at all, but makes a puckery motion and sound with her mouth.

  • Or - rare but lovely - she leans in and turns up her mouth with a puckery smile.

Kiss for mommy? Kiss for daddy? Kiss your big sister?

We don't know why she chooses any given response at any given time. But it's almost always one of these, especially at bedtime when it's part of the routine. Melts us into our shoetops. What a sweetheart.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monkey Business

According to the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Monkey, just two days into the New Year! If you check your placement at your local Chinese restaurant, you'll likely find that people born in the Year of the Monkey are clever, skillful, inventive. One site I checked called us "the erratic geniuses of the cycle."

Guess who else in the family was born in the Year of the Monkey? Yes, that would be our Joy.

Miss Joy has seemed to have a special monkey-affinity for quite some time. It was no accident that her daycare-lady Lynda chose a monkey as the animal-icon to illustrate the name-label for Joy that hangs in the daycare entry-way!

I've already mentioned (several times) one manifestation of the association, which is Joy's adorable monkey-backpack. While it admittedly leaves one open to "monkey on her back?" jokes, and perhaps the occasionally ignorant snipe about "you put her on a LEASH? She's not a DOG!"... on the whole, people have been more likely to comment about what a smart and cute idea it is. It's actually been a while since we've used the monkey-pack at home, opting instead for walking hand-in-hand. But Lynda is only a super-hero, not an octopus, and doesn't have enough hands for every child when the daycare group walks to the park. So Joy gets her monkey-pack, with the tail clipped to another child's stroller, and everyone gets their safe and happy walk.

Besides the backpack and Joy's wiry monkey-strength and climbing ability, she has also long enjoyed monkey sounds: oo-oo-oo-AAAH-ah-ah! Her favorite animal on the Fisher Price Zoo toy, pictured below, is the monkey, whom you can just see peeking out of the yellow enclosure to the right of the tree trunk. When you push the purple lever at the right of the toy, the monkey "boings" up the pole to the bunch of bananas and makes its monkey noise. Which makes her giggle up a storm if she's in the right mood.

Lately she's been very "into" the classic monkey rhyme:
Five little monkeys jumpin' on the bed,
One fell off and bumped her head!
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

Her favorite line is "bumped her head!" She'll knock on her own head three times with a great big grin, especially if you pause and wait for her. In fact, she was even using the knock-on-the-head thing as a sign that she wanted the monkeys rhyme! I haven't seen it for a little while, though. Lately she's been more likely to lead me to the mantel where we've got the boardbook:

Though she prefers to stim on books rather than to read them, this is one book that she will actually let us help her go through a page at a time and actually do the rhyme.

When Christmas-present time came around this year, we let people know that Joy had this monkey thing going on. Which resulted in this adorable new friend:

... and this wonderful toy...

Joy loves to crank the box until the monkey pops out! It's a little tricky to get him back in, but she does let us help her do it hand-over-hand.

There was yet one more monkey at Christmas time, a full-size sock monkey that looked just like the one in the jack-in-the-box. When we checked labels, we found that it came from the same company as the jack-in-the-box... but the gifts came entirely uncoordinated, from different sides of the family.

OK, enough monkeying around. Off to do some LEND homework!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Random Thoughts Saturday

  • Random thoughts -- they're not just for Tuesdays anymore. Because how un-random is that, huh?

  • All four humans in the house have colds. And one of the bunnies has been sneezing too.

  • None of us are much fun to be with when we have colds.

  • Joy is learning a new sign: the sign for "open." There are many things to open in this house. Gates, doors, buckles, bins.

  • Joy also took the "open" lesson to heart yesterday during nap time. She took off her pants, opened the onesie (remember how smug I was about those just a week ago?), removed her diaper, and soaked everything.

  • Today I have added a big diaper-pin at the onesie level. With any luck, she'll be stymied and give up trying. At least for a while.

  • We ordered a new backpack for Joy yesterday. With a buckle across the chest, kind of like her monkey-backpack. But with room for school-supplies, and without the tail.

  • Why does Joy need a real backpack? Because she's going to school in a couple of weeks! To learn to be a kindergartener! (More info later...)

  • Wahhh, my little baby is growing up!

  • I really shouldn't wahhh when I have a cold.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Product Hits & Misses, Warm-n-Cozy Minnesota Edition

It's been a while since I've done one of these! But producers keep producing, and we keep consuming...

First up is a clever product introduced to us by Joy's OT, that we got for both Joy & Rose as Christmas presents.

LBow Mittens
These are L-Bow mittens, sold online from balmy Minnesota at The genius of the product is that they come all the way up to, well, the L-Bow. No more snow on the wrists between the mitten and the sleeve!

Joy's are the purple ones, Rose's are pink. You can see that the smaller size (Joy's) has an un-differentiated thumb -- each mitten has an identical triangle-shaped thumb pocket. I supposed it's meant so that the little kids don't have to figure out which mitt is which. I find that it's hard to get just Joy's thumb into it. Rose's mittens, the next size up, have more standard thumb-cases.

The big plus for Joy is that the mittens stay on much better than standard mittens, in addition to how well they keep out the snow. Rose likes having un-snowy wrists too, though at first she was afraid the other kids would laugh at her. (That issue does not seem to have materialized.) I don't know if Rose is getting them on without assistance at school; at home she's asking for help to put the second one on. For Joy we help her with the whole process, though she does put out her hands and assist with pushing them in.

Another plus was responsive customer service -- I initially ordered the wrong size for Rose and had to do an exchange in time for Christmas. No problem.

Unfortunately we've had some glitches with the construction of the mittens. I've had to do two sewing repairs on Rose's: the side of one thumb opened up and frayed, and the elastic band in one of the mitts had gone hard and crunchy and needed to be replaced. I imagine they'd have sent a new pair if I'd asked, but I didn't want to throw reparable mitts into the landfill. So I sewed up the thumb and replaced the elastic, and they're working fine.

L-Bow mittens run from $18.99 to $27.99 depending if you want the basics, the breatheable mitts (those are what we got), or the top of the line with removable "Easy Dry" inserts. The site also carries gloves and other products.


Next up: a basic item of baby clothing in a larger size -- bodysuits/"onesies" in a size 5T! These seem to have gotten rarer over time. Gerber used to make 5T a few years ago but dropped them altogether; the Gerber 4Ts are hard to find in stores but can still be acquired new on Ebay. They were inexpensive, thin, stretchy, lapped-shoulders only, and more under-shirt quality than T-shirt quality.

Joy grew out of the (small-running) Gerber 4Ts a while back, though not out of the need for them. Still in diapers, still at risk for diaper-digging. That's when we found Essential Whites, a company that is in the process of changing its name to TodBods but is still online at -- also in Minnesota!

Joy's been wearing their short-sleeved size 5T all-cotton bodysuits day in, day out for half a year now, and we just ordered some new long-sleeve ones. They shipped in a flash, and showed up in a lovely tissue wrap with a little herbal sachet:

5T bodysuit from Essential Whites / TodBods
We've found the short-sleevers to be soft, durable, and to run large for 5T, which is a blessing 'cause we haven't found any size 6's yet... Excellent quality, and we expect similar things from the longer-sleeves. There's a sleeveless option too. The only potential drawbacks to mention: the large sizes only come in white (great for tie-dye though I should think) and they do have neck-tags (doesn't bother Joy but may be a sensory problem for some.)

The 5T bodysuits are priced to match their quality: $10 apiece for long-sleeve, $9 for short or sleeveless. Buy 3 get 1 free, and if you go over $48 you get free shipping.

Friday, January 8, 2010


One of the highly challenging elements of Joy's educational trajectory has been the issue of imitation. Or, the lack of imitation.

Imitation is a huge component of learning. It's how kids just "pick things up" that are happening around them (I'm thinking of the example of Rose knowing the use of a comb at age 10 months). But Joy is not wired that way. Imitation is not something she automatically does. Instead, we've had to try to teach imitation, model it, encourage it. Imitation goals are part of her explicit therapy regimen.

So. Last night I'd just come in from a snow romp with Rose (Joy had started her snow romp earlier and come in earlier). I'm shucking off my wet wraps, Joy is bouncing in front of a video. And I hear this unusual little sound from Joy.


What's that, I wonder.

Then JoyDad chimes in, a little sheepishly (perhaps a little proudly as well?)

"Yeah, I belched earlier. She's imitating me."

ONE belch. Just one, without any special effort to get her attention (no "hey Joy, look over here, can you do this?"). She imitated it immediately, and at intervals throughout the evening.

What a... dare I say, typical kid stunt!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pork Fat Rules

A little gem of a graph from the blog This Is Indexed yesterday:

The positive relationship between bacon and Joy has been documented in our family as well:

Pork fat rules!