Monday, October 15, 2012

Splashes, Splashes

Five and a half years ago, Joy had a five-word-phrase in her repertoire for a brief span.  It was a line from Ring Around the Rosy:  "Ashes, ashes, all fall down!"

I went back to the archive of team-messages that I've been using for group communication for years, and there it was in the seventh message (we're up to #1551 by now):
I had to work very hard not to laugh the other day when she flung her cup, and then sang out her version of "Ashes, ashes, all fall down!"
I'd forgotten that incident, but remembered hearing the phrase on at least two additional occasions.  And then... Elvis left the building, the sliders on Joy's mixer board slid into a new position, and the phrase disappeared.

Fast forward to this weekend.

Joy came home from school on Friday with a new piece of artwork, this one containing both swirls and dots.   This one had been created to the tune of Ring Around the Rosy, a tune that Joy had suddenly begun to request that day.  We also learned that she'd been excited to work with LeapFrog phonics toys at school, which she'd connected with at home in a big way right around the end of 2011.  And the Brown Bear theme had continued at school as well, evidenced in a copy of Baby Bear, Baby Bear coming home with her for the weekend.

It rained most of the weekend.  Ordinarily this would be a bummer, but we've had a long string of parched weeks, so the rain was actually very welcome.  And guess who got to go out and make splashes and splashes, stomping in the puddles among the fallen leaves?

We played Ring Around the Rosy in the puddles, and Mama substituted a new line for the "ashes" line (that probably isn't a reference to the Black Death, though it's an oft-told myth):  Splashes, splashes, all fall down! Joy responded with many splashes and stomps and giggles, and helpfully refraining from actually falling down.

Then something seemed to catch her attention.  She looked, leaned to the side, took another looong look.

"Joy, what do you see?" asked Mama.

The response grew out of Brown Bear and our stomping-splashes, and just about took my breath away.
I see bird -- stomp, stomp, stomp!
Six words, gentle readers.  Six in a row, one more even than our long-lost Ring Around the Rosy line, in an original combination.

She was working other spoken-combos this weekend, too.  She says them slowly, with great emphasis, almost with a period after each word.

I. Want. iPad!

I. Want. Help!  

I. Want. Cracker!  

I. Want. Bread!  (This last was a request for the infamous zucchini bread)

I haven't heard a spoken request for a hug yet.  But you'd better believe she was receiving, this weekend.

And as for me, I am so greedy.

I. want. more.

But there were moments to be lived in, this weekend, and each one was a miracle unto itself.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Two photos taken in the middle of town this weekend, at a conservation park right across the street from Joy  & Rose's elementary school.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
-- Emily Dickinson

Who knows what it is to be running?
Only [s]he that is running knows...
-- PDQ Bach

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Brown Bear Banned

The below tidbit came my way from a college friend on Facebook, who'd seen my post on Joy's "Brown Bear" moment.  The "banned" image came with the accompanying text below:

In 2010, a member of the Texas State Board of Education called for the removal of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Bill Martin, Jr. from the state curriculum. Why? The board member said that Martin's works for adults contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system." Fortunately, someone pointed out to this mistaken board member that Bill Martin, Jr. was not Bill Martin, a philosophy professor and author of "Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation." Oops.

JoyDad's response was swift:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?
I see a struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie!

JoyTeachers, take note.  We depend on you to convey to our daughter, in suitable terms, the enduring significance of the RED bird!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Similarities (Row, Row edition)

Three years ago, I wrote a post titled Similarities.  The post listed a whole string of commonalities with a sweet young lady in Massachusetts and her family, whom we've never met except in the blogosphere.  But I know of no other child who is more like Joy than Rhema.

In September 2009, the post was about their shared love of window dancing.

Yesterday, I got chills when I found the following clip on the Rhema-blog, Autism in a Word.

If you close your eyes and just listen -- might have to turn the volume up a little, it's a phone-video -- this could be me and Joy.  We do exactly the same thing with songs, where Joy fills in the blank.  Row, Row is one of our favorites.  Joy requests it by grabbing an adult's hands, swaying, and crooning "Whoa, whoa."

Even that might not have been enough to nudge me to write this post.  But then I opened Joy's backpack when she got home from school, and I found these.

"Row, Row" pictures

Joy's been hard at work in art class again.  Two weeks ago, she made her first Song Spots art, dotting with a Magic Marker in time to music.  Last week, she used a paintbrush and dotted in time to "C is for Cookie."

This week, she worked in two different media, paint and crayons, producing the artworks above.  She had a different aide for yesterday's class, who didn't know "C is for Cookie" (Joy's first request) but they quickly settled on a different song.  The artwork for October 5 is brought to you in time with Rhema's song:  Row, row, row your boat.

One year, some time, some how, these girls must meet.  And their mamas, and their sisters -- we could even bring the dads along, if everyone's in the same country at the same time!  I wonder if Rhema and Joy would recognize the kinship that's so spine-tinglingly evident to their blogging-mamas?

I think they might.  Especially if there are windows to dance in, and familiar songs with just the right blanks to fill in.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Star of the Week

When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.
-- Jiminy Cricket

Joy is Star of the Week this week in her class.

Her teacher went first, to demonstrate.  The Star of the Week gets to do a poster all about themself, bring a special snack, fill up the classroom Estimation Jar with something-or-other for the class to guess how-many, and a couple of other goodies.

Joy went next.

We worked on her poster during the weekend.  Lots of questions to answer, some of them to the best of our ability since Joy doesn't tell us directly.  (Favorite color?  Not sure -- we asked her, and let her pick a magic-marker as a way of telling us.  It came up pink, which I suppose is fair.)  Rose wrote the text, Joy did some "Song Spots" artwork, and here's how it turned out, with selective blurring on certain details:

I baked a couple extra loaves of our super-special zucchini bread with mini-chocolate chips to send for snack.  We filled the Estimation Jar with little Lincoln Logs, a task that we ended up doing several times at home because Joy was having so much fun dropping the logs into the jar and back into a basket.

I sent the poster and zucchini bread and estimation jar in with Joy, and then came back after lunch on Monday to talk about the poster.

When I arrived at the class, I met a rush of excited students who were practically falling over themselves to tell me how much they loved the zucchini bread!  They'd eaten almost every crumb.  It was clear they could identify with Joy on why this would be listed on the poster as her favorite food!

Joy was able to stick with the group for the entire poster presentation, her aide by her side.  Her classmates were interested to hear that she gets to sleep in a tent every single night!  When I shared that her favorite animals were monkeys and bunnies, one of her classmates who has been over to visit a few times in the past piped up about getting to see Joy's pet bunnies (no longer with us, alas.) 

But the real magic happened on the question about Joy's favorite book.  I'd put down "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" as our answer, and asked the class how many of them knew that book.  Every hand shot up!  And to cement the connection, I softly sang the first line: "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me!"

And then I was just about to move on to the next question, when we heard a quiet utterance from Joy.  She had picked up her aide's hand and begun tapping in rhythm, singing, "bow beh, bow beh..."

Joy wants to sing?  Joy gets to sing.  The class all joined in as I led them through a memorized rendition of the entire book, with Joy smiling and singing and tapping along.  They were all with me, all the way through. A glorious connection.

After the poster, I stuck around to help as the class moved on to a math lesson.  But first the teacher went in search of a book.  She didn't have a copy of Brown Bear in the room, but she did have "Baby Bear."  So while the class did math, Joy and her SEA went through the whole "Baby bear, baby bear" book over and over again. Joy simply glowed.

Last night at home during her bath and after, I heard Joy talking.  There were definite, separate words -- some one syllable, some two -- with pauses between, and different vowels and consonants.  It happened three different times.  It felt like there was a sentence there each time, but each time was different.  And I couldn't understand.  I was in awe, feeling something new and big pushing through, but not quite connected enough myself to understand what was there.

JoyDad said afterwards that Joy had been singing bits of Brown Bear to her therapist at her clinic session.  That might be part of it.  I'll listen for that next time, assuming that this wasn't an Elvis Sighting that goes away for goodness-knows-how-long.

But it might have been something completely new. I think there may be something big about to happen.  I'm wishing on my Star, because this just may be a dream waiting to come true.