the other theo

There is no dark side of the moon really… as a matter of fact, it's all dark.

Category: Fatherhood

Halloween Hijinks

I am pleased to report that Halloween 2015 went much better than that of the previous year for the Peanut.  Last year, if you will recall, he was having none of this costume business for Halloween.   He would barely wear a costume when we tried to have professional photos taken.   He refused to wear a costume for his school Halloween party.  On Halloween night, he had to be tricked into wearing the costume as rain gear until he started to enjoy going up and ringing doorbells.

The Peanut dressed as an astronaut, reusing one of the costumes that we had leftover from last year.   We started getting him used to the idea early this year, as far back as mid-September at least.   The Missus periodically asked him if he wanted to be an astronaut for Halloween.  He wasn’t too enthusiastic, but he wasn’t hostile either.  As time went on, we also developed a backup plan: an In-N-Out carhop costume consisting of khaki pants, a white shirt, a red cloth apron with a bit safety pin, and a paper In-N-Out hat.

By the time the Saturday morning for costume pictures came around, the Peanut seemed OK with wearing the costume for a few minutes.   He was such a good boy at pictures this year!  He sat on the little set the photographer was using, first holding his costume astronaut helmet (stuffed with a bike helmet and a semi-clear plastic bag to give it shape and create the appearance of a clear visor) and then wearing the helmet in various positions by himself and with the Missus and me.   The photographer got some great shots.  The Missus and I were immediately heartened by his response.

Another two tests came on the Thursday and Friday before Halloween.   The Peanut had two Halloween parties this year, since he goes to two schools.  The first was for the Special Ed. preschool class that he attends Monday through Thursday.   That went well.  He walked into the classroom in costume and stayed involved in the festivities.   The second was at the school he attended last year, where he still goes on Fridays.   There was more resistance, maybe in part because it was a warm day and not terribly comfortable to be an astronaut.   He didn’t keep his costume on much during class, but the Missus tells me that he seemed otherwise pretty well behaved.  There was a third costume event to attend during the day on Halloween, but we were all busy and tired.  The Missus and I decided not to push our luck by putting the Peanut in costume again before he had to go out that night.

As for trick-or-treating on Halloween night went, there was a little complaining early on but the Peanut warmed to the prospect pretty quickly.  Again, I think feeling warm in the costume was an issue.   Once he got into the cool evening air around 6:30pm, the complaining stopped pretty fast.   I went with him, the Missus, and Auntie M. to the end of the block and back.   The Peanut was great — and did a much better job of saying “trick or treat” and “thank you” this year.

After that, the Peanut, the Missus, and Auntie M. headed for the next block over and I headed back to our porch to have my Corpse Reviver No. 2.  A few large groups of kids that we saw heading toward our house during our initial round of trick-or-treating took a large majority of the candy we left in a basket.  Thankfully, few other kids came along by the time I returned.

The Peanut cleaned up in the candy department.   Before heading out, the Missus emptied his candy bag into the back of the folding wagon used to carry him to the next block because it was getting heavy.   Seeing that, the Peanut emptied his bag into the back of the wagon every time he came back from a house.   This evidently increased his take, because more than one adult saw his empty bag and tried to make up for his imagined late start.

 

It’s All About The Love

This happens all the time:

The Missus: I love you, Peanut.

The Peanut: I love you, Momma.

 

This happens about 50% of the time:

Me: I love you, Peanut.

The Peanut: *crickets*

 

Gender roles emerge early, I guess.

Everyday heroes

It’s been a month since I posted last?   That’s both surprising and unsurprising.   I feel like I’ve been working like crazy the last few weeks; it may  just be that progress seemed almost glacially slow.   The Peanut also started the new school year, and that required a shift in routine which wasn’t as bad as initially thought (more on that in another entry.)

This is a much-delayed 9/11 entry of sorts.

September 11 will always have multiple meanings for me.  It’s the tragic day of the September 11 attacks, of course.  It’s also the day we brought the Peanut home from the hospital.  The Missus likes to tell the Peanut that it is a day to thank our community heroes.   The last few years, she and the Peanut have taken cookies or other sweet treats to a local firehouse.

We got an extra helping of community heroism this year on September 11.   It was a long day for me, and I was dead tired.   I was about to nod off and contemplating an early night while sitting on the sofa at about 8:30pm when the Missus walked into the living roomed and heard the sound of a large truck in front of our house.   She decided to investigate and walked out the front door.   She quickly returned and informed me that our neighbor’s house was flooding and the fire department was here after our neighbor M. called 911.

The firefighters were great.  The helped M. get the water turned off at the meter, moved much of her stuff out of her place, and even helped get some of her carpets laid out to dry.    All the while, they told her they were sorry that it happened to her.   She said later that she found it very comforting.  Both an engine and a ladder company eventually came by, but both companies eventually had to be elsewhere and left by 10:30pm.

With those kinds of role models, the Missus and I did our best to help out where we could.  The landlord eventually showed up (M. rents) and called someone that lives a few doors down who, fortunately enough, operates a disaster cleanup business.    That led to moving even more furniture, boxing stuff up to store on our patio until whenever, taking down shelves, and eventually pulling up more carpet (laminate wood floors were also eventually pulled, but not that night.)

The day that I was hoping would end before 9pm actually ended sometime just after midnight… and sleep didn’t follow until around 1am as I recall.  I was a wreck for the rest of the weekend.

M.’s place sits on a slab foundation.  It was eventually determined that a pipe burst in the slab.  She finally got the all clear to move back in a few days ago.

Going To The Shore

I learned this morning that my sister and my nephew are enjoying a few days down at the Jersey Shore.

That happened to trigger some fairly memories of my own youth.   My parents somehow discovered this hotel called the Diamond Beach Resort just south of the city limits of Wildwood Crest, NJ, almost wedged up against a US Coast Guard training center.

We went there a couple times.  It had to be in the late 70’s because I remember wearing a Hildebrandt Bros. Star Wars movie poster ringer tee on at least one of the trips.  I also recall marveling at the utility of the air conditioning in my parents’ new 1977 Chevrolet Impala station wagon in the humid summer heat, after years of driving in their mid-60’s Oldsmobile F85 station wagon with black vinyl seats that lacked such conveniences.

A series of disjoint experiences come to mind.   Walking out into the waves with my Dad.   Early morning walks along the beach with my parents, feeling hermit crabs in a sandy tide pool occasionally nip at my toes.   Swimming in the hotel pool… possibly going into a hotel pool for the first time ever.   Flying a kite on the beach.  Collecting shells.  Finding a living dinner plate-sized horseshoe crab and bringing it back to the hotel room for a short stay in the sink of the room’s kitchenette.   Visiting the boardwalk and being utterly scared by my first rollercoaster ride.   Going to dinner down the coast in Cape May, where my Dad (or was it all of us?) got these marvelous looking steamed crabs that he ate on newspaper at the table.

As I have become more interested (or nostalgic) for the architecture and artifacts of the mid-20th Century world into which I was born, one memory sticking out more and more is the motel architecture around Wildwood.   Colorful and delightfully different and the same at the same time, it was wholly fitting that I also learned today (coincidentally) that the remaining motels of that type that were somehow saved from re-development are on the National Register of Historic Places and are known as the Doo Wop Motels:

wildwood-crest-doowop-motels

You can learn more about the Doo Wop motels here

As for the Diamond Beach Resort and its neighboring club/venue the Playpen, they fell to redevelopment wrecking ball sometime in the 80’s, as far as the Internet can tell me.   That’s fine.  I don’t expect to live life in a museum.  It’s nice to have the memories.

Maybe we should take the Peanut to the beach before the summer completely ends.   It’s a different ocean, but I’m sure he’ll still have fun.

First Adventures in A-B-C

The Peanut has an obsession for the written word lately.   As his verbal skills increase, he seems equally determined to learn more about the written word and speak those written words aloud (as our recent experience with Candy Crush attests.)   The Missus and I have encouraged this exploration whenever possible;  with the developmental apraxia we want to open as many avenues for communication as we can.  We include the Peanut in the reading of bedtime stories like Goodnight Moon by making him finish phrases or sentences by speaking aloud instead of us.

There are small signs that these efforts are paying off.  I sometimes let the Peanut watch an episode or two of Chuggington (his favorite) on Netflix while the Missus is at the gym in the morning.  Since he picked up most of the numbers below 20 several months ago, I can ask him which episode he wants to watch and he usually answers with a number.   Most often it’s 1 because he likes to binge watch from the beginning of seasons, at least until this morning.   Today, I asked what episode he wanted to watch and he said “Snowstruck Wilson” in a fairly firm, clear voice (Season 2, Episode 1.)

The Peanut also upped his game in another way this morning.  The Peanut insisted on constructing this, based entirely on his own initiative:

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It took a while, with some anxiety along the way, and he needed some help to get it to look right.

Here’s how it happened:  the Peanut got some new wooden train cars, buildings, and track yesterday and was playing with them on the Pakastani rug with have in the living room.   He asked me to name the types of each of the freight cars in the train a couple times, much as we do for one of the trains in Trains, one of his favorite bedtime books.   After doing that for second or third time, he suddenly got up and went to his room.   I then heard the Missus saying “Peanut, what are you doing with that?   Peanut, why are you taking it to the living room?” from one of the back bedrooms with no answer.   I then turned around to see that he was bringing his collection of alphabet blocks to the living room.

Once he got them to the Pakastani rug, he immediately started getting individual blocks and laid them out in this pattern:

T R S I N

I pretty quickly got the idea that he was spelling out “train” but got one of the letters wrong (which I fixed).  After telling the Missus about this, I returned to the living room and he was trying to spell out something else, but was getting frustrated because he couldn’t find the letters he needed.   I asked him what he was trying to spell, and he said something like “arton”.  Since he has trouble saying “b” sounds, I pretty quickly got the idea and added an “S” to the “TRAIN”.

Knowing that the Missus made up a bunch of laminated paper letters a while back to help him learn the alphabet, I immediately started to looking around for those.   I eventually found them on top of a nearby media cabinet.   Once I did, I tried laying them down on the floor in a mess to get the Peanut to spell “Barton” but the Peanut seemed put off because they weren’t the same as the blocks.  He also kept pointing to an empty spot on the floor and saying something that sounded kind of like the word “by”.

I decided to take a different tack after a couple minutes.  I went to his room and found the book.  Maybe he wanted me to read it to him?   A small amount of frustration followed once I returned to the living room.   No, reading it was not what the Peanut wanted to do.   I put the book down on the floor and picked up all the paper letters.

Once I did, the Peanut looked the cover and began his spelling efforts again.  He immediately started taking blocks and spelled out “B Y R” under “TRAINS”.   Aha!  I helped him find an “O” but we were unable to find another “N” (it’s on the other side of the “A” block).   Another small amount of frustration on the Peanut’s part followed.

Finally, I got the paper letters out again and this time they were well received.   Once I pulled an “N” out of the pile, the Peanut placed it after the “O”.  After that, I tried to locate the next letter that the Peanut needed and he would pick it up, check the spelling on the cover of the book, and then put it in the right place.

Once we finished spelling out the title and author of the book, the Peanut had me read the book to him and all was smiles.

Readin’ Writin’ ‘Rithmetic

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Overheard at the breakfast table this morning while playing Candy Crush Saga together:

Peanut, pointing at the level indicator on the screen: “Level 2”

Me: “Yes, it is level 2.  *pause* Peanut, are you learning to read?”

Peanut: “Yes, Daddy.”

Well, that clears that up… at least until I ask if he knows how to balance the Federal budget and the answer will be the same.

Mischief and Exhaustion

There are two poles on which Father’s Day 2015 was hung: mischief and exhaustion.

To clarify that a bit, let me start by saying that the Peanut may as well be renamed Mischief these days.   If you leave something out sitting out he’ll open it.   If there is somewhere you don’t want him to go, he’ll likely end up there.    If you leave some food out on the counter that he likes, he’ll take it.   If you give him water to drink, he’ll take it a gulp at a time into his mouth, spit it out into potted plants, and then look at you for approval as if to say “well aren’t I so clever?”  Bed time, well bed time, has regressed from a 10-15 minute process of stories and prayers during the school year to a 60-90 minute process of stories, prayers, quiet play, and frequent cries of “will you get back in your room and go to bed?!?”

The Missus and I think the bedtime issues have a number of causes.   The length of the day seems to play a part.  We also think that school was using a lot of his excess energy before it ended about a month ago.   The Missus tries keep him engaged and plan activities for him during the day, but there is only so much she can do.   There is also the possibility that he just may be getting a little older and can go to bed a little later.

With all that in mind, I started Father’s Day weekend with the firm idea that I would try to tire the Peanut out if I could.   The Missus would be out most of the day on Saturday, and it seemed like a good day to take the Peanut to the playground.    My initial plan was supposed to unfold something like this:  start walking down to the playground a little before 10am, get there by 10:30, run around and play together for about 30-40 minutes, get home just before noon, and have lunch.   It’s about a 3.25 mile round trip walk to the park.   He would burn off to some energy and I would get some exercise pushing him there and back in a (soon to be too small) stroller.

Things didn’t exactly play out as planned.   We got started out about an hour late, just before 11am.   Since I knew that this would mean cutting play time close to lunch time, I had the idea that we could pick up a fresh bagel or two on the way to the park and then the Peanut would have something to tide him over.   I thought “Score!”   Once we got to the park by 11:30am or so, the Peanut just wanted to run and play all over the place.  We ended up staying there until after 1pm.   Again, I thought “Score!”  Barring the minor problem that I forgot to get some milk to wash down the bagel, it all seemed to go swimmingly.    We made it home by about 1:45pm.

It only became apparent a couple hours later after the Missus got home that I’d forgotten something: sunscreen.   Going to the park for 30-40 minutes between 10-11:30am is a little different than going to the park for 90+ minutes in noon day sun.   Sunscreen would be nice for the trip I originally planned, but not absolutely necessary.   Consequently, I didn’t put two and two together to realize that the later hour and longer exposure increased the chance that one or both of us would come home looking more like lobsters fresh out of the steam pot.

As it was, we escaped without serious damage.   The Peanut was covered in a stroller for nearly half the outing, so he was ok except for some rosiness on his cheeks.  Me, I had a pretty nice farmer tan… or farmer burn.  It wasn’t painful, just a little warm and uncomfortable.  In the end, I hoped that the burn would be worth it.  Though the Peanut spent the rest of the afternoon not far from the television, he got a lot of fresh air and exercise.

It wasn’t to be.  He was still his mischievous self and bed time and got me up when he climbed into our bed at about 3:30am.

This is how I started Father’s Day.

Our plans for the day were fairly simple.   The Missus’ Dad got some frozen Kansas City mail order steaks a gift a while back and I promised to grill them.  I caught the early morning 8am Mass, got some groceries, took an hour+ nap later in the morning, and put together the bill of fare:  grill sous vide bacon-wrapped filet medallions, fresh homemade fettuccine alfredo, and fresh English peas plus olives, cheese, and charcuterie for appetizer and wine to drink.

It call came together fairly easily.   The one hitch during the process was that I decided to sous vide the steaks in the vacuum sealed plastic wrappers used for shipment.  These were not up to the task, and three of them cracked while immersed in the warm water.

Here’s the dinner served on our patio:

fathers day 2015

The fettuccine turned out to be real treat.  It turns I didn’t have the recipe I got from my Mom handy in written down form, but I remembered it pretty well.    It’s been several years since I made it, and we used to use Kraft-type processed Parmesan cheese whenever my Mom or I made it before.   That was not the case, this time.   Here, the sauce got a big old block of real Parmigianio Reggiano.  That made a big difference.   The sauce had a nutty, creamy flavor that I never remembered before.

Since it was Father’s Day, I got a couple gifts.  The most interesting one was an old fashioned-type whiskey/cocktail glass that she etched with the family name and initial.

After dinner and some clean up, I faded pretty fast.   The Missus took her Dad home, and I stumbled through bath and bedtime for the Peanut.   After the Missus got home, I handed off to her and collapsed.

It’s Easier With The Right Incantation

We have a garden shed in our back yard.   It holds various hand tools, the lawn mower, the string trimmer, fertilizers and pesticides, paint for the interior and exterior of the house, and some lawn toys that we want out of the weather.

I’ve done some work on the shed over the 7+ years we’ve owned the house.   Somewhere in the past, previous owners of the house thought it would be a good idea to stick the shed to the concrete slab underneath with spray foam.  I guess that the idea was to keep the water out and preserve the floor.  This effectively did the opposite: any water that leaked in instead stayed there and rotted out the floor.  So, I took a day around Memorial Day weekend in 2012 to re-frame the floor.  At the same time, I also raised the shed an inch or two off the ground to get wood away from water and allow water to evaporate.

The one remaining problem with the shed was there since we bought the house: you couldn’t lock it.  There was a handle on the door, and the handle had a lock.    Unfortunately, that lock had no key… and the handle was locked in the open position.   Again, previous owners attempted to solve this problem by installing a hook-and-eye latch near the top of the door.

It was an imperfect solution to the problem, at best.   The hook occasionally came free from the latch, causing the door to swing open.   It’s position at the top of the door also meant that door didn’t close particularly well at the bottom.    My bandage on a bandage for these problems was to latch the door at the top and then put a small ceramic planter against the bottom.

The Missus and I both wanted a better solution ever since the Peanut was born.  With sharp tools and chemicals inside, we wanted to firmly lock that door.   Sharp edges, chemicals, and toddlers don’t mix well… unless you want Nancy Grace inventing a nickname for you during Court TV coverage of your negligent homicide trial.

I new there had to be way to replace the handle on the door.  It looked like a relatively common piece of hardware… and there was an id stamped onto the lock to identify the key required to open it.   Yet, in order to ask for a replace something, you need to name it or otherwise describe its function.   Other than “shed door handle”, I really didn’t know exactly how to do either.

That changed a few weeks ago.  Throwing “shed door handle lock” into the image section of Google finally got me a picture of a “T-handle door lock”.   Throwing that term into Google Web got me pages that had such a lock with its common sibling, the “L-handle door lock”, and that was exactly what I was looking for.

I ended up paying about $25 for a universal replacement L-handle lock, commonly used to lock residential garage doors.   That took about 3 days to arrive, and now it looks like it’s always been there:

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Sometimes You Need Words… Or Know What They Are

One of the problems with having a child with apraxia is that there are no words when they would really help.

Here’s a case point:   The Peanut was out riding a toddler swing in our back yard a few weeks ago.   I was doing a some clean up on our patio, so although I would make sure to give the Peanut a push once in a while… my attention was generally elsewhere.  After he’d been in the swing for better part of an hour, I noticed that the swing had stopped and there was a sour, acid odor in the air.   When walked around to the front of the swing, I saw that the Peanut had vomited all down his front.   I immediately started to clean him (and the swing) up and called to the Missus to get some water in the tub to finish the job.

That left the Missus and me with questions:  What happened?   Was he coming down with a stomach virus or some stomach flu that was going around at the time?   Did all the time in the swing just give him motion sickness?   In the week or two previous to the incident, we noticed him opening his mouth and pointing at his tongue.   Did he do that in the moving swing and accidentally trigger his gag reflex?   With apraxia, these questions have no answers.

It had to be either the gag reflex or motion sickness.  He did not throw up again.

Another case in point:  On two different nights in the last few weeks, the Peanut has gotten up three plus times in the middle of the night, come down the hall, and crawled into our bed.   Each time, either the Missus or I would walk him back to his room and he would fall asleep, only to come back 2-3 hours later.

After the second or third time this happens, a parent wants to ask “what’s wrong?”  Are there nightmares?  Is it too hot or cold?  Is something making noise?   Here again, these are questions that the Peanut cannot answer.

More recently, the problem with the Peanut has become not lack of words but loss in translation.

I am very pleased to report that the Peanut is thriving after three weeks in the special ed preschool offered by the local school district.   This meant a small explosion of words from him recently, something the Missus and I hardly dared to hope for, much less expect.  The last three years have, during the best times, been periods of steady gains.   With this, the Peanut is suddenly taking the initiative.   He is either making unsolicited attempts to use words to indicate what he wants, or he is more frequently prompting the Missus and me to identify things with words so he can repeat them.

Now the problem is one of translation.   As one might expect with a child having difficulty learning to speak, words come out too soft, or in a sing-song higher octave, or are just plain indistinct.   At times, it’s like two year old babble all over again, but this time it actually means something.  The Missus and I do not want curb this sudden enthusiasm for language, but we also want to respond and reinforce appropriately.  So, we find that our language translation skills are suddenly taxed more frequently than they have been for some time.

Given where we’ve been, that’s a high class problem to suddenly have.

Evaluation and regime change

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I am so sorry that this blog went silent for six weeks.    A great deal happened with regard to the Peanut in that time that resulted in major changes in how we are dealing with his special needs.   I won’t get into the ins and outs of everything that happened, at least not yet.   It was a bit of bumpy road and the journey sapped whatever time, energy, or inclination I had to write here.

The roots of the last six weeks begin last June.  At that time, we had the Peanut evaluated for speech therapy services from the local school district.   The evaluating speech pathologist immediately understood his apraxia as well as his good nature and recommended him for three hours of therapy a week.  Since it was the end of the school year, that therapy would not begin until the start of school again in September.  She also recommended that the Peanut be evaluated by a school psychologist for additional services.   She told us that if we didn’t hear from the District quickly on that to not be shy about contacting them.

Well, we didn’t hear from them quickly about that or anything else.   The speech therapy was scheduled at the last minute and required significant juggling of the Peanut’s schedule.   Along with the start of the preschool year, everything was chaos for a week or so, and the Peanut was (justifiably) frustrated for 4+ weeks after that because his whole routine was upended.

Finally, we bothered to call the school district about the psychology evaluation around the end of October.    With the Pilgrim holidays and all, it was early December until there was any in person evaluation or preschool observation.   Christmas vacation and a sudden change in speech therapist intervened to delay matters even further.   The new speech therapist came online in January and did not work well with the Peanut.  She also began making ominous noises about what she really thought was (more seriously) wrong with him.

In February, the psychologist finally brought a special education teacher into the evaluation mix.   That lead to questionnaires, formal evaluations, and classroom observations.   These came to head almost two weeks ago, when we were told that the District considers the Peanut’s condition to be more serious than the apraxia confirmed by two developmental pediatricians and multiple speech pathologists in the previous 18 months.

It’s been three years now since our family doctor noticed that the Peanut was slow in forming his speech. Why does it feel like every goddamn time we have someone else look at the Peanut, the results are either useless or worse?

So, it took a while to absorb that news and decide what to do next.   The District is willing to offer the Peanut additional services based on their evaluation: special ed preschool four days a week with integrated speech therapy.   That ultimately sounded good to us, because we saw that the classroom was just reinforcing the same kinds of things we were doing with the Peanut at home.   He should really benefit from the more immersive, integrated approach.  It also got him away from the speech therapist that started in January — he was making no progress with her.   We talked to his current preschool, and they will let him attend there on Fridays (the day he’s not in special pre-school) to have some continuity there as well.   One of the teachers specially asked us if he could stay just because she wanted to know how he’s doing.

At the same time, we will go back and talk to the doctors to see if something was really missed in all the testing we did in 2013 and 2014 to answer exactly these kinds of questions.

Until then, the new regime has started.  The Peanut started his new preschool yesterday.  His teacher said that he did well.

 

p.s. We got a phone call from the District a few days ago to inform us that the speech therapist who started with the Peanut in January will be leaving.   As much as I would like to speculate about how her own conduct with us might have led to that event, best to simply move on.