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I am grateful that today is Friday and the school week is over for Nik. This screwy schedule of so many days off in November (crazy school district schedule!), plus the hurricane, plus the election… Nik’s whole sense of time and place is way off.

Mine, too, little buddy. Mine, too. It’s time for some decompression and relaxation!

May your weekend be as stress-free and rejuvenating as possible!

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Today, I am grateful for the recorder. Nope, that’s not a typo, I swear! Yes, the recorder. You know, that simple carved flute which, through the ages, has made parents cringe and dogs howl as children endlessly torture the eardrums of everyone in a ten-mile radius attempt to make something resembling music. (See yesterday’s post for a visual.)

Now, in all fairness (and in my defense), I am slightly biased; my parents played in a baroque recorder ensemble when I was a young girl. I’ve always loved baroque-era music so I enjoyed it. Once a month, the group would meet at our home to rehearse — for what exactly I’m not certain; I don’t think they actually ever performed except for each other. But I loved those nights; mom would make coffee and serve some sort of snack and I’d sit in Daddy’s avocado green corduroy chair in the corner of the room and listen, maybe even do some homework.

Inevitably, as the group was about to call it a night, someone would decide it was a good idea to play a solo on the sopranino recorder. (Think piccolo-like but not as pretty, and far more shrill when played off-pitch.) We all would laugh with great amusement as our poor dog, Baroness, would sit and “sing.” Of course, knowing what I now do about sensory processing and hyperacusis, I feel badly that my poor pup was probably in pain.

I also have many, many fond childhood memories of listening to my Nana playing violin and recorder duets with my parents when she and Granddaddy would come to visit. Nana was a remarkably talented violinist who played with an all-female group called Polly and her Pals way back in the 1920’s or 30’s and who also once played as regular member of the chamber ensemble at Music Mountain in Connecticut. Call me weird, but I’ve always associated baroque recorder music with warm and happy memories. I had always hoped to share that love of music with my children.

A few decades later –the recorders have long since been given away and my beloved Nana and Granddaddy many years passed. Somehow, I ended up with a child’s music set which included a wooden recorder. It was given to us by well-intentioned friend of the family who knew Nik loves music. What she didn’t know at the time was that Nik doesn’t have the manual dexterity or control –or the oral motor skill—necessary to play any of the instruments she gave us. With more than a touch of sadness, I put them away in a drawer –along with sharing my love of music with my son– and forgot about them.

Nik is nonverbal. We don’t know if he will ever talk –and frankly, I don’t care as long as he can learn to communicate his wants and needs. He can make some vocal sounds including several letters of the alphabet. The letters he struggles with are the ones requiring shaping of his lips or the voluntary movement of air forward. He says the letter F by sniffling through his nose. Pretty smart, actually, since that’s pretty much the way he hears it. He can make the PUH sound for the letter P, but cannot blow air out as if he were blowing out a candle or pushing a cotton ball along a table top. Years and years of speech/communication therapy and it’s all been tried over and over to no avail.

Ironically, Nik is all about music and sounds and making the sounds have meaning. In his own way, he is a supreme linguist of a language so unique that almost no one but he and I understand it. Truly, he associates meaning with certain songs that even I can’t figure it out for a while. He also adores his once a week music class at school. So, when he started digging through a drawer the other day, looking for “triangle block” (don’t ask—I have NO.IDEA!), he pulled out the recorder and refused to put it away. Not wanting to make that my “hill to die on,” I let him have it.

Nik immediately brought the recorder to his mouth; I can only assume he’s seen this in his music class. God knows I haven’t shown him!  Then, a light bulb went off in my mind. Or is it that it went on? Either way, I had a Eureka! moment.

“What if I could use Nik’s ability to say the letter P sound and his love of music and sound to help him learn how to blow out of his mouth? I mean, it’s been tried a million times before, but, well…what if?”

It’s a work in progress, and I’m sure the day will come when I will regret it. However, for now? All I know is my son is, little by little and with growing confidence and consistency, learning to make that god-awful shrill TOOT! from that recorder. The combination of that sound and the laughter which echoes after are the finest music I’ve ever heard.

Someone remind me of this later, okay?

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I may regret this later…

 

 

 

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Sorry to disappoint, my friends. I don’t have a pithy, meaningful or otherwise significant post to share tonight. The demands of the day and the need to prepare for an early morning appointment with Nik have me recognizing my limitations and acknowledging that I need to take care of myself; Nik and I will be on the road at sunrise and, though he’s grown and changed in so many amazing ways, his needs still require a great deal of logistical planning.

I am grateful for my ability to recognize and honor my limits. Tonight, I will don my Oxygen Mask and bid you sweet dreams until tomorrow.

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Nik can only verbalize a couple of words and string together letter sounds. When he does vocalize, it always sounds kind of breathy, like he has mild laryngitis. Actually, he might; we’re not sure how much damage may have been done to his vocal chords as a result of being on a ventilator for so long. But I digress…One of the words Nik can say with some degree of consistency now is “Mama.” It melts my heart every time he says it, despite the fact that he only ever says it with prompting. Like tonight.

Earlier this evening, Nik and I were playing and laughing together. I leaned over to kiss him on the forehead –just because I can. I always tell him how much I love him when I do that. I don’t know, maybe I’m making up for all those lost days of his infancy when I couldn’t just scoop him up in my arms and smother him with kisses for fear of dislodging tubes and intravenous lines or possibly upsetting his tiny and fragile body. All I know is showering my son with affection is an addiction I just can’t quit. I don’t want to until he forces me to stop!

After kissing his head and telling him I love him, I asked Nik if he could say “I love you, Mama.” He leaned down to his talker and hit the sequence of icons to tell me. I smiled, but I wanted more. I pushed. “No, baby, can you say it with your voice? With your mouth?” as I laid a finger on his lips. “Can you say, ‘Mama, I love you’?” I knew he wouldn’t or couldn’t but I had to try.

He looked at me and grinned and whispered his breathy, disjointed “Ma-ma” and then kissed me softly on the lips. I laughed and said “Do kisses mean ‘I love you’?” He tipped his hand in his own rendition of yes in sign language. “Can you say it again, baby?” I asked. He leaned toward me and put his face up to mine; I felt the whisper of an angel wing on my lip and heard him rasp “Ma-ma” once again.

In the instant that I blinked, he was whirling away from me toward his LeapPad books, humming the Spongebob Squarepants theme. Don’t ask.

A few hours later, not too long after I’d put Nik to bed and sat in the dark listening to his gentle snores, the telephone rang. It was my husband’s employer; Niksdad was asleep so I took a message. They had called to update Niksdad on the condition of one of his patients who had gone to the hospital the day before.

Shaking, I went upstairs and kissed my baby one more time and let the tears fall.

Somewhere tonight, another mother of another child with special needs kissed her boy for the last time. My heart aches for her pain.

Tonight, I am grateful for every kiss, every sigh and snuggle I have with my precious boy. Hug your children tight. Cherish every moment.

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It’s been roughly a year since my son’s sleep troubles have decreased dramatically. For years, yes, you read that right, years (five, in fact), my son would wake in some sort of heart-rending distress multiple times a night at roughly ninety-minute intervals and they lasted about 20-45 minutes each. To say those were brutal times would be a gross understatement.

It took a long time to finally debug what we think was the root cause; if I told you, you’d look at me like I had three heads. Even our son’s fantastic neurologist took a while before he believed we were right.  But, suddenly, the screaming, writhing bouts of self-injurious behavior…stopped.

The transition from those hellish years to sleeping through the night has not been without some bumps along the way and I’m not sure I believe we’ve fully crossed a threshold yet. But, here we are several months later and we have all finally retrained our bodies to sleep (mostly) through the night. Nik still has nights where he is up for a few hours in the middle of the night, but that’s more often the exception than the rule these days and usually only when something is brewing with his health.

I am extremely grateful that we now have a home health aide here to help us every night during the overnight hours. My husband works nights and I have to be able to function to get Nik ready for school and doctor’s appointments and to manage the day to running of our home which includes managing all aspects of Nik’s educational and medical plans and needs. It is a full-time job and my boss can be kind of, well, a bitch sometimes — especially when she doesn’t get enough sleep!

So we’ve been on cruise control for a while now and I was just starting to feel cocky. Until Super Storm Sandy came along; Nik’s sleep hasn’t been right since. He didn’t have any obvious anxiety from it, but his sleep has definitely suffered. Nik’s gone from sleeping up to nine hours straight through the night to either being awake for a few hours then going back to sleep or, worse, simply starting his day a mere small handful of hours after I’ve gone to sleep.The poor boy was so exhausted all day! I thought (ok, PRAYED) he would nap this afternoon so we could push his bedtime out a little later to help make the transition to Standard Time a little easier. Ha!

Nik came sooooo close to falling asleep on the sofa a few times and then would rebound suddenly. It was an ugly sight to see; the poor child was so dysregulated and exhausted that I described him to some friends on Facebook as being like a malfunctioning robot. At one point, immediately after he had eaten lunch, Nik got very upset because he couldn’t have his ice cream — which he always has after dinner. He started to fray around the edges and tell me he was hungry and asked me to make dinner. Then breakfast. Then lunch. Then dinner. Then ice cream NOW. Then the tears and frustration came followed by kisses and soothing from Mama. Then it all repeated in a seemingly endless loop. By late afternoon, I knew I had to get him out of the house to keep moving. We went to Target where he was…a complete angel.

As soon as we got home, the demands for dinner and ice cream began again in that anxious, perseverative kind of manner. He only ate half of his dinner before deciding he was done.  By six o’clock his body thought it was later (and he’d been up since the wee hours) and he was starting to fall asleep on the sofa for real this time. I helped him don his spiffy new pajamas, got all his myriad meds into him and brushed his teeth before heading upstairs.

Nik never actually made it upstairs under his own steam.

Halfway up the stairs, he stopped, turned around and put his arms up for me to carry him. “No, baby, you need to walk; we’re almost there,” I said. He looked at me and his lower lip quivered. He shook his head NO then sat in the middle of the staircase, laid his head on the stair above where he sat and closed his eyes. He’s such a little stinker. I convinced him to make it up to the top landing before I scooped him up and tossed him over my shoulder.

I think he may have been half asleep before his head even hit the pillow, but as I turned out the light and leaned over to kiss him on the forehead, he snuffled and raised his lips to mine. Resting a palm against his soft cheek, I smoothed his hair and whispered my goodnight. It’s a ritual I started when he was in the NICU so he wouldn’t ever feel alone in the middle of the night. I have whispered those same words every night since he was born. Even on the very rare occasions when I’m away from him, I make my husband put the phone to Nik’s ear and I softly say —

“God bless you and the angels keep you overnight, baby. I love you. I’ll meet you in Dreamland with Papa and I’ll be here when you wake. Good night, little bear.”

Today, tonight, I am grateful for sleep and the rituals surrounding it. For the progress my child has made in sleeping again and for the fact that he is here for me to kiss and snuggle each night. There were so very many scary days and nights in his early life when I thought we might not have this time together.

Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night

Angels watching, e’er around thee,
All through the night
Midnight slumber close surround thee,
All through the night

 Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night

All Through the Night ~ a Welsh Lullaby often associated with Christmas

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Today, I give thanks for peace.

Not peace in the sense of wars and cease fires, disarmament or global resolution – though that would be nice. Nor am I talking about that deep and abiding sense of inner peace – that all-encompassing knowledge that all is as it should be in one’s world and the path forward can be visualized if not actually seen. My world, my daily life, is far from that predictable!

The peace of which I speak is simpler, more fleeting.

It’s the lingering minutes of quiet after my son has fallen asleep on the sofa while my husband is sleeping before he goes to work. That rare window when the cats are asleep and the only sound I hear in the house is the gentle trickle of water from their fountain. Or the subtle creaks and groans of the windows as the wind picks up outside.

The peace of knowing I can drink a cup of tea while it’s still hot. Or go to the bathroom without a visit from my son – or one of the cats.

I give thanks for the peace which settles into my body– no matter for how short a time – as it relaxes, relieved of its state of constant vigil. A reprieve from the coiled tension required to spring into action to keep my son out of harm’s way due to his utter lack of a sense of danger. Peace even to my ears – respite from the perseverative demands of “go car mama” or “pretend doctor.” The constant refrains of  songs from Mary Poppins, She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain, or the days of the week songs in all their various renditions available on YouTube.

Peace.

Those rare moments of quiet, when the tension drains from my body and my mind slows from its constant whirl. Those infrequent times when I can put aside the constant worries about my son’s fragile health, about his uncertain future. About our finances and our future plans. When I can shut out the world for just long enough to really catch my breath.

In those rare moments, I find I can breathe more fully, more consciously.

Deep breaths in… Slow, cleansing breaths out.

In so doing, I gently refill that well within me which, far too often, is on the verge of running dry.

In the quiet, I breathe in peace.

Blessed, blessed peace.

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