Woody’s Greatest Hits

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Salem is telling stories.

The communication barrier is still pretty thick, but in the past 15 months, Salem has progressed from using echoed and scripted speech to answering simple “yes” and “no” questions to actual role-playing with his sister. Lately, he has been telling stories– nothing elaborate, but I will catch him narrating an original scene in limited detail. When he’s tired, he will get stuck on a loop and repeat the same phrase over and over and over again. When this happens, Clark and I say, “The record is skipping.” For instance, the other night, we were laying in my bed well past his bedtime, and with much passion and conviction, Salem observed, “Mommy, Woody is a big man… and Woody is a big man. And then… Woody… {long pause}… is a big man.” After a while, the repeated white noise lulled us both to sleep.

Woody’s Greatest Hits has made one more crack in the wall between us, and that is reason to celebrate.

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Operation: Risk Management– Five Things to Consider Before Vaccinating

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When you have a child with Autism, one of the first questions on everyone’s mind is, “Are vaccinations the culprit?” Before I answer that… a few disclaimers: The following is by no means medically exhaustive. I am not a DIY expert on the subject, nor am I an anti-vaccine extremist. This is simply a slice of our journey.

When Salem was born, I was paralyzed by the polarization surrounding the subject of vaccines. I had read enough to know that there were risks on both sides, but I wouldn’t let a needle-packing nurse near him until I had made up my mind in good conscience which risks we were willing to take. I opted out of the Vitamin K and the Hep A shot that they give most children before they even leave the hospital. I figured he wasn’t going to be sharing any drug needles before his two-week check up, so we could at least wait until then. Two weeks came and went. Nine months later, we had not given him a single vaccine until finally, I asked myself the question:

“If my child contracted anything that could have been prevented, would I be able to live with myself?

When we arrived for his nine month check up, his pediatrician said that unless we vaccinated Salem, he could file a “medical negligence” claim against us. He enforced a “catch up” schedule and said that there were no a la carte options. In other words, we couldn’t opt out of the chicken pox or the drug-needle sharing vaccine. It was all or nothing or risk being labeled “medically negligent”. So, we prayed.

And then we pricked him.

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Ours isn’t the Autism story of, “one day he was here and the next he was gone” after the Ped administered the DTaP. Salem’s developmental delays appeared over time. Do I think that the vaccines caused Salem’s Autism? No. I think there is a buffet of genetic and environmental factors at play here, but when it comes to the influence of immunizations, I agree with one of Salem’s doctors:

If a child possesses a spark of neurobehavioral vulnerability {ie. a genetic propensity to a developmental disorder like Autism}, vaccinations are like gasoline. They exacerbate the situation.

Hindsight 20/20– would I still have chosen to vaccinate Salem? That depends. More importantly, I would sift my decision through a risk management filter that I like to call, “The Five D’s”. {Alliteration makes me happy… go with me on this.}

1. Diet— Does breastfeeding eliminate any and all risk of contracting an infectious disease? Certainly not. Does it reduce the likelihood? Yes. What deserves even further consideration is the presence of food allergies and/or intolerances. There are loads of test options to determine if your child should avoid certain foods, but here’s a test that’s absolutely free and void of controversy. Ready? Walk over to your pantry and open the door. Choose a box of oft-purchased cereal or crackers and read the ingredients. Can you pronounce them? Are your shelves lined with product ingredient lists that say, “Enriched flour”, “high fructose corn syrup”, and “Red 40”? You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that white flour, white sugar, sodium, dyes, and preservatives are crappy for you much less for your child’s developing brain. In addition, carefully researched and selected whole food supplements are important to consider as well.

2. Degree of Exposure— Does your infant/toddler attend day care or pre-school? Are you a stay-at-home mom that lines the grocery cart with a quilted coozie and keeps anti-bacterial wash on your key ring at all times? Do you live in a heavily polluted, urban city? Does your child have regular contact with someone who frequently travels internationally? The degree of exposure varies for each child and will most likely change over time. Harmful exposure is unavoidable, but we moms are faced with making a judgement call based on our respective environments and the level of protection we need to provide for our kiddos.

3. Development— This is tricky one. Barring any glaring disabilities that appear before or shortly after birth, most babies achieve specific milestones within the same general time frame. Rolling over, crawling, walking, talking… etc. A child can pull off these feats without a hitch and yet still possess a neurobehavioral disability. Salem’s developmental clues were primarily speech and sensory-related. How was I supposed to know that I had been pouring gasoline on Salem’s development since he was 9 months old when the evidence of a disorder would not appear until age 3? Which leads me to the fourth “D”…

4. Delay— Part of Operation: Risk Management for the Beasley children is to delay vaccinations until the blood-brain barrier closes {around age 5}. If all was sparkles and bubbles in our house and there was no sign of any genetic vulnerabilities, I would still insist on holding off on vaccinating until…

A. my child was no longer nursing.
or
B. my child was enrolled in daycare or pre-school.

After that, I would insist on single doses, spaced out within the maximum time allowed during which I would WATCH FOR SIGNS OF DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS AND AVERSE REACTIONS LIKE A HAWK.

5. Doctor— This is all fine and good, but the first four “D’s” ultimately hinge on whether or not you have a pediatrician that is willing to work with you. Does your doctor educate you or intimidate you? Do you get the sense that your child is just another little patient, or is his pediatrician willing to customize his diet and his immunization schedule, or suggest alternative options? For instance, have you ever heard of an Antibody Titer Test? Neither had I. This is a blood test to determine whether your child has sufficient antibodies and is therefore immune to a disease that is on the standard vaccination schedule. You mean my kid might not need all those boosters? No kidding. In my limited experience, these docs are hard to find, but they do exist.

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So, what if you are like me and you’ve moved from Operation: Risk Management to Operation: Damage Control? We have a diagnosis, so now what?

1. Date Around– Find a pediatrician that is willing to customize an approach to fit your child’s unique needs.

{oh man, here she goes with the D’s again. Yup.}

2. Delay any further vaccinations.

3. Detox– This involves a complicated series of tests to determine your child’s level of exposure to heavy metals from… you guessed it… vaccines that results in dietary changes and a liver support protocol and yada… yada… #itmakesmyheadhurttoobutwelcometomyworld.

Okay, so that’s more like 8 “D’s”. But you get the idea. I believe vaccines save lives. And yet, I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all vaccination plan that optimally benefits every child. The question, “Should I vaccinate my child?” is an important one that should be weighed carefully, approached holistically, and answered with the help of medical professionals who are willing to customize a plan that fits your child’s evolving needs. Above all, remember that as a parent, you have options. We won’t choose right every time, or even a lot of the time, but until our children are old enough to choose for themselves, {or until the government tells us otherwise} it is our job to choose what we think is best for them. So pray, plan, and proceed with confidence, and I promise… no more alliteration…

… for now.

Atta Boy {Brief Salem Update}

This just in… My son, MY SON– the one who insisted on wearing noise blocker headphones in public while clinging to me shaking at the sound of a cheering crowd… That son– the one who earlier this year was tortured by ball games and birthday parties and Brad Paisley concerts… That son, MY BOY, just sat with me trail side of the Jr. Hoya 2-miler trail race at Lost Mountain Park. He was cheering and fist-pumping and “atta boy”-ing every long-legged middle schooler than ran by.

Yes. I cried.

And then I turned my back for one moment…

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This actually happened. He had joined the race and won the hearts of these teenage girls who adopted him as their mascot.

Atta boy, Salem. Atta boy.

Road Trip Ent.

Couple taking a road trip in vintage car.

We are on the road! I wish I could say we were headed for an exotic weekend getaway, but the reality is, we are headed to Macon, Ga. No offense to Macon-ators, but the most exciting thing I have found there is the drive-thru Starbucks that still serves Berry Blossom White tea. BTW, That needs to make a come-back in all S’bucks everywhere, don’t you think? {Any To Do #394: Send BBW tea request to Howard Schultz.}

And use fewer abbr. in LLB posts apparently. J/K

Salem has his three month appointment with the Autism specialist, and since he won’t let me sing in the car {or anywhere for that matter}, I have plenty of podcasts on deck… everything from the latest New Yorker: Fiction reading {when I’m alone, I like to practice my Deborah Treisman impersonation} to a recent interview with the ultimate party planner, David Stark. Did you know there is actually a podcast called Stuff You Should Know? It sounded just weird enough for me to listen to and last week, wouldn’t you know, I learned something I never knew that I should have known… thus a podcast aptly named. What sort of entertainment do you like to bring on road trips?

Have a great weekend!
CYA Mon.!

{Image via Sorority Sugar}

Twenty-Year Survival Plan

It's Going to Be OK print{Image via Bear Robot’s Etsy shop}

…that’s what Jennifer prescribed during our last session. Part of me wished I has misunderstood and she really had said milligrams, but no. She said Clark and I needed to put together our twenty-year survival plan for raising a child with Autism.

I have practiced a few Nervous Breakdown Prevention Methods over recent months, but I have learned the hard way that when the going gets tough, the tough to to Jennifer’s couch. At first I sounded like one of those drug commercials that rattle off the list of depression symptoms right before the narrator speeds up the wpm to that of an auctioneer spouting a string of worse-er drug side effects like blindness, leprosy, and/or the sudden urge to hit the casinos. I told her that I was crying a lot, having trouble sleeping, and that my dream/fantasy life sounded more like a story line for a new Cemetery Dance novel. If she and I didn’t have such an extensive history, she might have reached for her prescription pad. But she knows me. She said that in her professional opinion, she’s quite certain that I am not depressed as much as I am still grieving to which I respectfully replied, “Don’t give me that to-MAY-to/to-MAH-to psyhcho-babble. Give me the MEDS!”

So, what does a twenty-year survival plan look like? I’ll tell you what. Whoever figures it out first will let the other know. Deal? Deal.

Waiting to Exhale: A Conversation About Fetal Testing

Jamie Elizabeth maternity

{Image via Miss Jamie Elizabeth}

I probably need to have my head examined for exploring a topic that will inevitably peeve half the female Facebook population. Nevertheless, I recently asked a few friends and readers if they underwent genetic fetal testing during their pregnancies. Here are a few of their responses:

Ashleigh said:
“Since I struggle with worry, I didn’t want to spend a majority of the pregnancy concerned– especially since the tests aren’t always right.”

Hollie said:
“I didn’t see a reason to get a “heads up” of any test results early. I put my trust in God, and lived by faith, and ‘what will be will be’.”

Abbie said:
“There is no instance when I would consider aborting a child, so to spend the money, let alone my emotional investment, on this testing would seem a mere and unnecessary stroking of my curiosity.”

Alexis said:
My job was to create a safe and healthy environment for my baby to grow and develop. I didn’t see the point in having genetic testing done. The outcome would remain the same.”

Kristy said:
Many people base their decision on whether or not they continue a pregnancy on early genetic testing. For me, even a detrimental prognosis would not have altered my decision… I am pro-life, and I would carry a baby as long as possible, regardless of what any genetic test says.”

Elizabeth said:
“We wanted the ‘cooking’ process to be as natural and with the fewest tests possible…Our decision was to let the process of development happen and we will ‘cross that bridge when we get there’ regarding the types of challenges we will face as a family.”

Jennie // Bun in the oven{Image via Andria Lindquist}

I too am among those who voted “nay” to fetal testing and for all the aforementioned reasons. Pregnancy afforded me nine magical months of anticipation from everything to eye color to the sound of that first infant cry. I drove Clark half insane over name choices and nursery patterns, cloth vs. disposable, breast vs. bottle, epidural vs. Glutton For Pain Delivery. Call it “hormones” or “nesting”, but I was gaga over my unborn munchkin and no unnecessary test result was going to spoil that for me.

Genetic experts admittedly cannot predict congenital defects with ultimate certainty. They simply hope to educate parents, and yet the vast majority of us {myself included} don’t want to be made aware of any potential abnormalities. Ironically, we live in the Age of Awareness where every other T-shirt and rubber bracelet gives voice to another helpless victim of injustice. Unless I have the sympathetic capacity of a cyborg, I will join the discussion about extreme global poverty or human trafficking. I will pledge and petition to raise awareness for a starving child in rural Africa, but when it comes to my own family, my own unborn child, my own incubated hopes and dreams, I don’t want to know. Why is that?

Perhaps it is because I have never woken up in the wee hours contemplating first names for a child born into extreme poverty. I have never labored over the decision to fully vaccinate a victim of child trafficking. Am I heartless to admit that? Or is there something that has to happen to a woman in the delicate process of becoming a mother where she must first become helplessly addicted to her child if she is ever going to have a prayer of becoming a decent advocate for her child’s condition no matter what congenital injustice befalls him or her?

Take for instance the injustice of Autism: If you had asked me a year ago to acknowledge Autism Awareness Month, I would have attended the rally, “liked” the page, ran the race, and bought the T-shirt. But now that I am living with it, I don’t need a poster or a bracelet to remind me of the excruciating fact that it exists. I am aware of Autism during mealtime meltdowns that result in Salem screaming at a near deafening decibel level while reincarnating into one of the Orcs of Middle Earth. I am aware of Autism when I watch him run laps around the produce section chanting the twelve tribes of Israel. I am well aware of Autism when he falls into an inconsolable heap at the cheering conclusion of “Happy Birthday”.

Next thing I know, I am wondering if I had been given the option of knowing that Autism was in the cards for Salem, would I have done anything differently? Let me say for all times’ sake:

MY QUESTION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TERMINATION AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH PREPARATION.

Would I have taken advantage of the extra time to store up the emotional fortitude necessary to raise a child with special needs? Is that even possible? Would I have focussed more on educating myself rather than obsessing over which shade of green bed sheets to purchase for his crib? Would I have given him a better head start if I had been given a better heads up?

My quest for insight led me to one final chat with my new friend, Yvette. Her children are in my son’s special needs preschool class. I thought surely she would share my hindsight suspicions of the value of fetal testing after having delivered a premature set of twins who, much like my own preschooler, have their own onion of developmental delays which she is courageously peeling back one tearful layer at a time. She empathized with my line of questioning, but she too decided against fetal genetic testing. She described the current agonizing anticipation of whether or not her child is going to fulfill the clinical predictions or overcome the odds of a looming diagnosis. It is this “waiting to exhale” {as she so eloquently stated} that ought to be overshadowed by the anticipation of a child… a child that has a first name and a personality and likes and dislikes and unique features… all of the things that cannot be defined by a diagnosis. As she spoke, I realized that by first becoming a fierce lover of our child then and only then are we qualified to grieve and advocate on behalf of our child’s condition should one arise.

If you have not already de-friended me for tiptoeing {yet again} on such a sensitive health topic, I thank you for joining me in a discussion that has helped me to personally find rest in the deeper awareness of myself as a mother.

Love the child.

Loathe the condition.

God, help me always distinguish between the two.

Worlds Collide

I just had a conversation with my son.

I’ll say it again. I just had a back and forth, question and answer, observant and imaginative (yet within context) conversation with my son about the full moon on the way to school. It was still brilliant in the sky at 7am when he asked me if he could hold it. And then we saw the sunrise behind us and he broke into song about it. He asked, “Mommy, where is the Earth?” This is huge for an autistic child who was virtually stuck in a scripted world just months ago.

It lasted all of about 8 minutes, but here I am in the school parking lot crying my eyes out because in those short moments, Salem and I actually connected, and my whole world just got made.

I simply had to share it.

It is a very Good Friday indeed!

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To B12 or Not to B12?

We are pulling out the big guns for this round of Project: Recover Salem from Aspergers Syndrome. I administered his first Methyl B12 injection last Friday.
The initial attempt was a total train wreck. The needle bounced off his backside and bright red blood came squirting out, and at that point remembered why I studied music rather than nursing. He was screaming. I was screaming. Even after he had dried his eyes and was sitting down again happily exploring his new Mr. Potato Head app, I was still shaking and rehearsing my poking technique on the nearest grapefruit. This was also the day I made up with my half empty bottle of 5-HTP (which I now affectionately refer to as 5-Have-To-Poke my son three days a week) and asked it to be my Valentine twice a day with a meal. So, between Salem and I, we’ve got all sorts of mood enhancers flowin’ every which-a-way which is more than I can say for the grapefruit. Today is Monday which means another injection. I don’t know who is the bigger baby about this, him or me? I have lied awake with a giant 4 year old sleeping on my chest for the past 45 minutes trying to come up with every possible deceptive scenario to somehow distract him from the inevitable. So far, the best idea I’ve come up with is to pull his shirt over his head during the final verse of Going on a Bear Hunt and then tell him he must have bumped into a porcupine while he was in the bear cave. Yes? These are the moments when I have to wonder. When God was dealing out cards, did He toss mine across the Poker Table of Life and laugh to Himself thinking, “this outta be rich?” Wish me luck. We’re goin’ on a bear hunt. We’re gonna catch a big one.

Interview with a Recovering Blond

Part of me wishes I could gather together all of the doctors and specialists that have something to say about my son. I would then throw them in a ring together so they can duke out his diagnosis. They all have something different to say. Part of me, if I’m honest, has been hoping to hear just one of them say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him and all the other opinions are bogus and he is brilliant and gifted and bound to be a smashing success in life. Unfortunately, the one thing they can agree on is that he is a blond. Here’s the thing about blonds– or should I say, those who are on the “blond spectrum”. They may be platinum blond, dirty blond, strawberry blond, sandy blond, bottle-job blond, verbal, non-verbal, savant, sensory challenged, antisocial, repetitive and so forth. No matter how you classify it, they are all blond. I brought my little blond-headed kid to Macon today to meet with an ASD specialist (who is named Dr. Duke ironically enough). She had one thing going for her for sure that has set her apart from anyone else I’ve talked to about Salem’s mystery condition. She has a son with Asperger’s syndrome. Three hours into our visit, I took the greatest comfort in knowing that she knows more from first-hand experience about what I am dealing with on a daily basis with my son than anyone I have consulted in the medical community thus far. Somehow, that gave her more authority to speak into our situation. She seemed very confident that Salem is an Asperger-blond, which nobody has come right out and said. For eight months now we’ve been circling the same spectrum. For crying out loud, will somebody please land the plane? Forgive me, but I would like to know just what shade of blond my son is sporting. When he was first born I studied all of the creases in his chubby fingers, and I knew that his foot was exactly the length of my pointer finger. If I look deep enough into his piercing blue eyes, his right iris bears a speck of hazel at 4 o’clock that identifies part of him, even if it is only a small part of him, with me. So while medical science is now more sophisticated than ever with all of its advanced diagnostics and complex protocols, a broad-stroke ASD consensus just isn’t good enough for me. Dr. Duke used a lot of confusing medical terms that left me nodding my head like I knew what she was talking about, but really I had no idea. I sort of tuned out most of the medical jargon and just fixed myself on this particular word she kept using… this word, “recovery”. In context, she said that she “recovered her son from Asperger’s”. He is now 17, and in mainstream education/gifted classes. He’s on Facebook, and he participates in study groups. Perhaps it was the fact that she looked identical to Christy Nockels, but she was/is completely gorgeous and hardly resembles the mother of a 17-year-old boy, much less one with a complicated neurobehavioral disorder. One thing I have noticed in my limited experience with other parents who are raising children with special needs, no matter if it is physical or of the less-apparent-to-the-naked-eye variety, we all just look sort of…weathered. We can all agree that parenting in general is exhausting, but there’s a big difference in looking tired and a looking weathered. Tired parents need a nap. Weathered parents need hope. Tired parents are training their kids to say please and thank you, to aim for the toilet, and to color in the lines. Weathered parents need hope that their kids will one day be able to dress themselves, to sit through Thanksgiving dinner without having a sensory meltdown, or that they will beat the odds of other special needs children who don’t typically grow up and get married and have children of their own. But this doctor, or should I say this mother didn’t look tired or weathered. She looked like somebody that I would enjoy having a laugh with over a glass of Cabernet. She looked like someone who had managed to rise above all of the statistics and not only recover her son but recover herself in the process. It reminded me that being a parent is hard enough, but when you’re the parent of a child with special needs, maintaining your own sense of self is without a doubt the first thing prone to falling by the wayside. I feel the tug to let myself go every single day. When you have a child that can’t stand the sound of loud laughter and covers his ears and starts screaming when you sing or even hum, you begin to naturally avoid things that you once found amusing. You wait until he is sleeping to play music around the house so you won’t be tempted to sing-along. Little pieces of yourself start to erode until you can’t recognize what formerly made you come alive. While you are so determined to provide every opportunity for that child to thrive, one can easily forget what it is like to thrive themselves. Dr. Duke gave me hope. Hope that Salem really could rise above this hand he has been dealt. Hope that the four of us Beasleys will learn how to live together under one roof in peace and harmony. Hope that when he is 17, I will be able to remember who I was before his diagnosis. So, our Macon voyage was successful today in the sense that I am returning home with a sleeping son in the backseat who is clutching his oversized stuffed bunny, and I now have a little bit better understanding of his blond-ness. But also I have a picture of hope that the future with a child with Asperger’s can hold some recovery. And I will take all the hope I can get right now.

A Picture’s Worth $80,000

I was a Music History major in college. I learned rather quickly that this wasn’t the most lucrative choice of B.A. degrees, as my first job out of school was working at a smoky arcade in Houston, TX– the sort of dignified establishment where retirees risk their entire life savings at the video slot machines at eleven in the morning. Four years of hard work+ $80,000 tuition= Magna Cum Laude dealing virtual Texas Hold ‘Em. Not every mother’s dream for her baby girl, but what can I say… music notes make me happy. Recently, Clark and I indulged our inner-music nerds and quizzed each other on the historical timeline of every musical era from the Renaissance to the twentieth-century. Some married couples get their kicks with Ben & Jerry’s and Red Box on a Saturday night, but for us, its Mendelssohn and 12 tone. To each his own. Needless to say, I shamed my 15-year Sallie Mae loan (at a fixed 4% thank you) as I could not complete the timeline to save my music-loving life. Of course, Clark could, but he is admittedly a bigger music geek than myself. Fortunately, it has served him well.

I don’t get to put my music theory degree to use very often. I am a singer, but aside from listening intervals and the occasional sight reading exercise, I don’t have much use for sheet music, (aside from a few crafty Pinterest projects of course). However this morning, I not only used my theory degree, but my musical knowledge meant the difference between staying indoors or being able to leave the house.

I can usually tell what sort of day Salem is going to have mere seconds into his waking moments. Call it a mother’s intuition or whatever, but I can look into his eyes and simply know if the daytime hours and activities before him will pose a moment to moment struggle in how to relate to the world around him or not.

To say he is struggling today is putting it rather mildly.

I spent two morning episodes of Blue’s Clues begging God for the grace to get through this day. No sooner than the timer went off indicating TV time was over, Salem refused his breakfast, snapped at his sister (on her birthday), and began furiously flapping his hands in front of his eyes as he often does when he is anxious, tired, or overstimulated. In order to diffuse the situation, I funneled him into the *Recording Studio for a little “me time”. I could hear him tinkering with an ABA iPad app that I recently downloaded for him at the suggestion of Clark’s cousin who is a speech therapist. It is a problem solving app that features a chart picturing 4 objects (3 are in sequence and one does not belong). For instance, visualize a quad diagram of a rooster, a frog, a camel, and a leaf. Clearly, the plant-life does not belong, but to an abstract-challenged little thinker, this is quite the mind bender. An enthusiastic female voice then asks, “Which one does not belong?” Salem needs only to tap on the odd image to invoke a flood of affirmative responses from the automated inquisitor– “Awesome”… “Great Job”… “You’re Super.” I often wonder how I can get “Vickie Voice-Over” on an audio loop so she can flatter me every time I change a diaper or reload the dishwasher. Anyway, one of the images that didn’t belong today was a purple music note– Salem’s current visual addiction. He has entertained a series of inanimate shape and/or object infatuations which include, but are not limited to a plush red tomato, a foam blue letter “x”, a plastic yellow circle block, and a pink bath toy bearing an odd resemblance to the number “8”. While I have great respect for the app writers who are sponsoring my son’s attendance to iPad Preschool, don’t they know that ASD children have manic visual obsessions upon which they fixate so hard and so long that the momentary absence of such sends them into a downward spiral of hyperventilation? Hence, when the object of Salem’s unparalleled affection (in this case, the purple music note) is there one moment and gone the next unable to be retrieved even by Mommy’s frantic touch screen tapping, it is as though a Mac Genius himself is cutting off his blessed oxygen supply. And thus it began– the inconsolable string of tears and incomprehensible syllables. Thinking fast is my new thing, so before Salem, Mia, or I even knew what was happening, I scooped them both up and put them in the shower. All I could make out in his screaming was, “Want the moose-kick note”… “Want the moose-kick note”. I thought about drawing one on the steamed glass of the shower door, but that would inevitably fade resulting in a swell of fresh tears and tortured gibberish. So, underneath the hottest water he and I both could stand, I held him while he cried and I cried and cursed iPads and app writers and ASD and “moose-kick” notes. After about 45 minutes in the steamy shower, we were all prune-y and lightheaded, but before any one of us passed out, we emerged unscathed. Hysteria-bomb: dismantled. But he didn’t soon forget his first love. As I was dressing him in fresh Buzz Lightyear underpants, he asked to see the music note. Thinking fast AGAIN, I rummaged around and found a legal pad and a dull pencil. We all know I am a terrible visual artist, but I DID go to college where I spent (actually, I am still spending) $80,000 and the better part of FOUR YEARS drawing music notes. That ought to be worth SOME-thing, right? I proceeded to recreate the music note he so desperately wanted to see. It didn’t light up when he touched it. It didn’t resound with any recorded praise or affirmation when he identified it. It was a wrinkled up, chicken-scratched, erasable pairing of two 16th notes, and yet that was the moment my Bachelor’s degree paid off. He shook all over with excitement. Thirty minutes later I had dried my hair and dressed for church, and I found him still shaking and holding the penciled drawing repeating the phrase, “Look Mommy. It’s a ‘moose-kick’ note” over and over and over again. Salem rarely expresses his feelings verbally, so when he does, my whole world stands still. He looked at me while I was Velcro-ing his shoes and he said, “Mommy, ‘moose-kick’ notes make me happy.” Then, I started crying (a-GAIN) and said, “I know, buddy. Music notes make me happy too.”

He clung to that tattered paper all the way to church and he kept it with him during his nursery class. So what if he uses drinking straws as drumsticks and carries sheet music with him to church? So what if he IS the only kid who wears big blue Vic Firth headphones on the Chick-Fil-A playground and knows exactly how fast to count backwards from 10-1 during the instrumental turn around of Coldplay’s Paradise? So FREAKING what?! If “moose-kick” notes make him happy then see if I don’t notate my forehead, his bedroom wall, and the side of the family mini-van for crying out loud!

Don’t worry, Buddy. Moose-kick notes make me happy too. Moose-kick notes make a lot of people happy. Some people see the world through Moose-kick notes and it hasn’t turned out too bad for them. I have a feeling that it won’t turn out too bad for you either.

(*Note: The Recording Studio consists of iPad musical instrument apps and a potty seat on which Salem is known to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour banging on virtual bongos or plinking out a blues scales on the virtuoso keyboard. This is not an actual recording studio).

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