The Texture Of Things

This Entry is About Me

October 31st, 2006

I don’t really want to put this whole thing in my sidebar, so I’m putting it here and linking to it.

I am a 30-something year old woman, married to a 30-something year old man whom I’ve dated since I was 17. We have two cats and a 2-point-something year old daughter with what currently looks like tactile hypersensitivity and feeding problems, compounded by anxiety. At this time, her therapist doesn’t believe she has Sensory Integration Dysfunction, but that could change as we pursue further therapy.

This weblog is my place to document the process of helping my tot learn to feed herself and explore her world like other kids her age do. If anyone ever stumbles on this blog while in a search for information about when to seek intervention for a child whose behaviors seem very odd but not critical, I hope s/he finds some of my observations helpful. (I’m not an expert in much of anything, but feel free to email me if you like. Really.)

I also use this place to record her milestones and my memories of her, because frankly I stink at keeping her scrapbooks and baby book up to date.

If you are reading this as a way of beginning here, you might also want to try this.

Oh, For the Love of Gelatin Products that Jiggle

October 31st, 2006

Sometimes, a child will surprise a mother. Today was that day for me.

Today, S. and I had planned on doing two things: playing with Jigglers and finger painting with pudding. Jigglers were a new thing, and this would be our second attempt at pudding painting.

Below is a picture of our first attempt at pudding painting:


What? What’s the matter? Think I uploaded the wrong picture? Think again. See the creamy blob on the far edge of her plate? That’s the pudding. Uh-huh. That’s as close to pudding as she would get a month ago. “Sprinklers,” as she called them, were welcome everywhere. (Note to self: they are a bitch to clean up, but they didn’t stain her jammies.)

Now, normally, S. and I plan a “dangerous” activity and a “safe” one, the latter to help bring down any stress that the first caused, and I had my doubts about today. Jigglers? Puh-leeze. This kid won’t touch bread because it’s too wet. And our pudding goal was supposed to be to face-paint kitty noses for Halloween. I saw nowhere for the anxiety to go but up for this session. Thankfully, I was wrong.

There was no anxiety because we never even got to the face-pudding-painting. The tot made quick work of the Jigglers, stacking, dropping, ker-plopping, and (dear god, will I jinx myself?) licking them. LICKING them. She cut with cookie cutters and tore them with her fingers. She wiped them on her shirt and pants and smooshed one on her foot. I was so deeply in shock that I did not think to get a camera to take pictures.

For most other mothers, this sounds like an average two year-old’s lunch, but I swear, I cannot think of a mess that I am happier to clean up than one like this. Truly. Now I can’t wait to see what happens next week with the pudding.

Some Changes are Evident

October 31st, 2006

When the tot first faced off with dried beans, she patted them with one outstretched hand, palm open and fingers together and straight. She wouldn’t get close, but she would make contact, if eventually. She also used that method to touch other uncertain things, like the evergreen shrubs in our front yard, the leaves of the maple trees (but no touching of the branches), new fabrics, and so on. But things, they are a-changin’.

Today, I noticed (and realized I’ve been seeing for some time now) changes in her interactions. After our session with S. today, S. and I talked about the tot’s bean play – seeking out whole body contact by getting in the bin with the beans, mixing items in the bin, having confidence with the substance (i.e., kicking, smacking, splashing are all “safe” now), playing there for longer periods of time. These in themselves are progress, small victories on our way to the big prize: self-feeding and the eating of non-crunchy solids and of, dare I hope, mixed-texture foods.

Then, the tot and I got lunch and went outside to burn (her) energy before nap time. As I watched her ride her tricycle up the sidewalk, I noticed that when she greets the shrubs, now she grabs hold of the long (read: overgrown) branches with her whole hand and strokes them. It reminded me of how I pet the cats’ tails – from base to tip, with the fur, or in this case, needles. I watched some more and I saw her do it alternately with both hands. Both hands? Holy Moly, that is new too.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am a little bit. Sure, I’m delighted too, but I think I got to a point where I quit believing that she would learn to be more confident, more assertive. (One stock phrase of hers right now is “It’s My turn, MY turn!” Assertive much? Good girl.) I got used to her timidity and began to see her behavior as the normal. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to see past my child’s delays because I love her or because I want to meet her where she is developmentally and then move forward from there, but it’s another when I create a world for her where she doesn’t have to work on improving in her problem areas.

So, I need to remember to continue to offer her chances to interact with new or undesired textures, and I need to do it with positive, unquestioning language. “I’m eating cottage cheese. You can look at it with me. You can taste it, when you’re ready.” Instead of “I’m eating cottage cheese. Don’t you want to eat some too?” Most kids, the conventional wisdom has it, need to be exposed to a food ten or more times before they’ll accept it. For the tot, it’s easily five times that, at each step – seeing at a distance, seeing up close, smelling, touching, then tasting. Hopefully, somewhere in that process, she gets okay with having it on her plate or immediately in front of her as well.

When I do it often enough, I am eventually rewarded. Yesterday, when I showed her my bowl, she asked if she could touch the cottage cheese. And she did touch it. With one outstretched hand, palm open, fingers together and straight. She quickly wiped her fingers off on her shirt and went back to her snack with confident waggle of her head. For the first time in a long time, there was no anxiety in her reaction. It was a tentative approach, but a step forward, to be sure.

A Bullet List to Remind Myself

October 30th, 2006

These are some pre-birth details I probably should put in the tot’s baby book, but hey – why start now? If I leave it blank, that Hallmark baby book should bring me a buck, buck and a half on eBay.

*I got pregnant fairly quickly, despite having an unreliable cycle. (Only 8-9 periods per year, but that was then, and now I get them right on time so you can quit talking about “what it’s like” so loud in front of me because now I know.)

*I was lay-down-on-the-floor, vomit-when-HG-tried-to-cook-or-eat-anything sick from about 3:30 p.m. until the next morning everyday from week 8 to 14. From week 14 to about week 18, I just wished I could vomit and have a respite from the nausea.

*For a while, I loved pregnancy, and then around week 22 or 24 (I don’t remember) I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (GD). (Completely diet controlled.)

*That sucked. OMG, that sucked.

*Since I was overweight before getting pregnant, telling just about anyone I had GD resulted in a sideways glance that oozed “Well, duh.” Newsflash: that’s not how it works, but thanks for making me feel even fatter, jerk.

*Since I was overweight before getting pregnant, I was told to keep my weight gain down to 10-15 pounds, which I did. In fact, I don’t really think I ever looked pregnant, except for when I sprawled backwards at 7:30 p.m. every night to watch the gymnastics in my belly. And even then, while I looked pregnant, I mostly looked inhabited by an energetic alien.

*Because of the GD, I was considered High Risk and I never, ever quit hearing about how HUGE my baby would be or how they wouldn’t let me go to my due date because of how HUGE the baby would be.

*Also being High Risk, I got to go to the OB once a week from early on. They needed, you know, to measure my belly to make sure the baby wasn’t getting too huge. I also got extra ultrasounds because – impending hugeness.

*I had an ultrasound on a Monday at the start of my 35th week. At that point, I had gained 16 pounds and they figured the baby weighed right around 4.5 pounds. My belly measurement was on the small side, but that was okay since in the last month the baby was going to get HUGE.

*That morning, I woke up with a wicked kink in my neck and left shoulder. For the next few days, I was only able to sleep on my left side, on a slight incline. Even then, I could hardly sleep because the pain was relentless. It showed Tylenol no mercy.

*On Thursday, I had diarrhea all day. I thought I was never going to want to poop again, and my neck hurt. I finally broke down and called the OB’s office. The nurse, normally suffering from chronic stick-up-butt, suggested I not wait until my appointment the next Monday. She didn’t want me to go into the weekend with all that neck pain. So, I made an appointment for the next morning, Friday.

*Two hours later, HG came in from work and before he even said “Hi,” he said, “Your belly looks different, smaller.”

*The next morning, the doctor agreed. I had lost 5 pounds since my last weigh-in and my belly measurement was about 2 weeks smaller than it had been 5 days previous. She had me cross the hall to the ultrasound room, where I found an ultrasound tech who just found out her scheduled scan was in the hospital giving birth and could she maybe squeeze me in real quick like?

*This sudden opening is unheard of in this practice. The ultrasound tech is only there two days a week, and she is always booked beyond solid.

*The baby measured a pound smaller and my amniotic fluid was dangerously low, despite the fact that I had not been leaking. (My cervix was soft, but fully closed.)

*My OB sent me to the hospital to see the perinatologist, in whose office I got another ultrasound with a personality-free tech, this time with color and blood flow measurements. Woot!

*No, actually, it was really just more of the same – lying on an uncomfortable bed, unable to stretch my neck to see the screen because of the kink, yada yada yada.

*After the perinatologist repeated the entire scan and double checked every measurement, I got to visit with her in her office. In very short, she told me to go on bed rest and come back on Monday.

*There is a lot I’m skipping here that I will have to come back to when I feel like I can write it. Suffice it to say, she ruled a bunch of things out and said she didn’t have the answer, all without a shred of humanity, kindness, sympathy, or anything but a cold bedside manner.

*When I asked her if I should go downstairs and do the Non-stress Test (NST) I was scheduled to do that day (twice a week when you have GD, baby!), she shrugged and said it probably didn’t matter. It was up to me.

*I went for the NST.

*During the NST, I noticed nurses hovering like bees, first one, then another, then both. The tot had a track record of slipping out from under the monitor, and when that happens, the baby’s heartbeat disappears off the monitor. She seemed to be doing it a lot more than usual this day.

*Except she wasn’t. She was staying in place, for the most part. The disappearance of her heartbeat on the monitor was because she was compressing her umbilical cord, which was stopping her heart.

*The scariest not-sound in the world is the buzzing of the fetal monitor turned up to eleven and not picking up anything while the nurse manipulates your belly, looking for a baby but only finding a faint reverberation of your own heartbeat, at 90 bpm.

*Because they were not telling me anything, I didn’t know that it was my racing heartbeat. I asked, “Why is it so slow?” The nurse said, “That’s yours.” She never looked away from the machine.

*She called for a doctor and a swarm of nurses flipped me onto my hands and knees, still trying to find a heartbeat, which they did find.

*There is a piece I have to skip here, as well. I will write it when I can.

*They loaded me up with as much IV fluid as they could, gave me a spinal, and did a c-section.

*The doctor had warned me that she would be small and that she would need to go straight to the nursery, but he gave me hope that she was not so early. She wouldn’t look like a translucent-skinned preemie; she would look like a very small newborn.

*She did. She looked like a little old man who hadn’t eaten in a month. Well, in the delivery room, she looked like a small head on a burrito, but in the pictures Husband Guy took in the nursery, she looks old. Small and old. And if you think about it, that’s really how a lot of newborns look.

*When she came out, she came out crying. I couldn’t see anything but a surgical drape and an emesis bin, but I could hear her.

*It was antithesis to the buzzing fetal monitor, only an hour before. I understand now why some women cry when they become mothers. When a child is born, so is a mother. Tears are the only reaction befitting so drastic a transformation.

Where the Beans Have Led

October 29th, 2006

There are some observations about the tot’s perception of textures and need for order that I want to document here.

The first time the tot saw the beans, they were about 8 inches deep in a roughly 15-gallon capacity bin. The beans were rather beautiful, if I may say. Black beans, small white beans, large white lima beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas. Lots of visual contrast. The important point, though, did not reveal itself until we began playing with pastas.

See, I provided the dry pastas, and I am a serial person. First I gave her some flower/wheel shapes, and then I brought out spiral/rotini noodles. Only, when I offered the spirals, the tot flipped. No Mixing Allowed! But the beans were mixed, I thought. Oh, wait. The beans were mixed together before they were introduced. Somehow, that made it okay. Sigh. It took over a month for the pastas to be allowed to play together.

But back to the beans. In our early play with beans, we played only with beans. We worked on feeling okay about them spilling on the floor, we learned to delight a bit in the sounds they made when poured into different containers, we practiced scooping and dumping. We (read: the tot) got more comfortable.

Then, S. brought dried rice to one of our sessions. Oooh. I gotta tell ya, playing with the rice finally made me understand why those miniature Zen gardens with the sand and the little rakes really do lower stress. The rice was smooth and even, in texture and in sound, and we all felt relaxed dragging our fingers through it.

Until S. suggested we mix some beans and rice. The tot quickly became anxious. She stood up, her voice rose in pitch, and her utterances became abbreviated with staccato delivery.

I don’t remember now what S. did to calm her, but it worked. The tot watched S. build a small beach in a large mixing bowl, using the beans as water and the rice as sand. Then S. suggested we add water to the beach. The tot loooooooovvvess water play (go figure), so she lit up at the chance to pour water in the house in a room other than the bathroom.

She gladly poured and poured, but when she saw what she had achieved – wet beans and rice – she fell apart. It was too much.

S. and I backed away from wetting things for a few sessions, choosing instead to work with a variety of doughs before reintroducing mixing wet and dry textures. It was an important day, no doubt, but we recognized that pressing on could compound her anxiety rather than show her there was no need for it. And this is the core of our approach to helping the tot: her texture issues are simultaneously tactile hypersensitivity and anxiety. We can’t work on one without working on the other.

Eventually, though, it was the tot who brought up the notion of mixing beans and water again. She was terrorizing the living room with her beans and bean-play equipment. I was sitting in a chair reading a magazine when I heard her say quietly, “I put beans in the water?” Yes, my child. Yes, you may.

Bean and water play ended up being more water play, dumping and pouring water in a 9×13 plastic container with some beans at the bottom for effect. She wasn’t really playing with them, but she wasn’t worried about them in the slightest, which was a great victory in itself.

Lately, as in the last several weeks, she will permit more mixing of textures, particularly dry things, including herself, as seen in the picture below.


Don’t worry. I punched lots of holes in the lid before I put it on. I MEAN, the lid was in the other room, inaccessible to the tot.

In the picture, you can see she is “washing her hands” with beans as pretend soap. She has added to the beans several small pumpkins, her cooking utensils, and her plastic sheep (seen under her butt). She is luxuriating in the bin o’ beans. She is happy.

A Hospital Visit

October 29th, 2006

I am a lucky woman. Now, I am privileged, I will admit, but today I mean “lucky,” as in “the luckiest woman alive because I get to drink a barium shake and ride in a cat-scan machine.” That kind of lucky.

I don’t mean to be sarcastic and angry about the fact that I have health insurance that will gladly cover the cat scan and the colonoscopy I’m currently scheduled for in an effort to pin down a mystery pain I’ve had in my lower belly since February. That’s not what has my panties crinkled in my delicate areas because that’s not a bad thing in any form. It’s that I had to go to the hospital to pick up the barium shake and will have to return this coming week for the cat scan.

Agh. I hate the hospital. One trip for the scan was an insult enough, but I couldn’t even get the drink anywhere else. No, I had to go there to get it.

I don’t hate all hospitals, just this one. This is the hospital where the tot was born, and I cannot separate any iota of the grief, anger, and damage of it all from any further experience there. I drive there and I feel like I’m marching toward my doom, every car length closer pulling my mood lower and lower. I park, and every time I park there, I try to park somewhere other than where HG and I would park on our twice-daily visits to the tot in the NICU. It never works, though. Everything I seem to ever need in that hospital is located on that end, and that end only has one parking lot.

So, every visit there now, I walk up the same sidewalk, through the same doors, and into the same air as I did over two years ago. And every visit, I try to train my focus on the task at hand, away from the past. It rarely works. The security guards are still the crusty old dudes from before, the decor was new then so it certainly hasn’t changed, and the hallways still lead to the same old doors.

I try to tell myself what’s different now. I am a mother. I have my daughter at home. She is awesome. She is the best thing ever. I live in a new town now and I’m back to work (part-time). I won the lottery because I got to leave with my baby. I am not there because they have something I need. Well, I am there because they have something I need – answers to my current problem – but this time, I’m not going home to an empty crib. Quite to the contrary, I will hear her shouting with glee that I’m home before I’m even through the door.

No, this visit will not end with me holding my hands to my face the whole way home, smelling them because twenty minutes after holding her, they still smell like her, and that high is the only thing that holds me until I come back, half a day later.

No, this time the visit will not find me aching and churning internally on the way there, wondering if today is the day I bring her home. This drive will not feel like I am running, running as fast as I can toward something, but with no path, no sense of direction, no intention other than to try to get to the part of the whole event that looks like the books said it would look like: mom and dad at home with new baby, blissful in their new roles.

We got to that part, but none of journey seemed blissful in any way. The getting there, no, that part was distinctly non-blissful.

Today when I walked back up the hallway, past the security desk, out the revolving door, and onto the sidewalk where the wind whipped up my umbrella, I reminded myself that I am a winner. I came home with the prize. They can’t take her away from me, even though they will always keep a part of me. I tried to remind myself that they can keep that. That part is expendable.

Rainy October days are typically at most glum, promising only an end to all the fall colors except brown, but today was not glum. It was windy, cold, and mean. The reflection of my mood in the branches of the trees and between the leaves pelting down was not lost on me.

Winter Holiday of Your Choice Blog Extravaganza Gift Exchange Questionnaire Answers

October 26th, 2006

Here are my answers to the WHOYCBE Questionnaire. The Extravaganza itself is graciously being hosted by the lovely Andrea.

I may choose to further amend this to include more answers, as I look at other entries and see how kewl** everyone and their responses are.

Fill in the blanks:

If I could, I’d invent a ____________________, and damn it, the world needs
one because,_____________________________________.

A Time-Freezer Machine that would freeze the world around me, but not me, like Piper could do on the old WB show Charmed. With it, I could pause time and do something, like go to the bathroom alone, clean up because someone’s coming over and the house is a mess but the tot insists on following me around destroying every path of clean I make, read a book, write a real honest-to-goodness letter, or grab a nap. I could drink a cup of coffee or listen to a cd. I could work on my class prep (my students would love me if I showed up prepared for once) or write entries for the blog, but the first thing I would do would be to carve my Halloween pumpkins, because it’s a task better left to when the tot is asleep or elsewhere. In short, every woman needs one.

I sometimes buy _____________________, because it is/they are more like the
me I want to be than the me that I am.

Fashionable clothes, particularly ones that sacrifice comfort for fashion. Also, salads.

If you came over to my house to play and touched my ________________ I’d be
a little bit mad at you forever.

I can’t really think of an example. I pretty much would get over anything quickly or eventually, even riffling through my underwear drawer. That said, if you picked up my digital camera, I would worry until you put it down. I’ve got a lot of important, not-yet-downloaded pictures on there.

The colour/s _______________ makes me want to shave my eyeballs with a
cheese grater.

Peach, pale yellow (other yellows are okay), royal blue (other blues are okay)

The colour/s _________________ is/are so beautiful that when I see them, a
beam of light comes down and I hear a choir sing.

Wine, rich charcoal grey, mid to dark greens, periwinkle, slate blue, pumpkin

_______________________ makes me gag, feel it in my mouth for a minute, and
then swallow it back down rather than spit it out (or else I just don’t like
it, but I’m too nice to say it.)

Hip-hop or country music, dog slobber, sit-coms where the male characters are just stooges set up for laughs.

I might get sick or die if I touch or ingest _______________, or look at

Spiders and bugs, mushrooms or tofu, though I am allergic to none of these things.

_______________________ gives me the willies and I might need to consider a
frontal lobotomy if I even think about it further.

Teddy bears, clowns, geese, or talking politics out loud, with live people.

I love the feel of _______________ so much I want to hump it like a puppy on
a sofa pillow.

Chenille, flannel, you know – all the things cat hair sticks to.

No one should have to watch me eat ___________________, because then I might
consider being polite enough to share, and I don’t want to share it.

High-end (milk) chocolate, chocolate desserts, or cheesecake

I’m a grown-up now, so I don’t have to eat ________________________ any
more, and you can’t make me.

Any kind of seafood. ANY kind. Also, black olives. And hazelnut-flavored anything or dark chocolate.

If I could invent a way to permanently coat my nostril hairs with this
scent, I’d be my own biggest customer:

Spices – like apple-cinnamon, vanilla spice, etc. I’m not a floral scent kind of person.

Three things I like that anyone might like:

Snowmen, cats, books, horses.

Three things I like that nobody else in the world likes:

Professional football – Lions, Packers, Bears (at least no one I know likes it with me, except my husband), oatmeal (cooked, not instant), playing solitaire with real cards

I have TOO MANY/TOO MUCH OF __________________________, and not enough

Too many duffel/tote bags,
Not enough scrapbooking supplies, notepaper, storage boxes

Okay, we know the best things in life aren’t things, but these are the best
things in life if there are going to be best things:

Coffee in a chunky coffee mug (preferably with angled sides), a great pair of shoes, a book that has me thinking about it long after I’ve put it down.

When people have kind, sweet and nice things about me, they’re usually
talking about ________________________. When they say I’m
______________________, they’re usually right too.

What my mother told them about me. Spoiled and bullheaded.

It’s true, I’m a _______________________________________. I’m learning to be
proud of it.

Coupon shopper. There is nothing like a big coupon the same week the item goes on sale.

If I could have any talent in the world, I’d choose ________________ and use
it to _________________________.

Cooking. I’d feed myself, my family, my neighbors, anyone who would take food from me. I think the act of sharing food with people in times of trouble is one of the better qualities of our culture, except it’s mostly lost now. Neighbors don’t share recipes because they don’t know each other, new moms and dads stress out over fending for themselves, families in crisis order take-out. If we shared food with each other more often, the world would be a better place. Meanwhile, I can’t cook anything without burning it or needing my husband to walk me through it step by step. It’s a drag.

You are given a day and a no-limit credit card to spend in one of these
places, childfree. Choose one, or write your own:

A gourmet food store, because you are what you eat. It’s all about feeding
yourself and your soul. (Although a meal with my husband or friends at a nice restaurant, complete with dessert, would do just fine – it doesn’t need to be gourmet.)

And here’s the last chance to make sure that you’re not going to get a
“Jelly of the Month” club membership when you’re expecting your bonus for a
swimming pool:
It is important to me that the items chosen for me:

are not poisonous to cats or toddlers. I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so have some fun picking things out because that is the most important part of this whole shindig-thang. C’mon! It’ll be fun!

If I could suggest that you read only one post from my archives, this would
be it:

There aren’t that many entries yet, so I can’t really pick a “Best In Blog.” Maybe “When Words Fail” or “Puff Balls” or “Bullet List”?

If I were to name the Holiday of my choice for this exchange, it would be:

Winter Awesome Gift-Giving Because We Are Kewl* or WAGG B WAK
or Christmas. Whatever. I was raised with Christmas, but for me, much of the holiday is tied to cultural and family traditions of community, food, loving life and the people in it, and gift-exchange. A name is just a label we use for reference.

**Kewl = so cool that “cool” isn’t cool enough to fully express the coolness.

When Words Fail, in a Funny Way

October 25th, 2006

Whenever the tot has a cold virus or some other monstrosity that is vexing her little, teeny-weeny, button-schmutton nose, I apply “nose medicine” at bedtime and various other points throughout the day. Nose Medicine is Vick’s Baby Rub, and I do it because the smell reassures me that I’m at least doing something besides waiting out a virus, but I tell her it will keep her nose from getting chapped and that will help her get better faster. Maybe it does, maybe it’s a big line I feed her. Whatever.

She loves it, unlike any other form of medicine. She’ll point to the little pink-capped jar and say, “Get nose medicine? Want nose medicine? Want it on?” and she tips her face up to me with her eyes closed like this is her favorite part of the spa treatment. As soon as I start to schmear some on and around her nostrils, she smiles. I don’t really know why.

She does not have a cold right now, nor has she for some time. That is just background for the conversation she and I had yesterday.

She declined to nap, and by “declined,” I mean “stood in her crib, jumping up and down and shouting to whoever would listen that it was ‘time to get out now.'” I knew she wanted to play outside and I knew she needed to, so I got her up, dressed her, and plunked her butt outside with her Little Black Car (Jeep Power Wheels) and a bucket of sidewalk chalk. I stood just inside the open garage with a thermal cup of coffee and a desire to be inside, in jammie pants.

She played and played and played. And then I noticed her looking at her mitten-free hands.

She said, “My hands. They need medicine. We get the medicine, Mommy?”

“Why do they need medicine?” I asked. I could see they weren’t injured in any way, though I was intrigued.

“Hands cold, Mommy. Get the medicine, get the nose medicine for my hands?”

“You want the nose medicine for your hands?”

“Yes. Hands have a cold. We gotta get the medicine.”

Of course, I told her that when our hands “are cold” (but do not “have a cold”), we need mittens not medicine, but this language mishap was so delicious that I was momentarily tempted to let her go on thinking it her way.

And then I remembered I have a blog now, which means I have a place to keep these stories, so modeling the correct usage then was probably the right thing to do before the teachable moment passed.

For whatever else it’s worth, this language moment was a forward step for a child who doesn’t have much self-help language. She doesn’t reliably tell me when she’s hungry or thirsty, cold or warm, so it really is music to my ears.

When S. Comes to Visit

October 5th, 2006

Mostly we play. We three play together and S. and I talk about what’s happened over the last week with me and with the tot. I tell her about any breakthroughs the tot has had, how she’s eating, and how things are going at the babysitter’s. The tot tells her, “S! S! I play dough! I pat. I pat it. I can pat it now.” Pat, pat, pat.

Almost every weekly visit, we interact with a new texture or do something new with a familiar texture. The first week that we played, S. brought dried beans. Although they are now a hit, a staple in the toy department, they weren’t then. It took several minutes before the tot would face the big Sterlite bin and watch S. run her hands through the top inches of beans. Instead, she stood in the space my legs made while I sat cross-legged. She kept her hands on her face, her face tucked into my shoulder, and her shoulders hunkered down into my body.

I did what I always do in that moment. I put an arm around her to steady her body against mine and I slowly rocked side to side. Before I had a child, I always had a feeling that once a mom learns to bounce and rock a baby, she never forgets how, and it’s true about me. It’s been like riding a bike. I might not do it for a while, but in the moment I need to, the rhythm and pace are immediately back again, and I am rocking her to calm her. I think a baby doesn’t forget it either, because even though the tot is 28 months old, it still settles her.

Slowly she felt safe enough to watch S. take the rubbery starfish out and make them talk about how much they like swimming in the beans, how they like it when all their friends come to visit, and hey – is that a new friend standing over there? Cool! Come see our super bean-swimming-pool! So many beans: Black beans, little white beans, big white beans, red beans, brown freckled beans, black-eyed peas.

Some minutes later, she touched the beans, but gently. She patted them with flattened fingers, like she thought they’d break under too much pressure. More minutes passed and she was picking up a handful of beans with only one hand, but she wouldn’t hold them long. At no point would she bury a hand, though she did say it was okay if S. buried her own hand.

Along the way, the tot panicked when beans spilled on the kitchen floor and was agitated until we assured her it was okay for them to be on the floor. We could pick them up later. Each time more beans were spilled (purposely or not), her face was buried in my shirt again, if only momentarily.

This reaction echoed her reaction to playing in sand, something she did for the first time this summer. It took a lot, a lot of visits to the sandbox before she’d eagerly plop her butt in the sand and demand a yogurt cup to dig with, something she does now. I do not doubt that she will learn to tolerate everyday textures without panicking. It’s a long road, but we’re walking in the right direction.

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