Trucks, Ducks and Muck

My daughter has defied “normal” speech development from the start,  speaking in sentences and saying words like “applesauce” and “octopus” by the time she was 16 months old.  Now, at 4, she is often mistaken for a first-grader age due to her impressive language skills…and towering height.

My son has been a completely different story.  When he was 18 months old, I started to wonder if he shouldn’t be saying more.  I shrugged off my concerns initially, thinking “he’s a boy, boys develop later” and “I can’t compare him to his older sister – all kids are different.”

I casually mentioned the fact that my son was only saying a few words at his 18 month check-up, not thinking it was a big deal.  Our pediatrician said not to worry, just monitor his development and see where things were at in a couple of months.  By the time he hit 20 months and nothing had changed, I started to worry a bit more and we were referred for a speech evaluation, “just to be safe” our pediatrician said.

The evaluation consisted of umpteen questions about what, specifically, my son could say, his behavior, and numerous other factors I had never really considered, like if he could sort and categorize items (does anyone know off-hand if their kids can do that?).  After it was done, I was told that my son’s expressive language was a full year behind where it should be and we were given a diagnosis of a severe expressive language delay.

I struggled to fight back tears as the speech-language pathologist went over next steps.  All I could think was that this was totally and completely my fault.  I hadn’t read to him enough, hadn’t played with him enough, let him watch TV too much.  My daughter was so verbal, hadn’t I don’t the same things with my son? Where did I go wrong?

The guilt has since passed and now been replaced with a fierce drive to get my little guy talking.  Since we’re on a waiting list for speech therapy (which is unbelievably frustrating when you want to get your kid help, like, yesterday), we’re currently focused on the one thing I know I can do to help grow my son’s language skills – reading.

Inspired by the timeless and indispensable The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, I’m trying to get as many books in front of my son as possible, every day.  The biggest challenge in doing this is getting him to sit still, so I’m trying to work on a couple of things.

First and foremost, I’m trying my darndest to create more opportunities to read. I’ve started reading books to my son when he’s playing, making our pre-nap and bedtime reading times just a little longer, even reading aloud to my kids at mealtimes.  And whenever I feel the urge to flip on the TV, I’m trying to grab a book for the kids instead.  Sometimes it’s just an extra book here or there and sometimes the TV still gets turned on, but I’m trying to default to books more often whenever we have a break in the day.

The other thing I’m working on is finding more books that interest my son.  As the second child, he gets a lot of his sister’s hand-me-downs, and (surprise, surprise!) he doesn’t love all of the same books that she did as a toddler.  My son’s main interests these days are trucks, trains and animals, and  it seems there is no shortage of children’s books that encompass these themes.  This past week I found myself reading three great books about farm animals, trucks and getting stuck in the mud:

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  1. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
    My little guy loves trucks and anything blue, so this was an instant win for him.  The story is cute and has a nice message bout helping others.  While this isn’t a rhyming book, there are lots of animal and truck noises, which is awesome for language development and getting my son to try new sounds.
  2. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
    A classic rhyming book about a herd of sheep and a series of misadventures they have with their jeep.  It’s short and sweet, so it easily kept my son’s attention.
  3. Duck in the Truck by Jez AlboroughLike our other favorites this week, this story focuses on a duck driving a truck that gets stuck in the muck (love they rhyming in this one!).  While a bit longer than Sheep in a Jeep, the story is more predictable, which my son loves.  Even if he can’t say the exact words in a story, he still likes to make sounds when the cadence is predictable (e.g. he’ll make the “ee” sound for “see” and “me” in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?).

After a week of reading these books on repeat, my son said “guck” (duck and/or truck) for the first time.  Whether or not it’s a result of our reading, I’ll never know.  Either way, I’m calling it a win!

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2016 – The Year of Words

As I sat down to make my new year’s resolutions for 2016, one particular area of life stood out as having been sorely neglected last year. A long-time lover of the written word and so-called aspiring writer, I realized that I spent the majority of 2015 pining over books I never made time to read and “writing” essays in my head but never actually putting them down on paper.

The thing about writers, you see, is that they WRITE. A blaringly obvious statement to be sure, but what makes me different from Isabel Allende or Donna Tartt or (insert your favorite author here) is that I am completely lacking the discipline (and probably just a bit of talent) that the aforementioned writers possess.

Ah, discipline. That pesky little detail that separates the dreamers from the doers. As I approach my mid-thirties, I’m being smacked with the stinging realization that I’ve spent most of my life being a dreamer. I’ve had many enterprising, elaborate dreams (e.g. jewelry maker, lawyer, paper artisan, healthcare administrator), but few that came to fruition. That’s not to say my life has been a complete failure – far from it, in fact. But, as I consider my life thus far and how I want to shape my future, I absolutely want to be more on the “doer” end of the continuum of life.

For years I’ve wanted to be a writer. My inner monologue is mostly narratives, as though I’m writing my life the way someone else would read it. Every time I read a particularly terrible book/blog/newspaper article/etc., I always think “I could do better than THAT.” And yet, I don’t even try. Whether it’s from fear, laziness, or a perceived lack of time, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s something that has been lingering in my heart for years, calling out to me from some distant place lost in the fog.

So, dear self, I hereby declare that 2016 is the year to stop dreaming about becoming a writer and actually do it. Here’s how:

  1. I will write every day.
    I’ve gone through “seasons” of writing in the past, but have never made it a daily habit, which is something all writers do. Whether I get out 1,000 words of literary magic or a couple paragraphs of pure drivel, I will write every single day.
  2. I will read a minimum of 2 books per month.
    In order to be a great writer, one must read. A lot. And while 2 books per month doesn’t seem like much, it’s a huge improvement over the 3-ish books I read last year (did I really just admit that???).

I feel more strongly about these goals than I’ve felt about any others in quite some time, so I’m definitely up to the challenge. Here’s to 2016, the year of words!

Home

You know that feeling you get when you’re home?  It’s a contented, happy feeling.   You can relax because you are in a safe place, the one place in the world where you can completely be yourself, enjoy yourself, and nothing else.  Like no matter what the day has done to you, you get to come back to home base and recharge.  The world can be tough, battering, brutal and unyielding.  Sometimes it has just been A DAY.  But there is always home.  There is always the promise of warmth and love and the familiar to wipe away all the bad.

It’s easy to take that for granted until, one day, you don’t have it.  Home just isn’t there.  It’s on a moving truck somewhere in the New Mexico desert.  Maybe you’ve lost it because you’ve been wandering for so long.  Maybe the very essence of what made it home is gone and even though the place is the same, what’s inside is anything but.  Home becomes an abstract thought, floating through space and always just out of reach.  You ache for it, you wish for it, you dream about it, but every day you wake up and it just isn’t there.

You find comfort in knowing that, one day, you’ll find home again.  You have to believe that, because without that hope you feel like you might just float away.  For when you’re un-tethered to the earth, it’s hard to keep your feet on the ground.

Being human is a lot like being a hot air balloon preparing for takeoff.  You have ropes that keep you anchored – your home, your family, your friends, your passions.  Each rope is unique and pulls its own weight, keeping you grounded.

The ropes loosen, allowing you to fly on your own, but they also bring you back to the ground and keep you from floating away into nothingness. The ropes all work together, providing equal balance and support to your balloon.

When one is frayed, or cut, or even missing, you simply can’t fly properly.  Your balloon is sideways and crooked and upside down and carrying you through a tornado to the Land of Oz.

But, if you work hard enough, look hard enough, you can fix it.  Repair the rope, find the missing tether, and get your balloon right side up and on your way home.

The Lexicon of a 3-year-old

One of the most charming and hilarious things about my 3-year-old is how she creates, misuses and confuses words.  Aside from being her personal chef, stylist and teacher, I also strive to serve as her lexicographer, compiling a dictionary so the outside world can understand her.  And have a few laughs.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Old MacDonald’s:  The Golden Arches.

Appetizer: Any food eaten before a meal at any location other than the kitchen table. A bite of dinner in the kitchen that is eaten 30 seconds before dinner is served at the table is considered an appetizer.

Nappetizer: A pretend, 5-second nap taken before mealtime.

Sharsharisa: Any word in Spanish when the actual Spanish translation is unknown.

Mustachios:  Pistachio nuts.  Not a mustache-shaped breakfast cereal.

Muppets: Any and all puppets.

And, my all-time favorite:

Fascist:  Fashionable.  As in “I look so fascist today!”.

 

 

Inspired by The Daily Post: Play Lexicographer