Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Leap!

Theo made a huge mental leap this week.

Theo has understood nearly everything we say for a while now. He vocalizes, mostly with "ba" "ga" and variations thereof. This week, he's been making more of an effort to imitate.

While putting his hands in my dad's fish tanks, we got him to say "fsh" over and over. There was one distinct "Ga-pa!" when Grandpa walked in. On another day, when I repeatedly told him not to touch something, he clearly said "Don' tahch!" which nearly knocked me over. When he made blowing noises ("fffssss") to indicate bubbles, I told him he had to say "Bubbles" to get it. He switched from the hissing to "ba" much more quickly than he has before.

We've been saying words slowly with exaggerated syllables for ages. Lately I've been pointing to my mouth and Theo's mouth in turn, saying "Theo's turn", which tends to work in more physical imitations. Usually he just giggles at the prospect but now he sometimes pauses and watches carefully. It's still a rare event to get a real result but it's much more common than it was.

Moving closer to speech is not the only leap he made this weekend. It seems like a whole slew of mental operations kicked into place at once.

I can't say he's patient, but he now seems to understand that things take time. I've always attempted to tell him that his food is almost ready or that I need to find my shoes before we can go outside. The difference is that now, he might actually stop whining and waits quietly. If he's in a bad mood, forget it.

We popped outside for a walk the other day and I realized I need to jump back inside for my keys. Theo was already gesturing towards a pathway when I got his attention and told him firmly to wait right there. The second time I said it, he gestured downward and stopped wiggling. I let him out of my sight for probably 5 seconds, but still, to come back out and see him still motionless and looking expectantly for my return was quite a coup.

Just today I wanted Theo to clean up his blocks, so I told him that after we were done cleaning, we could watch his favorite show, Yo Gabba Gabba. I said it a few times to get the meaning clear to him, and then I saw the light bulb go off in his head. He then cleaned up all the blocks, one after the other, which is totally unprecedented. As he dropped the last one in the box he said "Uh Gah Gah?" He was right on track.

It's not all good news...he's begun hitting people when he gets frustrated, which we handle sternly. He's also lost another layer of gullibility. Getting Theo away from whatever he's doing for a diaper change or other unwanted intrusion is tougher all the time. I used to catch Theo off guard by saying "Hey, let's do a diaper" and then grabbed him while he paused. Now, he focuses better, and knows this trick too well.

Every time he makes one of these jumps it shows me how many levels there are to consciousness. I often said that Theo was "very aware" from the moment he was born, and he definitely was, but awareness has many facets.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let's hope it sticks

After a year (and nearly a half, wow) we've learned that Theo's changes in behavior come and go. One week he's saying "bubble" with certainty and the next it's gone. One week he's screaming through every meal and the next he eats contentedly. For a solid month he'll greet every little girl he sees by hugging them, and the next he yells to be held when children come to play. Everything waxes and wanes and nothing lasts too long.

I've often had the experience of Theo getting into some sort of groove, long enough for us to identify that yes, this a true shift, only to have it fall apart once I actually told someone about it. "He loves those goldfish crackers." Next day, he won't touch them. "He never stacks blocks." Next day, he's putting one on top of another. By the time something has manifested long enough to be recognized and labeled and reported, he's bored with it, or ready to grow out of it, or something.

I'm not a superstitious person but I have to admit - this has made me bite my tongue about any advancements he makes, ESPECIALLY ones that are overwhelmingly helpful to me. There are other good reasons not to brag about great leaps - one, because he may not perform so well around others, and two, moms with children who have trouble in that area may not be as ecstatic as I am, which I totally understand. If I've been battling with pickiness and another kid eats everything in his path, it can be frustrating and even make me think that there's something wrong with my methods. Many moms are totally susceptible to this kind of thing and I don't mean to be a show off.

But...I think I should mention it just to prove that there's no such thing as a jinx.

Theo has been putting himself to sleep. He asks to go to bed. We put him in the crib and leave the room. He lays around contentedly with his favorite stuffed dog and falls asleep. He also sleeps through the night. His naps reliably last two hours, sometimes three.

I abstained from littering the last paragraph with exclamation points.

Sitting in a darkened room for half an hour to an hour (and sometimes more) every night waiting for him to fall asleep was one of the most torturous things I've had to do. I was always tired myself but struggled to not fall asleep so I could enjoy some evening relaxation time with Greg. I also had to go through this for his nap, where I usually did fall asleep and lose much of my free time while he slept. Add in that often he was cranky during the wait and it was pretty excruciating.

Now, my evening seems to last forever. My free time while he naps is lovely. My unbroken night's sleep is bliss. I can't emphasize what a difference this all makes, though I'm sure the moms will understand. Whenever he challenges me in other areas (and there are plenty) I try to remember how wonderful he is about sleeping.

Here's hoping this lasts. Please, please, please!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A bit late for Mother's Day.

Hi, Mom. I thought of you this morning.

Back when spring started, I began thinking about doing something in our "backyard". Something small. Not only because the "yard" is more of a "paved patio with a tiny strip of dirt on the perimeter" but because I can never remember to water plants.

Up to this point our most reliable greens-keeper has been Greg, though I can't say he's had a perfect record either. In the nearly 5 years we've been here, any major planting and potting has been due to his ambitions. After a flurry of weeding and seeding, he tries to remember to give them a drink every other day or so. When he falls out of the habit, it never occurs to me to take up the slack.

I have sometimes felt bad about it. Ok, maybe more wistful than bad. My mom has always loved getting into the garden and making it work. Some of my very earliest memories are of Mom weeding our large backyard on Oak Street, using a long screwdriver to loosen the dirt, showing me how to tug the weed gently until it comes free easily. I'd have a small screwdriver of my own, and I'm sure my attempts mostly resulted in chopped roots that became more weeds.

Mom still spends lots of time in her yard and it's always beautiful this time of year. I learned from my mom that you don't have to be a flower expert to make things pretty or enjoy the outdoors.

I may not have had as strong an inclination to do garden work, but it has been in the back of my mind, even while watering half dead potted ivy on our old apartment balcony. My parents bought us a plant stand as an housewarming gift that year. It has definitely gone underused in the decade since.

But this year I had Theo in full toddler mode, ready to assist me in getting dirty and pouring water on our sandals. We started slowly, watering our existing survivors every other day or so, early in the morning when it's still cool. As this became habit, I bought some cheap wildflower seed and a cute turtle watering can at Target. Toss in an existing flower pot and voila, we have a bit of a sprout coming up. Having built our way up to actual gardening status, I figured it was time to clear some growth and plant something for real.

So that's how I found myself in the back at 8:30 in the morning, far before the sun makes the trip over our building to fry anyone in its path. I dragged out the old bathmat I'd kept for such an occasion, to save my knees from the paving stones. I knew Theo would never let me keep the garden tools away from him, so we traded the spades and hand rake back and forth. (No sign that he would try to smash the sliding glass door or do damage to himself. He's a good kid.) No screwdriver necessary as this was a large-scale clearing of weeds and clover.

Large-scale? It really was a measly little job. I cleared about 1.5 square feet of overgrowth and attempted to get all the fiddly little roots I could. The soil is riddled with pebbles - I ended up pulling out a nice handful and could probably have done more. Then I plopped a new plant in - some sweet mint that I picked up as good bunny food (and people food).

Theo's help involved some digging and tossing of dirt, plus attempts to stab my hands with a spade, not to mention delightfully exploring the garage. He helped water (the pavement and his feet) with his little watering can and tried to move the heavy garden hose.

We were probably only out there for an hour or so. After a bath and some playing inside, Theo was wiped early and is still taking a huge afternoon nap. I think more gardening is in our future.

I know my Mom would have done a better job, but I also know that gardening isn't about neat rows and perfectly trimmed plants. It's about dirt in your fingernails and your hair pulled out of your face in a bun. It's that feeling when you stand up after working on your knees for a while. It's about watching a worm squirm back into the ground and holding still while a bee buzzes by. It's about pulling a weed and being impressed with the size of the root. It's about showing Theo all these things.

I feel very appreciative for the time I have now, and the time I had then, 30 years ago. Thanks, Mom.