Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Lip

There may be kids who can rival Mam's talent for producing "the lip" at will, but I don't think anyone can beat it. Nuf said.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What it's like

The other day, I took the kids to a playdate at a friend's house. During our visit, my friend asked me how things were going with Smunch's speech. People don't usually ask, so I hadn't give it a lot of thought lately. I shrugged. "Is it pretty frustrating?" she asked. And that got me to thinking. Well, no. It's not really frustrating anymore. No more frustrating than parenting any other kindergartener, anyway. I'm sure Smunch is still frustrated from time to time.

I realized that I've let go of that desperate hope that he's going to overcome his stuttering. Over the past year or so, with the stuttering constantly waxing and waning, regardless of what kind of therapy we try, I've come to accept that this is something he will struggle with, to some extent or other, for his whole life.

To be very clear, it's not that I've lost hope for my kid. He's got plenty of things going for him. I've just accepted that he may never be typical for a kid his age. He will probably get teased and picked on more than his peers. I can only hope it somehow builds fortitude.

Most days, I forget that Smunch is struggling to talk. Most days, I forget that this makes him different. Most days I make the time to stop and listen carefully when he wants to say something. Other days, I find myself watching him struggle to speak as though I'm watching a train wreck. In the back of my mind, I'm horrified that he has to deal with this...even though I know there are worse things. Just asking his teacher a simple question can be a long, painful process. I watched him do this the other day, just to say he needed to use the bathroom. And once in a while, I just don't have the patience to try and understand him, especially if he's not making the effort to use his speech tools.

This is the price we all pay for his being alive...no minor feat in and of itself.

It also becomes increasingly clear that it's not
just stuttering. There are a lot of little things that say it's more. His current speech therapist thinks he might have something more recently recognized, called "cluttering". I think she's right...to a point.

The truth is, it's just the way Smunch speaks and we need to do as much as we can to give him tools to be intelligible, or at the very least not let it destroy his fragile self esteem. That feels a whole lot more daunting than just putting him in speech therapy.

Smunch has a lot of minor issues, most of them are connected to his being a preemie, I suspect and the speech issues are no different. Stuttering is a neurological problem, they say. He had lots of scary drugs and a case of meningitis before he weighed even 4 pounds. Coincidence? I doubt it. Research suggests that more than half of preemies born as small as he was have learning disabilities by the time they are in school. He seems to be doing fine. But I'm watchful, just in case he needs extra help in the future.

I have a prescription from the neurologist for medication (I've never filled it), I take him to the chiropractor with the idea that it's a neurological problem and good spinal and cranial alignment theoretically helps with neurology. He gets private therapy in addition to speech therapy at school. We'll be taking him for a second occupational therapy evaluation this weekend, with a woman who specializes in "sensory issues". I hope she can help, but I don't know that it'll be any more successful than a chiropractor...which hasn't done a thing for him, as far as I can tell, but he likes to play on their machines.

His teacher recently told me that the other kids are starting to point out his difficulties speaking...loudly and publicly. I asked Smunch about it. He said it didn't happen. I don't know what to make of that. Does he care so little, that the criticism didn't register? Or is he so embarrassed that he won't admit that he's having a hard time? The teacher suggested having a talk with the class about differences. I just don't know.

I know that kids are naive and cruel without necessarily meaning to be. I know they're just in kindergarten. I know I was hoping this wouldn't start happening just yet. I also know Smuch's speech has gotten markedly worse in the past week. Connection? Maybe. But I've stopped trying to make those too. It's an exercise in futility. His stuttering changes so much and so often that trying to figure out a reason is usually pointless.

So, I'm not particularly frustrated. I'm tired though. I'm tired of doing our own speech therapy sessions with him each night. I'm tired of worrying that he'll fold under the pressure of his peers. I won't hesitate to make my own life more difficult if it might make his easier, but I sometimes wonder if the best therapy for my little boy might be just to leave him alone.

Blue bullets

Those of you in my rather limited audience probably didn't notice that I recently added The Bloggess to my blog roll. She's a zany mommy who writes for a column called Mama Drama at the Houston Chronicle. If you get the chance, check her out, she's way more entertaining than I am! Besides, she promotes an event called Mama Drama Con Queso, for other bloggers. How much better could it get than that? Well, it could get better, I guess...if Silicon Valley was in the vicinity of Houston and I could go!

Anyway, I just today I received a
comment from Jenny, the Bloggess herself on my own not-nearly-so-hilarious-although-aspiring-to-be blog. I'm still wringing my hands in star-struck awe. But it's a little like having the queen stop by your house without notice, when it hasn't been cleaned in a week and a half. Ack! She looked at my blog???? Could you have warned me, so I could shove some of the dust bunnies under the bed?

At any rate, like Mommie N, The Bloggess was coveting the beautiful blue bullets in my
Tidbits post.

The truth is far less glamorous than how impressed you are. Seriously. Believe it or not, I write most of my posts in HTML. Yeah. I know a little of that stuff. And, I'm sure you've noticed how glamorous they are in general. They're not. I write in HTML because I'm too lazy to figure out how to use the WYSIWYG composing feature in Blogger. I create everything in the "Edit Html" tab. (Uh, didn't anyone tell Google that HTML is an acronym requiring capitalization??...I digress.)

To make those fantastic bullets, I used the standard code for creating a numbered list...only it didn't turn out numbered at all, as you may have noticed. That's the kind of HTML goddess I am. I suspect the look is governed by the Blogger template I'm using, but I don't know for sure. I could experiment and find out, but see the aforementioned comment about my laziness.

So, here's what you do to create a bulleted list...or maybe a numbered list even. For what it's worth, if you view this code in the "Compose" window, it looks like a numbered list. That's just not what it is when you publish it...another argument that it's a template thing...because Blogger is oh-so-much smarter than I am.

There you have it. Pure sorcery.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dancing Queen

A comment by Mam to Smunch and the mommymobile at large, while strapped into her car seat and "dancing" to "Missing" (And I miss you...like the deserts miss the rain) by Everything But the Girl...

"This is something called talent. These moves are kind of pretty, but yours are not so pretty."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


It's been a little while since I managed to log anything, so I'll be doing this while trying not to sprint to the back of the house and find out just what all the gleeful screaming is about. I don't want to know. I know I don't.

I've learned a few things in the past week or so that you just might find handy, so I thought I'd share.

  1. If you ask nicely and the guy has hope of making a sale, yes, a BMW dealer will let you borrow a car for the weekend...even if you tell him you're taking it to Fresno.

  2. When planning a birthday celebration, do not invite all your high-faluting rich, conservative friends AND your down-to-earth brother who had to fly in from uber-liberal nowhere, Illinois. It wasn't ugly, but it sure was weird.

  3. Claiming an urgent need to go letterboxing with your 3-year-old is an acceptable way to exit a weird party quickly.

  4. One night on a bad, lumpy mattress can make you miserable for days...long past when you've recovered from your daughter getting up and jumping on her inflatable bed (in the same room) at 3a.m.

  5. Nothing is quite as priceless as departing for a road trip at bedtime, kids clad in pajamas, and having them sleep almost the entire way home.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

We Were Here

This just in from eBay: The official stamp of the letterboxing family that goes by the trail name WyndRyders.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Our budding artists

I don't blog whole lot about my kids' artwork. If I did, there'd be several new posts every day and I'd be spending a lot of time at the scanner. Both my kids are absolute fanatics about drawing, painting and stamping. The true measure of that is that they often get up a full hour and a half before Daddy and I do, but they spend their time out in the kitchen with their giant box of crayons, happy as a couple of ducks in the rain.

A couple of months ago, both kids entered a coloring contest at Trader Joe's. I don't think I remembered to mention it in my blog, but Mam won a prize in her age category. I sorta suspect it it was a random drawing for winners, but I didn't ask. She was thrilled, Smunch seemed to understand that she won and he didn't. He didn't seem jealous. He wasn't angry. We spent Mam's $5 gift card in about 10 seconds. We never saw her drawing again, or you would've seen a photo of it by now.

So, it was particularly exciting when we had a message on the answering machine the other day saying that Smuch won an award in the Hobee's "draw Santa" contest. He'd been asking me about it ever since he submitted his picture. "Do you think they've picked the winner at Hobee's yet?" He was convinced he'd win. In fact, his first reaction to hearing the message was, "I knew it!" I remember having that kind of optimism. It's awesome to see it in him.

We went to Hobee's for breakfast this morning since it made a good opportunity to pick up Smunch's prize (a free breakfast...which he decided to use another time). Hobee's had his drawing posted on the wall with all the other winners. He came third in his age category, but it was great to point out to him that both the first and second place pictures were drawn by eight year olds. He was so proud...and it doesn't matter if it looks like maybe Santa could've used a few more cookies this year...we were pretty proud of him too!

The Cranky Donkey and Never Squat with Your Spurs On

Knowing that a big storm was headed our way, we made a point of getting out of the house Thursday afternoon. Naturally, we did a little more letterboxing. Our first adventure started nearby, but required a two-mile bike ride to get to the only box we were likely to find. So, we drove to the beginning of the bike trail. The kids set off on their bikes while I probably looked ridiculous on Mam's pink Razor scooter. And I kept hitting myself in the ankle everytime I hopped off and picked the scooter up. Ouch! We took a break to look for a letterbox along the way. It wasn't there. And we took a break to hang out with the donkey in the photo above. The kids were very excited, and a little alarmed, to hear a donkey bray for the first time. It think it'd had enough of small children.

I forgot to mention earlier that each letterbox has a name. This one wasn't far from the donkeys and earned the name "The Cranky Donkey"...and included an Eeyore stamp, of course. What fun! Of course, the two-mile ride back was a lot more painful.

It was late by the time we got back to the car, but we went for yet another box. It sounded like it'd be just off the road and it was nearby, so we headed off in the car and found the landmark we were looking for.

Fortunately, I was right that the letterbox was only about 50 yards up the road. Smunch (and I) found it camouflaged in the branch of a tree. In a new twist, the box (which was really a peanut butter jar) also contained a "hitchhiker" that had somehow made its way to the Never Squat with Your Spurs on Letterbox from its original location in Virginia. I didn't realize the rules governing hitchhikers. I was supposed to take it with me and plant it in a new letterbox, but instead, I left it there. Hopefully, the next person to find it will be a little more clued in!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Just because...

I ran across this scene while letterboxing yesterday and how often can you capture a hummingbird with a regular ol' point and shoot camera?

And, this from Mam this morning:

Mam: Are we going letterboxing?
Me: Do you want to do more letterboxing?
Mam: I want to find more letterboxes!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


About a month ago, I was eavesdropping on an after-school conversation between two of the other moms with kids in Smuch's class. One of them was describing an activity that her family sometimes does, called letterboxing. It sounded interesting and since we've got a lot of time to kill this week and because I really needed to get out of the house yesterday, I thought we'd give it a try.

In a nutshell, people who do letterboxing have hidden packages all over the country...all over the world, really. Then they post clues to finding the packages on the letterboxing website. Each package minimally contains a rubber stamp and a notebook. If you're just starting out, like we are, you go online, check for clues to letterboxes in your area and then set out with your own stamp and notebook to find them. When and if you find the letterbox, you stamp your own notebook with the stamp in the letterbox...

and then put your own stamp, name, and date in the letterbox notebook.

Yesterday was cold and windy, so when I took the kids out to a local park, we followed the instructions, walking and walking. Naturally, the kids refused to wear their sweaters, so we were all freezing. In the end, I'm pretty sure we found the location, but the letterbox wasn't there anymore. We got our three freezing butts back to the car as fast as we could.

When we got home, I did a little better job with doing my homework on the letterboxes and selected two possible series of boxes we could go in search for. Both of them had updates relatively recently, so I figured our chances were pretty good. We set out again after lunch, to look for a series of three letterboxes at a nearby (very busy) open space preserve. Still cold. Still windy, but at least I got them to wear their coats! The first letterbox, again was MIA, but the second was our very first success. The kids were so excited. We did our stamping and put it back carefully. The third, missing again.

It turned out that Daddy was a little disappointed that we went letterboxing without him, so we set out on a mission to find the other series (of five boxes) today...back to the same park where our first failure occured. Our trip started out like this - in an empty, overgrown, overflow parking lot for the nearby amphitheatre. And off we went.

It took a while to get to the location in the first clue, but we got there. It wasn't exactly obvious, but with a little effort, we found it!

These boxes were only put out there about a month ago, so I thought we had a pretty good shot at finding a few, but we found them all! These folks found some pretty good hiding places too.

On the whole, we bit off a bit more than we could chew with this one. It involved about five miles of walking, I figure. We ended up stopping for lunch after box #3 and the whole trip took more than three hours. I'm not sure how Daddy's shoulders are going to be feeling by tomorrow.

There's nothing exactly mystical or meaningful behind searching for letterboxes, but it's a great way to motivate the kids to get out in the great outdoors. They've walked an awful lot in the past two days and they say they're up for more tomorrow!

Bowled Over

The day after the day after Christmas (no, that's not a typo. I mean two days after Christmas), at a loss for something to do, we decided to try out the new, swanky bowling alley at one of the local malls. Did you ever think you'd see "bowling alley" and "swanky" in the same sentence? Neither did I. This one is called Strike and it's part hip, new bowling alley, part night club. You know this because the place is so poorly lit, all the bowling pins glow under black light and no one under 21 is allowed in after 9pm.

But it was the middle of the afternoon, so we didn't have much concern about that. Turns out, we should have been concerned, but more about the astronomical price of bowling than the clientele. Actually, the hooker-esque Santa dresses on the female employees were pretty suspect too. Very short, very low cut, fishnet stockings. Between that and their fabulous "holiday pricing", we should have turned around and high-tailed it out of there, but the kids were so excited to be there and we're suckers...even at $35/hr and $5 for each pair of shoes we had to borrow and that'd be...uh...four. Right. No pro bowlers around here.

Each lane even has its own waiter to bring you doubtlessly overpriced food while you play. Besides, if you have to eat, it'll take you longer to play. Cha-ching!

Honestly, the kids' enthusiasm almost made this very expensive little venture worthwhile. And the place has some really cool features, like retractable bumpers on the lanes that you can program to come up only for certain players (like the kids) and a portable "chute" that the kids can roll the ball down to get it moving in the lane. They loved that. And Mam jumped up and down like an insane whirling dervish every time she knocked even a single pin down.

Smunch was similarly thrilled...especially since he kicked all our butts with an astonishing 168 score. So, he had bumpers and a chute. So what?

We'll be going back to our regular, dirty ol' bowling alley next time around. I'm still blown away that we paid $50 to bowl for 45 minutes. We won't go back and I won't recommend Strike to anyone else, but it was fun.

Christmas 2007

Uh, yeah. It's 2008 already. I don't know how I managed to waste so much time before I got to blogging about our Christmas. Perhaps it's because it was a fairly stereotypical Christmas with two little kids. It was fun and exhausting all at once.

Our Christmas tradition (such as it is), is to have my parents over Christmas Eve. This year, as our formal Christmas Eve dinner, we opted for Take 'n' Bake Pizza. Yummy! When the kids are asleep, we open all the adult presents so the all the focus is on the kids and what they want to do in the morning. So, we did that. I garnered the nice flannel jammies I wanted, a sweater from Old Navy that I'd been coveting, and a piece of sparkly jewelry that was more than I'd expected. We also got a really nice card table and chairs from my parents. Cool.

Daddy got some gizmo that lets you record TV shows onto your computer. Kinda like TiVo, without the subscription. He can set it to record over the internet and using his iPhone. Nifty. He also got a box set of "The War" on DVD. I probably should have been more creative. He'd requested both of these.

In their traditional fashion, the kids slept in on Christmas morning. I have no idea why this happens, but my kids are all backwards. They have yet to get up early and insist we get up. In fact, Smuch got up at 6:30, stumbled down the hall to pee, woke Mam up in the process, and when she came out of her room, I heard him whisper, "Go back to bed, it's too early still." And they both went back to their rooms for the next half hour. Weird. Very weird. But I'm not objecting. Seven o'clock seems like a perfectly civilized time for them to get up and open presents.

Santa brought Smunch his "new red bike without training wheels". He was thrilled, but hardly shocked. I'd convinced him that he needed to learned to ride without training wheels on his old 12" bike before Santa would bring him a new one. So, he took off on this one like a pro. And no, our whole world didn't turn blue on Christmas Day. I just need to remember to change the settings on the camera when I go outside! Smunch also got a cool, shiny blue dragon and some very welcome additions to his Fischer Technik erector set...including a new motor. So, Daddy ended up spending much of the day doing construction in the back room.

Mam got the requested "pony set" from Santa. Apparently, this consisted of a four-plex of My Little Ponies. Gram and Grandpa gave her a chest of princess dress-up clothes. Those went over pretty well too, as did a mosaic kit for princess pictures.

In typical Mam fashion, her very favorite gift was a 12-inch shiny snake that I bought for $4 at the toy store when I was getting her this beautiful, soft little stuffed unicorn. The snake must be in bed with her every night...along with its compadre, the original Snakey. The unicorn, well, sure, it's nice.

Both kids got kiddie cameras for Christmas. Grandpa Ryder bought one for Mam and Gram and Grandpa got one for Smunch. That was unplanned, but worked out perfectly. They love taking photos, even if they're just weird. The biggest drawback is that now if I take my camera somewhere, they both want to take theirs too. In the end, this just results in me leaving my camera behind to avoid the hassle!

We finished off our morning with a giant, totally bad for you breakfast, including an almond pastry, fruit/custard pastry, a homemade cinnamon pull-apart, fruit salad, sausage, bacon and eggs. And then we all found a nice sunny rock to lie on... but no...then we had to keep the kids entertained by taking them to the playground. And then I realized that while I'd focused on making sure I had everything for breakfast, I hadn't really done a lot of shopping lately and I had nothing to eat for dinner. I mean, the choices included freezer enchiladas. I'm not even sure what we ate in the end, but it wasn't the enchiladas and whatever it was came with a side of leftover pizza... Hmmm... better luck next year!

At least the presents were a hit!