30 January 2011
That, my friends, is a synopsis by one Eamon Wolfe of Abby in Wonderland, a Sesame Street DVD.
“Mimi! Come on! Ceratops! T-Rex!”
That is how he asks to play with dinosaurs.
Yesterday Aaron, Eamon, Nesta, and I piled in the car and headed to Colonial Williamsburg. As we stood outside the Blacksmith talking to our carpenter friend Ayinde (or “Uncle In”) Eamon would run up to any arriving visitors. “Hi!” he would shout at them.
They would greet him with a slightly bemused expression.
“Dog!” he would say, pointing to Nesta. If they did not immediately respond, he would further explain: “Woof!”
At which point, most people would smile politely and nod to confirm that yes, that was indeed a dog, who probably did go, “Woof!”
Realizing that he needed to pull out all the stops, Eamon then pointed to me. “Mimi!” he exclaimed, and by way of elaboration: “My Mimi!” The visitors and I would then awkwardly exchange hellos. Before Eamon could introduce everyone else, however, the visitors always hurriedly decided that they would rather see the blacksmiths than the carpenters and would run into the building, the look in their eyes suggesting that really, they had not spent $58.95 a ticket just for the privilege of meeting our family.
If you haven’t read this blog, you probably don’t realize the enormity of all this chatter. Six months ago, Eamon had stopped all attempts at speaking or even syllabilizing. He relied totally on sign language for any communication. He understood everything we said and signed about 50 words, so we were pretty sure it wasn’t a processing issue.
I finally decided to push for having his tongue frenulum clipped. Aaron and others supported it, but I was the one out there leading the charge. And leading the charge…is kind of lonely. And it’s definitely scary. All you can think is: but what if I’m wrong? What if I’m wrong and it doesn’t work and he still has to have speech therapy and I put my baby through all the trauma of surgery for nothing? What if I just get written off as one of those crazy, interfering mothers who is so dramatic and paranoid? Even worse, what if I actually am one of those mothers?
But we did it, mostly because the potential benefits outweighed the downsides. Even if it didn’t work, and he still had speech issues, at least we would know that it was NOT because of something structurally wrong with his tongue, and that would be major clue to what we needed to do to help him.
Almost immediately after the surgery, Eamon started syllabilizing again. And slowly…he started to talk. At some point, he realized that he could now get his tongue out past his lips, and started sticking his tongue out all the time. We must have looked insane—the only parents in the world excited when their child stuck out his tongue. Eamon and I would walk all around Target sticking our tongues out at one another. We were the recipients of more than one raised eyebrow.
And then, about a month ago, Eamon started really TALKING. He went from one or two words here and there to narrating most of his day. It used to be that you would tell him a word and he would try to say it, and if he didn’t say it perfectly the first time, he wouldn’t try again for weeks. Now, he’ll try it and almost always says it well enough the first time that it immediately becomes part his vocabulary. Moreover, he has started saying words without any prompting at all—words we didn’t even realize he knew.
And he’s starting to say words with more than one syllable, like “Ceratops” for “Triceratops.” When you consider where we started, this is amazing.
But what I think makes me most proud of my baby is that fact that he’s started talking to other people.
You see, Eamon isn’t shy. He would smile at others, make silly faces at them, bring them toys and play with them…but he wouldn’t talk to anyone outside of our immediate family. It’s hard to be sure, but I think he was embarrassed. Eamon is very socially aware, and I have no doubt that he saw how the rest of us talked, and knew how he didn’t talk, and made the decision that it was better to just keep quiet and pretend to be shy when it came to speaking.
It broke my heart just a little.
But now? Now Eamon has figured out how to use his tongue. He can say words. He has more or less caught up with kids his age, and continues to progress at such a rate that I no longer worry about or even consider possible speech therapy. He says most things pretty well, and after this weekend, it seems that he is no longer embarrassed to show off his speech to other people.
And for the first time, I’m glad that I led the charge. I have no doubt that there will be lots of landmark decisions in being a mom, decisions that will cause stress and heartbreak and more than a little sleep loss. But for this one, at least, I can finally rest.
I was right. Chapter closed.
22 January 2011
While some may consider the use of the word “never” far too daring, in this one instance let it ring true: never has there been a more moving, a more heartrending tale of the frailty of existence--made all the more poignant with its gentle suffusion of hope and friendship. Of course, I could be referring to none other than Deedore! Halp!, the latest dramatic masterpiece from that young prodigy, E.M.B. Wolfe.
This work of genius no doubt springs from a mind greatly entranced with the profundity of platonic passion and sincerity; it is a strike against those ruffians of darkness who incline towards alienation and angst. With a dialogue so rich and complex it folds backwards on itself into simplicity, the theme of transcendence through universal togetherness wafts through the soul of this masterpiece in a delicate yet effervescent wave of sanguinity.
Take, for instance, this scene:
Setting: A Rock. Or cliffs. Or something quite dangerous looking.
Spike, a stegosaurus (played by E.M.B. Wolfe)
Cera, a triceratops (played by E.M.B. Wolfe)
Foot, an apatosaurus (played by E.M.B. Wolfe)
Tiny, a pteranodon (played by E.M.B. Wolfe)
The Rock (played by a trash can)
Cera walks over to the rock and promptly gets stuck behind it.
CERA: Halp! Halp! Guys! Halp!
SPIKE: (with a quickness) Oh no! Cera! Stuck! Halp! Guys! Come on, guys!
FOOT: (Running! Fast!) Guys, come on!
TINY: Pull! Guys! Pull!
SPIKE, FOOT, TINY: ARGH!
CERA: Yay! Fwee! Guys! Fwee!
Spike, in his excitement, wanders over the rock and gets stuck.
SPIKE: Halp! Guys! Halp!
Because he acts with a verve usually reserved for those fourteen to twenty times his age, upon witnessing such a riveting portrayal, it can be hard to remember the mere 25 months this dramatic star has lived on Earth. The combination of his literary genius and the sheer vitality of his performance leaves no doubt that E.M.B. Wolfe's inestimable talent will shine for years to come.
19 January 2011
Love That Boy
by Walter Dean Myers
Love that boy,
like a rabbit loves to run
I said I love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him "Hey there, son!"
He walk like his Grandpa,
Grins like his Uncle Ben.
I said he walk like his Grandpa,
And grins like his Uncle Ben.
Grins when he’s happy,
When he sad, he grins again.
His mama like to hold him,
Like to feed him cherry pie.
I said his mama like to hold him.
Like to feed him that cherry pie.
She can have him now,
I’ll get him by and by.
He got long roads to walk down
Before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
Before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker,
And a good man before he done.
(Okay, well, Eamon doesn't eat cherry pie because he eschews with a firm hand almost all sweets, and he doesn't have an Uncle Ben. But the rest is all pretty accurate.)
Aaron Wolfe is a rock star.
Just ask his son.
They first met approximately 2 minutes after Eamon plunged head first from the womb to the world. The doctor people placed Eamon on my chest, and Aaron came over and said something mundane, like “Hey there, buddy.” And in that instant, Eamon learned to swivel his head so that he could stare at his father with these intense eyes that said, “Oh my gosh. You must be my daddy. I love you and your work. Please let me be your BFF and follow you around and do everything that you do because seriously, you are the coolest guy ever.”
It’s easy to see how Eamon came to that conclusion. While I was pregnant, Aaron would read to Eamon every night (yes, through my stomach, but I don’t think that bothered either of them). He read things like The Arsonists Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, or John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise, which are creative and quirky and cool. Meanwhile, during the daytime Eamon listened to me teach 4th graders how to do long division.
With a choice like that, you can see why he decided to idolize his father.
And his father has not yet failed to disappoint. Daddy (or, currently, the Daddy known as “Dee’DA!”) is fun. He wrestles. He can throw Eamon around like a pairs-figure skater and (this is important) catch him, too. He always has a smile and a sweet word for his son, who loves, venerates, and worships his father with pure, unmasked adoration.
Eamon’s mother, meanwhile, does things like fix him dinner and cut his toenails.
(Eamon does not like to have his toenails cut. As far as I know, I am the only person who has ever had the privilege of this chore, and yet strangely he does not esteem me anymore than he does anyone else because of it.)
Another person might be jealous of the bond that Eamon has with his father, but for the life of me, I can’t work up that emotion. I love that Aaron and Eamon have this special relationship. I know that Eamon loves me, even if he doesn’t necessarily idolize me like he does his father. I’ve taught too many kids who had conflicted or nonexistent relationships with their fathers…I’m just so glad that Eamon has this wonderful male figure to help guide him through life, who understands where he’s coming from, who can have “The Talk” with him, who is already coming up with ways to teach the kid to pee accurately while standing (trust me, folks, I would have never thought of these ways, or even that I needed to have them)…who is a Good Dad and can teach my son to be a Good Man.
And as for me, well, Eamon and I will always have his toenails.*
I’m pretty sure that one day...that will count for something.
*Not literally. For heaven’s sake, I don’t mean that we keep them or anything.
Aaron, for some reason, was far more interested in eating his dinner than posing for blog pictures.
Eamon, however, could be cajoled into smiling...
...as long as afterwards, he could pretend to give his father a nice long drink of pepper ("Yum!" Eamon reminded Aaron to say after finishing.)
"You gotta hear this one song. It'll change your life, I swear."
"He got long roads to walk down
Before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
Before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker,
And a good man before he done."
15 January 2011
(Of course, I don’t teach anymore. Well, I don’t have a classroom, anyway. At the end of last year, I applied for a job as a Technology Curriculum Integration Specialist (TCIS) with my school system, and got it. I did that job for about 3 months and then an opening came up in the Curriculum & Instruction department in the school system, and since it can be years between those types of jobs, I took it. So now I’m an Instructional Specialist working with teachers across the school district. I still get to do model lessons with kids, but I guess I’m no longer officially a “teacher”).
Anyway. Enough about me.
(Not really! Let’s talk about me some more! But I promise it will all get back to Eamon in the end!)
The thing is, after about 2 years in the classroom, I quickly learned the secret to being a successful teacher. And I am going to share it with you, the interwebs, for free. Are you ready? Hold on, I will give you a minute to get a paper and pen.
Okay, here’s the secret: consistency . If you say you’re going to do it, do it. If it’s a rule, make them follow it.
Oh, I know, it seems really easy. And the concept itself is…but pulling it off in reality can be difficult. Because the thing about consistency is that you have to do it every time. Not once, not just when you remember, not only on days when you’ve had enough sleep and you’re in a good (or bad) mood. You can’t make exceptions (except when you can…but that’s a whole different blog). The thing about being consistent is that you never, ever stop. In fact, that is rather the definition.
So, as a teacher, you spend the first 6-8 weeks teaching the kids rules. Teaching them procedures. Teaching them manners and how to pass out papers correctly and how to get along with 20-some other people in one smallish room for hours on end. And because they are only kids, they often do not have self-control, they do not think ahead to what will happen if they put glue in someone’s (or their own) hair, and they don’t possess a toolbox of ways to effectively communicate with other 9 year olds. You have to teach them everything, and every time they step out of line, you have to let them know that it’s not okay and that there’s a consequence.
And if you don’t? If you give them endless chances and too much mercy or you try to be their friend instead?
They know that you are weak. They figure out how to control you, and you have lost them. And your year becomes very miserable very quickly.
Because those kids? They think they want to be in charge, but they don’t. Not really. I mean, have you ever read Lord of the Flies? Mr. Golding wasn’t really exaggerating. Just ask any teachers you know what things have happened on days when they’ve had subs. It can get gruesome.
BUT, the nice thing is, the older the kid, the faster they "get it." With fourth graders, it takes about 6-8 weeks before they realize what’s expected of them, and that they’re not in charge, and that they didn’t really want to be in charge anyway, and ironically, that’s when they start acting like people who could maybe be left in charge (occasionally. With lots of supervision). They realize the benefits of being polite, they realize how much more smoothly everything goes with the routines, that stealing really sucks and lying just upsets everyone. And they start to behave like nicely-mannered little people, and no one roasts Piggy, and you can start to just teach and not worry about behavior all the time.
The younger the kid, the longer it takes.
It takes a long time with a 2 year old. (See? Do you see? Eamon is 2! Hooray! I told you we would get back to him eventually).
Sometimes, it is exhausting. No, wait, a lot of times, it’s exhausting. Whenever, whenever, he asks for something, we have to remind him to say “Please.” (or “Puh-wease.” Whatever). Our conversations always go like this:
EAMON: Mimi! Mo’ fish!
ME: More fish what?
EAMON: Mo’ fish puh-wease?
ME: Okay. Have more goldfish crackers.
EAMON: (assorted munches)
ME: Say thank you.
EAMON: (Perfunctorily signs “thank you”)
Every time. Each and every time. It would be so much easier to just hand him the darn goldfish crackers.
And cleaning up? I hate making him clean up. It’s such a process. You ask him, and he doesn’t do it, and then you have to go right over to him, even when you’re tired, even when it’s been a long day and it would just be so much easier to just clean it all up yourself, or even just ignore it until tomorrow when you’re not so tired.
But you get up anyway and you go over and you make him clean it up. And he does it slowly because he’s hoping that you’ll just do it for him, so you have to take his little hands and make him clean up faster (seriously, one dinosaur in the container per minute, with a seventy dinosaurs…that’s just not gonna cut it), and he gets annoyed and you’re annoyed, and you know that tomorrow or even five minutes from now he’s just going to dump out more stuff and you’re going to have to make him clean up that, too…and it would just be so much easier to give in, just this once…
But if you stay firm? If you never give in? Not even once? Then one day, you look over at what was 3 minutes before a huge pile of scattered dinosaurs and realize: it’s gone. It’s all been put away. Without you even asking. By a little 2 year old who then walks over with a smile and sweetly says, “Fish puh-wease?”
And that, my friends, that is easiest of all.
11 January 2011
If he says or does or thinks something is funny, he does not hesitate a moment to tell you, "Funny!" and look expectantly at you. He waits for you to laugh, but if you do not, he will remind you again, "FUNNY."
UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH #2: EAMON IS SMARTER THAN I AM.
Yes, those are the battalions of dinosaurs that are currently wintering in our house. And Eamon is obsessed with them.
But even more amazing--the child has quick hands. Remarkably so.
Remember those dinosaurs?
This morning, I said that he could bring one dinosaur to Grandma and Grandpa's house. He picked up two, but instead of his new math counting method, had something else up his sleeves.
"One," I reminded him, put the extraneous dinosaur back, and turned around to put on my coat. When I turned back around, the second dinosaur was back in his hands.
"Eamon, I said one dinosaur." Once again, I put the dinosaur back in the basket and hustled Eamon away from the basket so that I could put on his coat. I started helping him put his arm through the first coat sleeve and realized that he had the second dinosaur in his hands again.
HOW DID HE DO THAT? He hadn't been near the basket! We need to start training him in sleight of hand.
At this rate, he will undoubtedly be the world's most comedic mathemagician.
See? It doesn't work for adults.
07 January 2011
Eamon got another new haircut today.
See, he has my super-dry hair. Which means that in the winter, when the air is dry anyway, his hair tends to...stick up a lot. In lots of different, and often kind of silly, directions. Alfalfa had nothing on some of Eamon's recent hair (which thankfully he never really got sight of in a mirror, otherwise it would have been all over).
So rather than running around like he has the world's worst case of bedhead all the time, we decided to cut his hair short and style it in that kind of intentionally-sticking-up hairstyle that is just so in right now.
My parents took him, as usual. My mother texted me to make sure it was all right, and it suddenly occurred to me...my kid is cooler than I am. This isn't so out of the ordinary, as youth often defines coolness, but I think it's more than that...I think Eamon, at the tender age of 2, is probably cooler than I ever was.
And what makes him cool? Well, he's cute, and that's one thing. But mostly...he's confident. Really confident. For instance, in a room full of kids, if everyone is on one side of the room playing, Eamon...might be there. If he feels like being there. But he might also be on the other side of the room, if he feels like being over there. Quite simply, he doesn't care what everyone else is doing.
And the other kids his age often notice. They realize that he doesn't particularly care about what they're doing...so they start to care about what he is doing instead.
I think that's the secret to being cool. In fact, that's the definition of cool, right?
The sad part is that I never really realized until I started watching him. I was one of those kids who always cared what others were doing...always worried that if I wasn't doing the same thing, I was doing something wrong, and if I was doing the same thing, I was too conformist. I spent most of my childhood either trying to fit in or deliberately be different. But either way I simply cared, and that made me uncool.
I'm not trying to say that Eamon doesn't care about things. He does. He wants our love and affection and praise. He generally wants to be liked...it's just that if he isn't, he tends to think it must be you, not him.
He's just a confident little kid.
And sometimes, well, occasionally, this wonderful, inherent sense of confidence...it might just edge over into...ah, well...vanity. It's true. I have to admit it. Eamon is kind of...a little in love with Eamon at this point. My mother says it's just because he's developing a sense of self...but I don't see other kids in his gym class as enthralled with the mirrored walls as they are with the fun gym equipment. When Aaron took Eamon to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, Eamon's same-aged cousin Lucas didn't run around kissing every single image of himself in every single mirror in the Hall of Mirrors. And no other kids in swim class freak out when they realize that their hair is messed up after swim class and spend the entire time their moms are dressing them trying to smooth it back into place.
The difference between Eamon and a 15 year old girl, though? Eamon isn't doing any of this for anyone else. He's not worried what you're going to say about his hair...he wants to look good because he wants to look good.
But that kissing the mirror thing? Yeah, I don't know what that's about.
03 January 2011