Friday, July 29, 2011

A day with my boy

Since today is the last day it will be just me and Noah for... well, a lifetime... I decided to take him out on the town to do some of his favorite things. We started at Marbles Kids Museum. 

Two words: water table. Enough said. 


As much as he liked splashing at the water table and discovering the intricacies of inertia (what, that was TOTALLY what he was doing...) Noah's favorite part, by in large, was the garden. 


He would fill the watering can and ever so gently water the flowers. He learned that you water the roots, not the petals, or you could give the flowers boo boos. 


Noah amongst the flowers = boy in heaven. What a botanist. 


We ended at Uncle Fatty's for hot dogs and chocolate milk shakes.


My sweet little boy... I know he is going to be the best big brother:-)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why would you cut your kids hair with a flowbee?

Yes, I attempted to cut Noah's hair last night. I tried to distract him with a banana and a new (toddler friendly) fork and knife set that he went ape shit over at Target earlier that day. It worked for about three banana slices and then he was on to me.

I thought it was alright last night before bed time. Then the sun rose and shed its light on my child's mullet. Hack job. Way to go Mommies (what Noah is calling me these days).

It's our last day being just the two of us. We are going to start our Mommies/Noah date day with a trip to the salon. 

Poor little Noah and his flowbee-esque hair-do.

Before. Hard to see the destruction, but it is there. Bed head was not working in his favor, either.


After. He said I owed him two lollipops since I made him sit through two hair cuts. He had a good point:-)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hope and excitement, unadulterated

So many positives have been going on over here as of late. Our journey with Noah is no where near its end, but after meeting with the Director of a developmental preschool here in Raleigh I, for the first time, have some major hope! 

Noah loved the place. We went after hours when it was empty for a tour, and he just made himself right at home. And he took to the Director right away as well (who happens to be the Speech-Language Pathologist). All of the teachers are actually licensed pediatric therapists so he will be getting therapy throughout the day along side other wonderful and unique children. 

The best part of the meeting was when I expressed some of my concerns about Noah's evaluation and 'diagnosis'. The Director laughed and said 'You mean he was uncomfortable with the seven strangers in his home asking him to do something?' She said she had heard the same thing before, and that it was her opinion that when the folks at Early Intervention see a child who is somewhat outside of the box they are quick to label them as autistic. She finds that often a child may just be struggling in one area, and with help, those behaviors or delays all but disappear. She also thought it was strange that they even gave him a diagnosis at all without more formal evaluation.

You know who thought the same thing (besides me and Jeff)? A brilliant, baller Pediatric Neuropsychologist. That's right. Second opinions here we come. And not from just anyone. A highly licensed and well respected Doctor in the field of autism. And I am not just singing her praises because she agreed with me, however it feels wonderful to have my concerns with the first evaluation vindicated. 

So Noah will start attending the Aspen Center preschool on August 8th and I am so excited for him. It is a decision that I know is in HIS best interest, where as before when I sent him to preschool it was just so I could have a couple hours to get things done around the house:-) He has not even attended his first day and I can already not say enough about this place.... HOPE, unadulterated. 

Oh, and what else do we have on the back burners over here? Amelia WILL BE HERE on FRIDAY!! Wrapping my head around a c-section has been interesting (certainly not hard) but I know I am in good hands and that the Doctors just want me to be safe and healthy. 

For the first time since all of this started with Noah I actually feel prepared for her arrival. I felt so lost and overwhelmed before that 15 minute tour of the Aspen Center that I could not imagine having an infant to care for at the same time. But now... EXCITEMENT, unadulterated. 

To close, here is a quote that I was reminded of some time back through a blogging friend  that immediately made me think of Noah and got me thinking about what approach I wanted to take to all of this, as his mama:


Thanks, E, for the inspiration! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sad but true...

Almost every single time I type or write the word 'gem', this is how I end up spelling it:


Gotta love being a child from the 80's. And then the theme song plays on repeat in my head. Lovely. 

Am I the only one? 

(Oh, and you're welcome for the song worm)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amelia's coming, one way or the other!

After meeting with my cardiologist, who then spoke with my OB it has been decided...

All those managing my health and pregnancy feel it would be best if I did not labor and it would be safest for me to have a c-section.

I still do not have a date, I am to call on Monday to set up my pre-op appointment. 

I am not sure how I feel about it; like I said to my cardiologist, my main goal is a healthy mom and baby when all is said and done. So she's coming, I have a feeling, next week some time!

Now... to figure out who will be taking care of Noah (when all my family members work and Jeff is back in Japan...). 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hey look, it's Noah in a pigeonhole!

My greatest fear with this diagnosis is that Noah will be stuck with a label and therefore viewed differently by the people in his life. In the short time since we first had him evaluated this has already happened. Most of the time I know it is harmless and unintentional, but I can't help but feel like some people say 'Ohhhhh, well it's because he is a child with autism.'

I received a copy of Noah's formal evaluation in the mail the other day. Three pages of typed, single spaced observations. Three pages of downer. And while reading it I could not help but feel like the psychologist was one of those who stuck Noah in a pigeonhole. 

Most of her observations I agreed with and see first hand myself every day. But others it seemed like she had this preconceived notion of autism in her mind and made generalizations. For example, in the report she states that Noah has to eat at a certain location around the house or it will result in a tantrum. Absolutely not true. When they were asking about our routine I described that in the mornings I let him choose where he wants to eat; this is not a result of my trying to avoid a tantrum but because I think children like being able to make choices on their own (I did not say that last part, I just assumed it was understood). So I let him choose between the kitchen island, the table or the coffee table. If I did not ask him and just placed his plate anywhere he would not blink an eye. 

And that's another thing. His tantrums. I call most of them 'mini tantrums' where it is obvious that he is acting out (age appropriately, mind you) of frustration. The big difference between Noah and any other child his age is that Noah can not verbalize what it is that frustrates him. So he cries out, screams (not a loud scream, just a quick 'I'm pissed' scream) and otherwise has a tantrum. They last no more than a minute. They do happen frequently throughout the day, but we are working on it and I feel that once he has some speech therapy under his belt they will all but disappear. 

Of course, he does have an occasional major melt down. These are the real deal tantrums, ones that I think happen because he is over-stimulated and can not process all that is going on. Example: Noah at Moe's this past Tuesday, which happens to be their kids eat free night. Hungry Noah plus a long line plus the fact that he will not stand next to me and HATES to be held when in public equals major tantrum. He did not understand what the hell we were standing there for. And at that point he was too over stimulated to actually HEAR me while I calmly tried to explain to him what was going on. It was a nightmare. For me and all the people at Moe's. I will say that these only happen once or twice a week and it is always a direct result of me putting Noah in a situation that I should know he can not handle. 

So anyway, when I say he has a mini tantrum, I think the psychologist assumed I meant the big, over-the-top kind. But when I said, no, a mini tantrum, she sort of shrugged it off and said that he should not be having them anyway. 

Back to Noah in the pigeonhole. 

In her evaluation she said that Noah has a problem with aggression. By and large the biggest stereotype that she just assumed upon Noah. He is the farthest thing from aggressive. What they observed, and what I agree is something we need to work on, is that Noah will hit himself on his side when he is told 'no' or if he does not like what you are asking him to do. Again, I think this is a behavior he developed because of not being able to verbalize what it is that is upsetting him. But in her evaluation she said that he hits not only himself but others and that he bites and perhaps should have a 'safe place' with a pillow or something that he can go hit when he gets like that. 

For some reason, this got me fuming. Noah, like any other child his age, did go through a phase where he would swat at me (rarely actually hit). But we worked on it and I can honestly say that he does not do that now. And as far as hitting other children... I think I have seen him swat at his cousin a few times, but to be sure it is not something that I would say was a habit (and again... AGE APPROPRIATE). What makes me so mad is that she obviously assumed this upon Noah. She did not ask. ALL children with autism must have a problem with hitting, right? So let's just add this to his formal evaluation. Oh, and suggesting I create a 'safe place' where he can go lash out on a pillow?! I have a problem with that as well. When he is frustrated I want him to know that he can TALK about it to feel better... he does not have to physically act out in order to feel better. I would teach this to any child. Yes, right now it is difficult on me because he does not have the verbal capability, but teaching him to handle his frustration otherwise is something I am very much against. Especially because he does not have the propensity towards violence. He is really a very gentle soul. 

She also said that he rarely made eye contact with everyone in the room, including me. Not true. He makes great eye contact. Like I said in a previous post, since infancy he has just known who he likes and who he does not like. I might add that I LOVE this about him. He did not like the psychologist and did try to avoid her. The other two, however, he did enjoy and wanted to play with. But that pesky psychologist kept getting in the way, asking him to do all sorts of stuff that he did not want to do. I think it is great to follow your natural instincts about weather you like someone or not. Granted, he should learn to respect people no matter what, but why would I force him to be friendly with someone he just does not like for one reason or another. AND HE MAKES EYE CONTACT ALL THE TIME WITH ME. She suggested that he only talks to me or approaches me when he needs or wants something. And even then he is not making eye contact. I am not sure what child she is talking about, but that is not Noah. He is very engaging with me and the people that he knows and loves. Many of you reading this now can attest to that as well. 

Anyway, this is long enough, and I could go on even longer, but you get the idea. It is like she came in my home, met Noah (who does have some characteristics of a child with autism), and then wrote this 'stock' evaluation based on stereotypes. Not an evaluation about Noah himself. Might I add that there was only one positive thing in the whole thing written about my child. The final sentence that stated 'Despite Noah's challenges with engagement in activities and interactions, he presented as a pleasant and likeable little boy.'

So I am going to do everything in my power to make sure Noah is not stereotyped or put in a pigeonhole. Starting with going over this evaluation with a fine tooth comb and making my own notes.... as his mother who knows him best, not someone who spent a mer three hours with him. I do think I can be unbiased, but of course, as I said before, I think my child is brilliant and wonderful.

Let the advocating begin! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

The love of water

It must be genetic. I don't think there is a kid in our family that does not love the pool. At age 2 1/2 Noah loves to put his face in (by himself, after counting to three. And he completely submerges it, slowly with great intention), 'walk' on his hands in the baby pool while kicking, he can blow bubbles and when he accidentally goes under water he bounces right back up by himself, unscathed. 



Yep, a late morning spent at the pool makes for one happy (and hungry!) little Noah. 

(And let's be honest; I welcome any opportunity to feel momentarily weightless these days.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Views from Yokosuka

Jeff sent me a few pictures he took while exploring Yokosuka this past weekend. I CAN NOT WAIT to get there and start exploring with the kids! And might I add, the double stroller that I was lucky enough to find for a bargain price on craigslist will make maneuvering the streets that much easier and enjoyable. 






Monday, July 11, 2011

Do I really want a cog in the wheel?

Noah is so many things. He is bright, intense, funny, sweet, caring, sensitive and intuitive. He has impeccable judge of character, a trait he has possessed since he was an infant. He can focus on and notice the smallest of details. He is a loving boy... one who is suggested might have autism. 

Seeing that in writing sucks. 

We have known for a while now that Noah struggles with his verbal development. It has gotten to the point where he gets very frustrated in his inability to communicate what it is that he is thinking or what it is that he wants. And this child THINKS and WANTS a lot of things throughout the day. Because of this he can be very challenging to deal with at times. I have created an environment where he does not have to hear 'no' and where he can be as independent as he wants to avoid conflict. I still try to gently guide him and discipline him when needed, but for the most part my day completely revolves around him and trying to figure out his wants and needs when he is unable to tell me with words himself what they are. 

Have I mentioned I am pregnant? My patience is close to nil these days. I decided to have Noah evaluated, thinking maybe there was something wrong with his hearing and that was why he was having a hard time developing his verbal muscles. Long story short, the team that evaluated Noah felt that he showed some characteristics of a child with Autism. Upon hearing this, I was a wreck. Sad, helpless, hopeless, lost... 

A child psychologist administered the test. She was on the floor with him, pulling out various toys and asking him to do certain things. Some of them he did willingly but others he did not. In fact, he would just completely ignore her if he did not want to do something. This is not new behavior from Noah, he does the same thing with me. According to her, it is unusual for a child of his age to not do something that is asked of him if he has the skills to do it. Something in his brain is keeping him from putting the blocks back into a box when asked. Of course Noah possesses the skills to put a freaking block inside a large box; the child could thread a needle if he put his mind to it. I swear he just didn't do it because he thought it was boring. 

So because Noah would not do certain things that were asked of him during the evaluation, and because of his verbal delay, they felt that he would benefit from some therapies. I am all for that, don't get me wrong. And I don't mean to sound like one of those parents who is all 'Not my child!', but seriously... they don't know my child. 

I agree that Noah has unique behaviors for his age. For example, he can focus on one task/toy for a very long time. During the evaluation they gave him a baby doll. Mind you, my child is loving and gentle and very much enjoys imaginative play. He held that doll and focused on her hands, which were locked in a fist, I think trying to figure out why they would not open (because hands should be able to open and close). Recently I have been telling him that gently holding hands is a way to show love (love love hands, is what we call it) to prepare him for being gentle with his sister. He loves his new baby cousin Molly who is 11 weeks old, but does not know his own strength, just like any other 2.5 year old. So when he gets overwhelmed with the feeling of wanting to hug on his cousin, I say 'love love hands' and he gently holds her hand. ANYWAY, I think he was trying to do that with this doll. And he was putting her on his blanket, feeding her... he played with her for about 10 minutes. 

But right after giving him the doll the evaluator asked him to put it down and do something else with a new toy. He ignored her and kept going about his business with the doll. She brought out another toy. Same deal. He would not transition to a new task until he was good and ready. And if you tried to MAKE him he would throw a mini-tantrum. 

This, apparently, is unusual behavior. He should be able to switch from one task to another when asked without throwing a tantrum. 

Now I agree that he should not throw tantrums. But I love his ability to focus. I love that he gets an idea in his head and wants to see it through. Why would I want to change that? So he can 'fit in with society' and the mainstream school system? Yes, it is difficult to deal with when he is TWO but I think this character trait will serve him well as an adult. 

There are so many quirks, too many to write in one post, that make Noah who he is. I have a very hard time putting a label of 'autistic' on him because of these quirks. The whole team that met Noah agrees that he is brilliant and, if autistic, very high-functioning. But they all kept coming back to the same thing... some of his behaviors were unusual. And again I ask, why is this bad? Answer: Not bad, but difficult to be successful in the school system when time comes. So we have to work on these behaviors now while he is still young so that when it is time to join the mainstream school system, he will fit in and be a successful cog in the wheel. 

No thanks to the cog part.

Bring on the unique traits, pleaseandthankyou. BUT... I am all for learning, as a parent, how Noah learns best so I can be the best teacher he needs. I do think that he and I would BOTH benefit from working with an occupational therapist to learn how to deal with his tantrums and to work on his communication skills. But really, over my dead body will I let someone change Noah's personality and quirks. It is my job as his parent to take the things that make him uniquely Noah and help him to be the best he can be WITH those traits. 

So I am not sure how comfortable I am with saying 'I have a child with autism'. I certainly have a unique child (I swear if they call him or his behavior unusual again...) but I love his uniqueness. And I don't want this life to be a struggle for my child. So we will work with certain therapists and see how it goes. And I no longer feel hopeless... I have nothing but hope for my child and his future. We just have to get past toddlerhood so he can go ahead and cure cancer already, because clearly, I think my child is brilliant.  

DISCLAIMER: The folks from Early Intervention who did the evaluation were amazing. The coordinator who will be working with us throughout the whole process is very understanding and sweet... NONE of the above has anything to do with their system or the legitimacy of their work. However I will say that I feel autism is very over diagnosed and that those who work closely in the field get tunnel vision when dealing with someone who is outside of the 'norm'. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Home Sweet Home

We got the house! We still have to finish all the paperwork and make sure all the ducks are in their line, but we got it! There was a waiting list, and I had resigned myself to the fact that it might not work out. And besides, I had found the Architectural Digest house. Jeff went to see said AD house, and while it was great, it was a lot smaller than we would need and very hard to get to. Plus with the exchange rate the rent would have tipped the scales at almost $5,000/month. Wowzers. 

But it all worked out:-) Without further rambling (man can I ramble), here she is!


Floor plan:


It is built on a hill, so the finished basement opens up to a (little) fenced in yard with a covered patio! SCORE! Picture of basement:



The first floor has the kitchen, living/dining room and a tatami room. There is also a nice sized deck that overlooks a beautiful wooded area. Jeff said it was so green and hilly. Here is a picture of the living room with the tatami room off to the side:


Kitchen:


Bathroom upstairs (the shower and bathtub are in the adjoining room). And yes, that is the washer in the bathroom. Very typical in a Japanese house. There is another deck off of the shower room as well. We assume it is meant to dry your clothes:


So that gives you a pretty good idea of what a modern home in Japan looks like. And, in Japanese standards, it is HUGE at 1784 sqft. I feel so very lucky that we get to live in this house for a few years. And being around all of that green is going to be paramount. Even in Misawa, a farming community, it was rare to see so much green from your home. Besides the fields everything was covered in cement. I have to say, it got a little depressing. So to have not one but three decks (there is one off of the master bedroom as well) plus a covered patio... we are very lucky. 

Now, who wants to come visit?! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

House Hunters, International


Jeff has been in Yokosuka for about 2 weeks now. His employers have arranged for him to stay on Base in the Hotel for 2 months while we look for housing. Of course anyone who knows me well knows that I was on the google machine long before we even signed the final job offer looking into housing options. 

I have spoken before about the wonder that is the Japanese toilet. The same principle applies to the homes in Japan. When we moved into our first home in Misawa back in June of 2008 (has it really been that long?!) we really did not know the options available to us. Jeff found a place that was decent enough while I was still State side cooking Noah. Noah and I arrived in February of 2009 to our new home. 

It really wasn't THAT bad... I lovingly called it the 'Japanese 80's style retreat center' house. You know the look of a retreat center, where all the features seem 'stock' and nothing feels unique or homey (or is that just me?).

A picture is worth a thousand words:


Let me describe what you are looking at here... there is just so much in this picture that embodies living in Japan!

Starting at the top we have a lovely drop ceiling with florescent lighting. Drop ceilings make me think of elementary school buildings. And 'The Breakfast Club'. And florescent lighting is never OK. In the upper right corner you see a little box. This is a fan meant to pull humid/hot air out of the house. It is crap. Misawa is so far north on the main island that AC is not a standard installation, but these fans are. Again, they are crap. And it is humid and hot and hellish in the dead of summer. You see the drying rack in the corner? That is because our Japanese dryer takes about 4 hours to dry a load of 2 towels. This is not an exaggeration. And since the house did not have 'conditioned air' it took 10 times longer to air dry any items. 

I loath that drying rack and it's space sucking ways. Even more so than that, I loath the 'stinky towel smell' that often occurs from the bacteria that can grow on things that do not air dry properly. I battled these two nemeses until the day we moved out. 

Back to the picture. 

It is hard to see, but the wall paper is extra special. It is textured. With specks of pink and silver and gold. Below it is faux wood paneling. We are standing on faux wood flooring as well. It's super shiny... and I can't decide if it makes it a little better or that much worse... 


The above is a great representation of the shine and the paneling. Oh, and look at that cute little Noah! 10 months old... so sweet... 

Back to the crappy house.

The picture of we three was taken with the timer from the kitchen counter. In the world of Japanese homes it is referred to as LDK or living-dining-kitchen. All the rooms in most standard Japanese homes are made to be closed off from one another in an attempt to conserve natural resources (only heat/cool the room you are in and close it off from the rest of the house). So they thought it was a good idea to have all the living space in one room. Only it is tiny. And our big American furniture laughed in the face of the square footage. We had to get creative with furniture placement, since we are big Americans with big furniture. Where a Japanese family would use their LDK as it is intended, with their tiny Japanese furnishings and their tiny Japanese bodies, we used the kitchen as a kitchen and the LD part just as the D. Our table took up the whole space, there was no way we could fit any more seating in that room. So out the door of the LDK and across a little hall there was a tatami room.


This is the best picture I could find, but it gives you an idea of how small it was. First, I have to say that the tatami rooms in a Japanese home are not meant to have furniture in them. There is a large closet for storing rolled up futons (the real deal, Japanese kind, not the bastardized American version) and you are supposed to take these out as needed. There is also a small platform for shrines and what not. We used the closet as a built in desk and the platform for shrines as an area to store Noah's toys. And there was furniture crammed in there, IKEA style. In the picture above I am leaning on our love seat, and the TV is against the wall across from it. Small. 

So after living in this house for about 2 years I decided there MUST be other options in Misawa. With google translate as my guide I found a larger, more modern, SANS WALL PAPER house that was perfect for us. 


Look at that little modern gem, tucked away in the back roads of Misawa. This house is awesome. It has energy efficient everything. There is no AC as we know it, but there is 'air conditioning' meaning the walls are made out of a material that actually wicks the moisture from the air and circulates it outside. Pretty smart. Doing laundry was a breeze in this house. I wish I had more photos of the inside. The floors are light wood and treated, not 'finished'. I loved the floors. The layout was great. It felt like home.

So now we find ourselves in the trenches of house hunting yet again. This time we know there are options out there that are more to our liking than the Japanese 80's retreat center. Jeff has met with realtors from 3 different agencies, all whom were told we want new/modern construction. After the first day of viewings with one of the realtors we weren't sure if it was a communication barrier or just a cruel joke, but wall paper was involved in most of the houses they showed Jeff. Only cartoon animals were donned in place of the pink and silver and gold specks. Which would you prefer? Such a hard choice!

Maybe it is just standard for them to show you the houses that they have had sitting on the market for a long time to see how desperate you are. Maybe that is how we were suckered into the first house in Misawa. All you hear is how hard it is to find housing in Japan so you better sign the lease to the first place you see. But we will not be fooled this time around! 

There are three homes that we currently like and could see ourselves living in. Jeff is going to look at one of them for the first time in person tomorrow. It is my favorite. It is beautiful. The location is great.... but the rent is OUTRAGEOUS. A perk to working for the Department of Navy is that they give you a 'living quarters allowance' to cover your rent and utilities, but this house would put us at the very top of our budget. But oh, how worth it. I will post pictures once Jeff emails a few, really, it is like a house out of Architectural Digest. 

So no hole-in-the-ground house for us. And for the love of god, no wallpaper. 




Monday, July 4, 2011

The perfect 4th of July

Spending the morning with family, running around the pool in bathing suites and sunscreen.

LONG afternoon nap.

Packing a picnic dinner of homemade fried chicken, potato salad, fresh sliced watermelon and blueberry pie. 

Spreading out a big, comfy quilt on a grassy lawn where the adults sit and talk while the cousins run around playing with sparklers.

FIREWORKS!

Short drive home with a sleepy child who will forever have the memories from this day:-)


Disclaimer #1: Of course this is what I WANT to happen today... we'll see what I am actually capable of accomplishing.


Disclaimer #2: And if a little Yankee Doodle decides to come a few weeks early, that might be alright with me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

35 weeks down, 35 days to go

Only 5 short weeks left in this pregnancy. Who the heck authorized me becoming a mother of TWO? 

The panic has begun. 

I worry about what I am going to do when I DO go into labor. Who will watch Noah? How long will I labor? Who is going to be with me in the delivery room? Will I be driving myself to the hospital? 

The other day my Dad asked if there was a test they could do to determine what day you were going to deliver on. Ha. If only! The only way I can avoid the panic is to plan, and you can not plan your delivery.  

Well, not true. I was induced with Noah because he was late. Not REALLY late, but enough that the Doc agreed to induce me. I want to avoid that as much as possible this time around. So I am not planning on that plan. 

Panic.

I know that it will all play out as it should without any major hiccups. I know that I have friends and family that will help me 'figure things out' as they come. But I have this need to anticipate exactly what could happen and make a plan. 

And don't get me started on the panic of 'what the hell am I going to do once Amelia is here and I have to take care of her AND Noah and Jeff will be in JAPAN?' Overreaction... maybe... but the seemingly innocuous task of going to the grocery store is more than I can handle with just Noah in tow. Throw a newborn in the mix and we may never eat again. 

So 35 days till d-day. Of course I am excited, happy, over-the-moon. More so than panic-y. But I am so torn between wishing these 35 days away and begging time to stand still. 

Either way, the Rodenhizer's will be a party of 4 in about a month.