Wednesday, June 13, 2018

EIEIO!

Oh, my goodness.  We are back in da Harbor!

I'm actually sitting in my front yard typing this.  I pulled up a lawn chair in the shade, so I can keep an eye on Brady P.  He fell asleep in the van, so there he shall stay until he wakes up... or this won't get done until tonight!

I don't know what you are most curious about after resuming, but I will tell you what I am most excited about.

Braeden is trying so hard to talk.  He will repeat pretty much anything you ask him to -- even if you don't ask!  (So now I really have to watch what I say.)  He doesn't always get the words right, but he gets close.  And he seriously is trying so hard.  It fills my heart to watch his determination and see him delight in his accomplishments.

He will walk around and sing EIEIO from Old MacDonald.  He will pretend to read his books.  And he has such a sweet voice.  Here is a video of us singing Old MacDonald.  It's so precious that I couldn't resist sharing.


So, like I said, not perfect, but valiant in effort.

Til next time!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Almost There!

Hello!

I apologize again for my absence, but I am driving back to da harbor today.

I promise to resume next week!

Until then, go outside on a sunny day, take three deep breaths in a row, and during each one, name one thing you are grateful for.

That will be expressing gratitude for three things.  And three deep breaths.  And sunshine.

See how you feel after that!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Slice It Up

Hello!

I am in a very remote location with no time to blog this week.  

May I suggest you take a stroll back in time and reminisce with A Little Slice of da Harbor?  Every time I reread some of those posts, I think, "Man.  That was really a good blog!"

Let's not let it go to waste!

Scroll back through the years.  Watch some videos.  Remember how crazy I used to be.  Now is the time.  You just have to click that link.

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Power of Hugs

"Braeden, can I have a hug?" any one of his many admirers will ask. 

If he is busy with other things, he might decline, but usually he will walk right over to the person who asked, put his arms up and wrap them around the person's neck.  Sometimes he even pats their back with his right hand.

"Oh, you give the best hugs, Braeden!" they will often say after his brief (or sometimes lingering) embrace.

Because, you know what?  He does give the best hugs.  He hugs from the bottom of his heart.  Brady P. knows what a hug is for, and he genuinely transfers his love to the other person -- melting them from the inside.

"Oh, you just made my day!" they will sometimes say.  That's a big compliment.  All those things are.

And for that person to recognize the value in that meaningful moment means a lot to me.  It is one seemingly small thing that makes us as humans feel connected to each other.

A hug says a lot about a person.

A hug is both giving and receiving at the same time.

It is a wordless connection between two people.  

A meeting of hearts, whether brief or drawn out.

You don't always get what you put into a hug.  And you don't always give what you get.

Some people think that a hug is a formality.  Like, "Oh, they're family, so I'm obligated" or "Well, I haven't seen them for years, so it would be rude not to give them a hug."

A forced hug is a fake hug.  You may as well not even bother.  It can be awkward

If both people mean it, it helps save the world.

I am not kidding.

A true hug causes two souls to connect on the physical plane. What happens between those two people can be very emotional.

Think about the reasons we hug:
  • To say good-bye
  • To say hello
  • To say I'm sorry
  • To offer emotional support

There can be more, but I think those are the biggies.  Those situations can be emotional in themselves.  But when you unabashedly press your chest into someone else's while your arms are wrapped around their shoulders or torso and you squeeze your fingers into their body and bury your face in their neck and smell their scent and feel their energy, well, that causes ripples in the universe.

If the hug is genuine and pure in intention, it makes positive ripples... that help save the world.

Just think about this for one moment.  Pretend that every single person on this earth turned to the person next to them, (with no one left out) and gave them a hug as sincere as the one I just mentioned.

A hug with no judgements.  A hug just focused on connecting with another person and feeling what that truly means.

At that moment, when the whole world is hugging, what do you think would happen on earth?  It would be a big ball of love and satisfaction with no room for hate or loneliness. Wouldn't that be so wonderful?  The animals would probably notice and all hug each other too.

But wait.

What if every single person on this earth loved it so much that they then found another person to hug?  And they just all kept hugging other people for a few more minutes.  Don't you think that would boost moral?  Don't you think there would be peace on earth for a little while?

I think it would last even longer.

It would be wonderful.  It fills my heart just thinking about it.

I just googled it and found that there is actually a National Hugging Day.  It was founded in 1986 and is celebrated on January 21st.  But once a year is not enough.

How do you give a hug?  Are you all in?  Do you shake the other person around a bit in your arms?  Are you always the last to let go?  Are you the first to let go?  Do you stay as far from the person as a hug will permit?

Pay attention next time, if you aren't sure.  Or, heck.  Just find someone to hug right now if you genuinely want to. 

Brady P. knows how to give a hug.  So do I.  And so do many other people I know.  Some people are such good huggers that I think about them when I need a hug.  The energy manifested in a hug is that powerful.  It can draw tears.

I encourage you to be that good of a hugger.  You will make a difference in someone's life each time you hug.  Then, my friend, then we will be that much closer to saving the world... one heart at a time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nature's Obstacle Course

As the snow finishes melting in the woods, the creeks and falls really come to life.  One spot Brady P. and I can easily go to is Manganese Falls. 

But we don't always go to the upper part like most people.  Nope.  We are not most people.  We go under the bridge like little trolls.  We sit in the shade among the pines and cedars as the last rush of the falls bubbles by.  He throws pine cones into the froth, and I enjoy the peace, sounds and seclusion.

If you are bummed that I am not going to focus on the upper falls, please visit this post from A Little Slice of Da Harbor blog for a video of Manganese Falls from the past.

Because here, you're going to go on an adventure with me and my three-year-old.

Last week we hiked down to the bridge at the lower falls from Manganese Road.  Do you know where that is?  Turn onto Manganese Road at the Post office.  Less than half a mile from there, a two-track gravel road veers off to the left.  In about 1,000 feet, you'll come to a sturdy bridge that leads to the Kamikazee Trail (which I don't believe is currently maintained).

But that bridge goes right over the bottom of the falls.  Here is a picture of that spot from this week.

Lower Manganese Falls

Then we ducked down under the bridge to our serenity.  Braeden doesn't like it as much as I do because there are no rocks to throw.

So the two-track to get there was an obstacle course last week.  B was out of the stroller, walking.  I pushed an empty stroller (someone had to!).

We came across a down tree.  It laid along the ground.

"Braeden, what do we do?" I asked him.  "We have to get to the other side of that tree!"

He stopped for a moment.  Then put two hands on the top of the tree, swung one leg over, then swung the other leg over.

"You made it!" I exclaimed.

Up ahead, we found another down tree, but this one was at an angle, partially off the ground and covered in pointy, broken off branches.

Braeden eyed this one up a little more pensively.  He put two hands on the trunk, but one got poked by a sticker branch.

"Ah!" he looked up at me, rubbing his hand.

"I will help!" I said instinctively.  And I almost carried him right over it, but I stopped.  I knew he could do it, and I wanted him to problem solve.

I repositioned his hands on the trunk.

"Find the smooth parts, Braeden," I told him.  "Good!  Now swing one leg over.  You can do it."

Instead of doing it for him, I coached him as he tried to figure it out himself.  He did it.  

Later we came to another tree that was suspended at the height of his forehead.  I laughed when he just walked right into it and bumped his head.  I really thought he saw it there.

"Ah!" he shouted, disapprovingly, rubbing his noggin.

"How do we get past this one, Braeden?" I asked.

He ducked and crawled through.  Perfect.  I did the same and made sure he saw me.

So that was fun.  It was great to see him problem solve in the woods.  Those are precious "common sense" skills that seem to be dying off in today's society, so he needs to learn them.

Now this story is funny to me because, on Monday, I had to do the problem solving in the woods.

Instead of taking the clear road like usual, I decided to take the JLG Trail.  Now, I haven't done that since Braeden was in my belly.  It's no wonder I don't take that way.  It goes through private property, is not maintained and has a pond in the middle of it in the spring time.

I knew all those things.  But I am stubborn, and I like adventures and challenges.  So I decided to go for it.

I pushed him in his stroller, so he was contained.  He shouted each time I thrusted the wheels through the mud or tilted his cart into uncomfortable angles or accidentally bumped something or went over a bunch of branches or had to carry the whole rig over a log.

He was not happy.

B expressing his feelings about the "trail" ahead

Pictured above was the biggest obstacle... at least I hoped it was!

Plenty of shouting from a little boy and one sweaty, panting mama later, we made it through!  Hooray!

We crested the hill to get out of the bog, and Braeden quieted down a bit.  That was perfect because, guess what I came across.

A full-bloomed patch of Arbutus.

Ahhhhh!

I have a couple patches that I've been keeping an eye on this spring, but none of them looked like they would blossom by the time I left Copper Harbor today.  Sniffing their fragrant scent each spring is one of my favorite activities.

So there I was.  Eyeballs deep in a patch of Arbutus.

Taking in the Arbeautious

That is climactic moment for a wildflower enthusiast, all right!

I figured that was my reward for enduring the screaming bog and other obstacles along a recently neglected trail.  I'll take it!

The next ironic part was that, as we hiked back up the usual two-track to the road, all those trees were cleaned up!  Ha!  So Brady P. got to throw his frisbee in the clear the whole way back home.  Well, almost the whole way.  I had to put him back into his stroller when he got sassy and refused to listen.

He definitely is a three-year-old with a mind of his own.  I just want to make sure he is able to use that mind to the best of his ability.  He is already making a difference in this world.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Even the Little Schoolhouse

Like an artist of any medium, sitting in front of a blank slate (or screen) before you know your subject/inspiration for that piece is pretty much pointless.

So here I sit in a little office room at the school trying to figure out what to write about for the day.  The kids are having snack one room over.   Gold Fish crackers.  The colorful ones.

Then I hear chatter from across the hall.

"Braeden, can you find the green fish?"

"He found it!  Can you find the yellow fish?"

"Braeden, can you find two fish?  Yay!  How about three fish?"

"Braeden, can you say "f" for fish?"

"Braeden, can you keep your hands on your lap?"  Then I hear a chorus of the "Hands in your lap" song that Mrs. G made up for him.

"Braeden, can you keep eating?"

And then later:

"Can I read Braeden a story?"

Wow.  Those students really care about him.  They are amazed at what he knows, and they encourage him to show off his skills.

Even though they are supposed to be eating quietly, I still love to hear them quiz him.  And applaud him.  And keep him in line.  And marvel at him.

Not only do I appreciate the attention they show, but I appreciate that it is the students, and not just the teachers (and Mom) who are engaging.

It's the kids.

He loves kids.

Kids have an ability to relate to and reach other kids that most of us society-conforming/self-conscious adults don't have.  We just lose it over time...

... Unless we vow to be a kid forever...

But that concept would fill a different blog.  Let me know if you'd like to hear it some day.

Now is the time for me to express my gratitude for the students and teachers at the little "one room" schoolhouse at the northern most point in Michigan.  To the students and teachers who take the time to get to know and encourage my son's strengths.  Who understand and extend extra patience to the preschooler with the extra chromosome.  Who, at the same time, uphold the same standards of behavior and expectations that the other students have.

Yes, I am grateful.

Braeden loves to go to school.  He loves the teachers and the students.  He loves to learn.  He loves to get out of his own house for a bit and see other people besides Mom. (Okay, I'm assuming that last part).

And it's all good for him.  It's all good for everyone.  

Living in a town with limited access to everything except gift shops, the splendors of nature and a wonderful community, one never knows how a child with "special needs" will fair in the education department.

But I am tickled.

His speech pathologist in Calumet and his physical therapist in Houghton are each thrilled with his progress.  He is nearly exceeding the goals they set at the beginning of the year, and he's only half way through!

So thank you, little Copper Harbor one room schoolhouse.  You are helping this little boy maximize his full potential.  

That is my biggest goal for him.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Crane Gang

So Mr. Brady P. is visiting Grammy and Grampy right now.  I get a little break from momming while I get to go be myself.

One way I am doing that is to get certified in Wilderness First Aid over in Grand Marais, Minnesota this weekend.  Woo woo!  Pretty excited about that as I move forward with giving wildflower tours and get closer to teaching mountain bike fundamentals right here in beautiful Copper Harbor.

Another way I get to be me is by adventuring out on the trails where the snow disappears more and more each day.  No snowshoes for this girl anymore!

While I have been hiking places and seeing sites, I have to report on one moment in particular.  One 60 degree day, as I hoofed it up to the top of a ridge, I heard Sandhill Cranes.

I love Sandhill Cranes.  They are enormous birds that migrate through in the spring and fall.  Their sound is chilling and exciting to me all at once.  I find them to be majestic, transitional, rare and ancient.  Google them if you are curious.

I have been seeing and hearing the cranes for the last week or two.  I always stop in my tracks when I hear their guttural call and look up.  Sometimes I see them, usually I don't. 

I had seen a couple before that day, and I cherished each moment.

That morning, however, as I got to the top of the ridge, and the south breezes whooshed into me, I saw more than one.  I saw 18.  18 plus another flock too far away to count.  They were gliding on the thermals between two ridges.   

They were there just for me.

And you.

Because I had my camera with me!

So please enjoy this video.  You'll want to turn up the sound in order to hear their voices, but be aware that the wind got ripping at one point, and the sound will irritate your ears through your speakers.  Sorry about that.  I just had an old iPhone for equipment.


And yes, you can hear how excited and overwhelmed with awe I was as I moaned toward the end.  I can't help it.  When my heart implodes like that, I can't be quiet.

Another point to note is that THE HARBOR IS OPEN!!!  When Brady P. comes home, he is going to have a big surprise waiting for him:

His rock throwing beach!

I threw three splooshers in honor of him today.  But I sure am excited to take him down there for the first time this spring.

Ahhh, yes.  Because spring is really here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Soul-Blowing Sunset

Happy Wednesday!

I just noticed that last week's post was number 50 for Downs by the Bay!  50 posts inspired by Brady P. and Copper Harbor.  Wow!  Perhaps that's why last night's sunset was so soul-blowing.

Let me tell you about it.

But before I tell you, I will inform you that you need to pay extra attention to my words. Why?  Big surprise... I did not have a camera to capture even one moment, one color or one sparkle.  

But I captured it in my soul.

Brady P. and I drove to Bryce's beach to catch a sunset and throw some rocks.  The whole drive there, I could see these clouds.  They were very unique.

It was like looking at the underside of hundreds of sacks of fluff.  They all hung, packed together across one section of the sky.  And somehow, with the sun still above them, a golden light illuminated their curves, so sensually that they each left their own impression in the sky and on my mind.

I watched those clouds the whole hike down the beach, too.  "Oh, those clouds!" I kept exclaiming.  They just grabbed a part of me.  I wonder if I will ever see that sight again.

After Brady P. was done being mesmerized with the oncoming waves in the freshly open lake, I got him to run down the beach to a rock throwing spot.  That kept him busy while I sunk a few myself and watched those clouds.

I kept checking to see when the sun was going to sink below them.

Hold your fist out in front of you as far as you can with your thumb down.  Now imagine your thumb side is the horizon of the lake and your pinky side is the bottom of those clouds.  The rest of your fingers represents approximately how much clear sky was between the clouds and the water.  Not too much in the grand scheme.

After a few more splooshers, I noticed a concentrated spot of golden light at the bottom of the cloud sack clusters.

"The sun is going to drop!" I squealed.  I found it ironic that the sun was dropping during a sunset, but it was going to slowly fall out of those clouds and drop into the middle of Lake Superior.

*Insert giddiness here.*


Suddenly, pshew!  The rays shot forth from behind the clouds, and started to illuminate the beach with a soft, warm glow. The golden sacks of clouds darkened into a mass of shadow.  They became the great dark wall in the sky.

The waves started to sparkle from behind.  Oh, my mighty Mother  of Nature.  The rhythmic waves, about 6 inches tall from base to crest, turned into clear, moving water windows.  I could see the slowly dropping sun's light right through them.

It sparkled, it danced, it took me to a new place right on this earth.

My heart felt like it was struck by lightening.  Every cell in my body tingled and shook as I took in the beauty before me.  

And the water splashing from Braeden's rocks leapt up like liquid gold as the sun illuminated the droplets from behind.  I had to throw rocks myself just to watch the golden splashes.

Remember your fist as the sky?  Now imagine the bright burning sun filling that gap like your fist. Just fitting between the clouds and the lake for a minute before it sank into the sparkling water.

I know you're not supposed to stare at the sun, but I did't care.  I had golden orbs filling my vision everywhere I looked and each time I blinked.  It was so worth it.

Because then the sun sank into the lake.

"Bye-bye, Sun!  See you tomorrow!" I waved, hopeful that I really would see it tomorrow.  That is never guaranteed here in the Keweenaw.

And slowly the golden backlight faded as the waves became dim.  I could have taken that as a loss, but the next show was equally as spectacular.

As the last bit of sun sank below the horizon, all hell broke loose.  Now I only say that because, well, what do you think the sky would look like if "hell" opened up and spewed its fiery hues?

A deep magenta/red glow lit up the horizontal stripes on the bottom  of that wall cloud.  It was like a  claw ripped across it, and the claw marks remained dark.  

In the foreground, new clouds made an appearance.  You know that pearl-backed white dragon from The Never Ending Story movie?  He was up there, with hot pink fur and his mouth open, billowing his deep, hearty laugh, as he flew northward through the sky.  And all around were similar shapes as if he was joined by smaller friends.

I dropped my jaw in the rocks.  Holy fantazamagoly.  I was simply stunned sitting there in that swath of rocks.  I just stared in amazement at the beauty in this world.  This sky.  This lake.  This universe.

As the sky continued to darken, and the red glow retreated, I found my jaw and clicked it back into place.  I took the lightening bolts out of my heart and threw them in the lake.

Surely, she would deliver more again.

*****
Thanks for reading about the magic!

You've earned a picture of the other day when we were puddle splashing.  Braeden likes splashing in puddles as much as he likes throwing rocks.  He always comes back drenched, and it's hard to pull him away!

Mud face standing in a puddle

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Do You Really Want To?

Hey there!

Thanks for clicking to read.  

No, really.  Thank you.

I wouldn't make the effort to post each Wednesday (or soon after) if I thought nobody was reading this.  But you are.  So thanks.

With your dedication -- weekly or otherwise -- I want you to ask yourself why.  "Hey, (myself), why do I read this blog?"

Do you know the answer right away?  

Do you personally know and love Braeden and me, and this is how you stay connected?  Do you know and love someone with Down syndrome and enjoy the camaraderie?  Do you love Copper Harbor?  Did you read my last blog, A Little Slice of da Harbor, and habitually switch over because you enjoy my writing?  Did a friend show you this blog?

You don't have to tell me.  Unless you want to.  But I just want you to look inside yourself, and ask why you do this one little thing.  Really, it's best to do that with everything you do, but we will start with this.

For now.

Okay,  thanks for that introspective moment.

I have had a very introspective winter.  For years I was a social butterfly, and I overextended myself for others when it was actually zapping my energy.  I just felt like I should do it all for others.  Even though I physically couldn't.  

Nobody can.

But I have been sober for over a year.  I find comfort in meaningful conversations instead of surface chatter.  I find power in telling people 'no' when their request does not fall in line with my purpose.

Because I need all the energy I can get to help save the world. To help raise the consciousness of humanity to its highest potential.  But before I do that, I have to do it within myself!

So I am working on it.  It is starkly revealing at times.  It can also be difficult to face.  But at the same time, it is empowering and liberating.  My old friends and family might not understand it, but it is a beautiful transition in my life.

It's as though I've been uprooted from my old habits and plunked into fresh soil.  Soil with great potential for growth.  But in order to soak up the energy, I need to focus on the sun.  And the rain.  And the darkness and mystery of what my roots are now pushing into and through.

I just need to believe.

My heart can feel that it's right.

I am grateful.

Okay, so thanks for exploring the inner world of Amanda for a moment.

Do you ever do that with yourself?  Just like I asked you why you read this blog, I would encourage you to ask yourself "Why am I doing this?" about more things.

If your answer is usually "Because I want to, and it helps me fulfill my purpose," then you are on the right track, my friend. 

If your answer is, "Because I have to," or "Someone is making me," or "This is just what I have always done," then please take it a step further and notice how it feels to realize that.

How does it feel to be forced?  To feel like you have no other option?  To follow old habits out of "comfort?"  Just sit with that feeling.

*Please note: some things you have to do, like biological functions and taking care of people and animals you are responsible for.  But you can ponder ways to do these things in ways that they work best for you.

Now think about something you love to do.  "I love to (fill in the blank), and it makes me feel (fill in the blank)."

Now feel it.  Really feel it.

Feel the difference in your body when you focus on those two different frequencies.  I don't even have to tell you which one is better.  You already know.  And only you can feel it fully.  Because it is part of you.

So right now, you are either thinking, "Hmm, this is very interesting.  I will do this more in my daily life."  Or you are thinking, "Where are the pictures of Braeden in all this snow we just got?  This is boring."

And that's okay.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, this blog is full of surprises and variety.  But all of them have the same purpose: to help make a difference in this world.

Thanks for reading.  But only if you want to....

Braeden stomps in puddles because he wants to

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Little Chucker

When deciding on Braeden's middle name, I first picked Charles.  That was my Grandpa Wilbur's middle name.  

The May before Braeden was born, I was in North Dakota, the state where Grandpa Wilbur lived and passed in 1986.  I didn't know him very well because I was so young, but he came to visit me that May of 2014 while I slept on my aunt and uncle's couch.

It was Grandpa's 100th birthday, and my mom and I went to visit his grave that day.  I felt a coolness behind me as I tried to sleep on my side with a little bun in my oven.  I knew instantly that it was him.

He told me I was having a boy.

I smiled.

So when Braeden was born, I had the inclination to brand his middle name after Grandpa Wilbur Charles.  However, my own father is still alive.  My wonderful Daddio Philip.  I figured he would be honored, too, so I switched it to Braeden Philip to carry on that legacy.  All from the convenience of my hospital bed.

Why am I telling you this?

Because "Chuck" lives on in Braeden.  He is a rock chucker to the max.  He chucks each rock enthusiastically and deliberately.  Like each one is his first and last.

Double-fisting before the double chucker

Luckily Bryce has a beach nearby where we can go, so Brady P. can satisfy his obsession... in April!  There is no place to sit on a rock beach near open water in the Harbor right now.  I have looked.

Thanks Bryce, for finding a beach, chucking with us and capturing the moments (all photos on this post courtesy of Bryce).

Watching Braeden do this is inspiring.  He is in his element, no doubt.  The moment he sits (or stands) on the beach, he  scoops up a rock and tosses is in.  Giddily.  Merrily. Seriously.  Like he means it.

It's so inspiring, that anyone around has to join in for a few.

B and me in rock-tossing bliss

Over and over and over and over again.  The other day we sat out for almost two hours, and he still disagreed when we said it was time to leave.

"Three more rocks, Braeden," is always my cue to inform him that we are about to leave.  Then we have to say good-bye to the rocks and lake, so he knows that we are really leaving.

He still disagrees.

And that is a nice way to say that sometimes he throws himself into the rocks and screams in protest.  Sometimes he comes reluctantly.  But he always disagrees.  At minimum.

I can't blame him.  Who wants to leave Lake Superior?  Who wants to leave the beach?  Who wants to stop doing their favorite thing in the world?

Certainly not Braeden.

He could sit there all day in mild to warm weather.  He doesn't even know he is hungry until we get inside.

I really wonder if he might be the first Major League baseball pitcher with Down syndrome.  Not that we watch sports, but he's got mad skills.

It is in him.  My little Chuck.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Say Whaaat?

Well, spring break is over, and I got my little boy back.  I haven't worked my life around a spring break since I was in college, and now, here I am, planning around my little boy's school.

Because he is in school -- for the most part.

And he is learning.  A lot.

For much of his life, he's been living with only me.  Unless we are visiting family, I feel like it's just been B and me.  I know he thinks I am cool, and he loves me, but I am his mom.  He needs to branch out.  See other faces.  Hear other voices.  Receive different perspectives.

School has been awesome for that.  He sees and interacts with other kids.  He works with other teachers.  He is part of a social hierarchy, if you will, whether he knows it or not (because, as the youngest, he is on the bottom.  Ha!).

He is working so hard on talking.  So hard.  He will now imitate me and others as they slowly speak a word to him.  He intently moves his mouth and voice while he watches their lips and listens to their sounds.

He can say some short words and even some people's names! And he certainly enjoys the thunderous applause when he nails a word.  

I'm so proud of him.

Of all the areas a child with special needs gets tested in, speech was his weakest.  And actually, it is the only area in which he qualifies for continuing special education because his current level is less than half where a normal child would be.

His struggle to speak does not come as a surprise.  In fact, I started sign language with him at two months old in preparation.  He used his first sign just before he turned one. "More," he signed when he wanted more food.

I nearly fell off my chair.

But here's where the struggle is apparent in him.  He is so smart.  So smart.  He can point to nearly any color, shape, letter, number, animal, object or person you ask.  But he can't say it himself.

So when he wants one of those things, he can't always express it, unless he has a sign or a combination of sounds that someone recognizes.

It frustrates him.

But even more than that, I think he feels a bit inadequate about it.  He sees other kids (sometimes younger) say what they want.  He watches adults converse.  He knows exactly what he wants, but can't always convey it.

And let me tell you, when he knows exactly what he wants, that is exactly what he wants, and nothing else will do.  For those things, I make sure he has a way to communicate to me, or he would probably spend time pounding his fists on the floor in a tantrum.  Luckily, that is rare.

And luckily, he is trying and learning at an accelerated rate.  His ability to even try a sound has taken off in the last few months.  His ability to make the sound correctly has doubled.  And his desire to try each word someone might say is remarkable.

For all this, I thank his speech therapist, Miss Dawn.  I thank his grammies and grampies who work so hard with him.  I thank his teachers who work with him one-on-one.  I thanks the students who take extra time to learn his signs, interact with him and speak clearly to him.  I thank each person who has watched him in my absence because they take that time to learn his signs and make him feel comfortable.

I also have to thank myself.  It's been a lot.  Trial and error for extra programs.  Learning some sign language myself.  Using extra patience to pay close attention to that magical little boy who just wants to be heard.

It's  a lot for everyone involved, but it's so rewarding.

And someday, he will tell us all about it.  He will blow our minds with the things he has to say... the things he knows... because there is much wisdom in his eyes.

Thanks for reading and learning with me.  As a present, here is a picture of him splashing in puddles.

Splashing through the puddles