Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Name Game

Whew.  Brady P. and I just returned to Copper Harbor from almost two weeks on the road.  This past weekend I white-knuckled my life to the Twin Cities of Minnesota to take IMBA's mountain bike Instructor Certification Program.  I passed!  Need a lesson in mountain bike fundamentals?  Look me up when you're in da Harbor.

Brady P. was safe and sound at Grammy and Grampy Rogers house in Northwest Wisconsin while I was away.  Their house is more in the boonies than Copper Harbor.  I always feel so relaxed there, and he loves to be there, too.

Though he shudders each time their rooster crows (the rooster attacked Grammy while she was holding Brady P. one time), he will run around and chase the chickens on their property.  They also have two cats and a dog.  The female black lab will lick him incessantly if we don't shout, "May!  That's enough!"  He tries to push her away, too.  She is a non-stop lover.

With the cats, Braeden will stick out both his hands, put one on their shoulders, one on their hip area, then push them to the ground.  I think he really likes to exert his will and change the physical position of others (especially something smaller than himself).  He sure likes to "push" people off the couch!  I'm just glad the cats allowed him to do this without inserting any of their sharp appendages into his flesh.

Grammy and Grampy Rogers live along a gravel road.  Braeden knows just where it starts off their driveway, and he loves to go for walks.  Just like in Copper Harbor, he will sit for breaks, but I think he is building up his stamina.  To keep things moving forward, Grampy Roy made up the hat game.  Grampy throws his hat like a frisbee down the road, then Braeden races him to the hat.  Whoever makes it there first gets to throw it next.  They go on and on down the road, giggling all the way.

He got to play at a couple different parks while he was visiting.  The swing is usually his favorite at each park.  He runs right up to the little kid safety swings, points and says, "Eh!"  But he has tried the big kid swing when that wasn't an option.  Hanging on for dear life, he did pretty well.

Brady P. also got to visit a farm.  At this farm, he saw dogs,  chickens, horses, cows, pigs and ducks.  He was pretty cantankerous when we were there, so I don't think he spent as much time enjoying their presence as he otherwise would have.  But he pointed and waved to all the animals anyway.

Speaking of pointing and waving -- oh, my.  This last story takes place in a clinic waiting room (Grammy was getting her eyes checked for an hour).  This experience illustrates the essence of how my life will continue to evolve with Brady P. by my side.

We were in the waiting room which nearly wrapped around the whole third floor of the facility.  I started by plopping him on a little kid chair, and he immediately picked up a book from the table.  This one made animal sounds, and the elephant was his favorite that day.  Probably because it was the most abrasive to everyone else around.

You know how people come and go in a waiting room? They sit down as far from the next people as they are comfortable, and usually start checking their phone.  Brady P. let no phone checking happen that day.

He went up to every single person, tapped their knee, looked up and them and smiled as if to say, "Remember me?  I'm Braeden!  What's your name?"  Luckily, 99 out of 100 people are charmed by his sincerity and curiosity.  

When he points to their face, I have to ask the person what their name is because that means he wants to know it.  They will tell us, so I can repeat their name as he points to them, me and himself.  This is another of his favorite games.  I guess we could call it the name game.  He absolutely has to know what someone's name is.  Then when I quiz him by asking, "Where is Jan? (the lady we just met)  Where is Braeden?  Where is Mama?"  He points to the right person each time.  Sharp little tack.

Without getting too long-winded with this experience, let me summarize that we met every single person in the hall that day.  He approached every person who sat down.  He hugged the legs of each person who walked by.  He pointed until they said their name.  He made a few friends that would probably remember him if they ever saw him again.

By default, I met a lot of people too.  I can sense how my life is opening up as we encounter these scenarios.  Good thing I already know that Brady P. and I are going to help save the world.  It will be helpful to know everybody's name. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wisconsin Dairy Air

Though I could be content sitting on the beach throwing rocks all day, sometimes life beckons.  And it makes me get my butt out of the rocks.

This past weekend, Brady P. got to visit Grammy and Grampy Wais in Wisconsin while I drove to Cadillac, MI for my Michigan Outdoor Writer's summer conference.  Not going to lie, it's always nice to do Amanda things once in a while.

Grammy and Grampy had lots of plans for Brady P.  They went to Glendale Farms to pick strawberries.  He got to do all the things I loved when I went to pick as a kid: pet the animals (goats, cows and bunnies), ride the tractor wagon all snuggled up with Grampy and eat strawberries until his face and hands were red.  Ah, the simple pleasures of the summer.

Sampling the strawberry fields

He got to sit out in his pool on the hot days while Grammy blew bubbles for him.  He has surprisingly good aim popping them as they go by.  He even popped two at once -- one with each hand!

Brady P. got to see lots of cows, too.  He visited the farm my brother used to work at.  Sure was a lot of mooing going on there!  We are still working on the "moo" sound.  He giggles when I say moo to him.

Once I got there, I got to chase him up and down the sidewalks.  Something about a sidewalk -- perhaps the systematic cracks -- keeps him going and going instead of stopping every twenty feet.  I had to try to keep up with him!

In the sunshine, he spotted the ants on the sidewalk.  He studied them closely in his little squatting position.  Tracing their path with his finger and following them with his eyes.  Any passersby might wonder what he was doing staring at the ground so intently.

Up in the flower gardens in my parents' backyard, we walked through the blooming beauties and sniffed and "ahhed" until Brady's little chin was covered in pollen.  I started teaching him how to smell flowers when he was too young to really know how to sniff.  I would show him how to do it by taking a dramatic whiff, then saying, "ahhhh."  He would stick his little nose into the blossoms without a sound, but now he takes a good sniff.

I can't tell you how proud it makes me when he walks up to a flower all on his own, leans in and sniffs.  I find such joy in his appreciation for the plants and how stinkin' cute he is among the flowers.  I guess I just need to teach him how to look for bees now!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Horses and Donkeys and Ducks, Oh My!

Whenever someone asks me what words Braeden says, I answer, "Well, he can make farm animal sounds!"  And they usually nod like that's cool.  Better than nothing!

When I say sounds, I mean sounds.  If you ask Brady P. what a pig says, he won't say "oink."  He puts his little fist up to his nose, plugs his nostrils with two knuckles and inhales, making an impressive pig snort.  I like to show this one off for entertainment value and some good chuckles.

He pants like a puppy.  He shouts, "I-lie-lie-lie" to crow like a rooster.  And for the horsey, he sticks out his tongue and lets the raspberry sound fly.  At first I didn't understand how he could flutter his tongue through his lips.  It took me a few tries to get it right myself.

It turns out that Braeden is obsessed with farm animals.  He loves all things farm, especially Old MacDonald and any person that could possibly be related to Old MacDonald.  

For instance, our milk carton has a picture of a young girl with blonde braids feeding her cow.  When I open the fridge with B nearby, he points up to the top shelf and shouts, "Eh!"  After a couple times, I realized he was pointing to little Miss MacDonald, as we now call her.  He makes me take the carton out, so he can give her a kiss and a hug.  Then we wave good-bye to little Miss MacDonald, and she goes back in the fridge.  I had to cut her out of an old carton, so he can see her in other parts of the house and the milk can stay cold.

One of his favorite animals is the horse.  It was his first animal sound, and one that he fervently points to in books or along the side of the road when we travel.  It turns out, there are three horses within a wagon-pulling distance from our house.  We went to visit them the other day.

I kept Brady P. in the wagon, so he didn't get electrocuted by the fence or run under the large animals' hooves.  They were eating when we stopped by.  

Have you ever watched a horse eat off the ground?  Their lips are like vacuum cleaners fluttering back and forth, sucking that grass right off the ground.  They really clean it up!

About a minute after our arrival, they decided to check us out.  All three of them at once.  Luckily, my fear of horses has been waning, so I wasn't alarmed like I was when we visited the year before.  Braeden waved and told them what sound the horsey makes -- in case they weren't sure.

Horses visiting Braeden

Once they realized we didn't bring them any food, they went back to vacuuming grass.  We marveled for a while, but when the blackflies came out to eat us, I carted Brady P. back home.

On a different day we went to see the miniature donkeys at the Dapple-Gray B&B.  They are such sweet creatures.  I petted their furry noses, but Braeden wasn't ready.  He did get a bit brave while they were eating, though.

Watching the donkeys eat

He watched them eat for a while, then decided to throw rocks at them.  "Nope!" I called.  "We don't throw rocks at our friends."

After ignoring me, and hitting the fence with a couple more stones, it was time to go.

Our friend Staci, over at Into the Woods Mini Golf and Gardens (a great spot for mini golf, wandering through the flora and gathering with friends), started raising ducks this spring.  Braeden got to go visit when they were still duckling balls of fluff.  He fell in love with them.  He loved to pet them and watch them run around and peep.

Petting the balls of fluff

As they got bigger, he still liked to pet them and get as close as possible.  Now that they reached full-size, his favorite thing is to watch them flap their wings.  "The ducky is flapping her wings!" I tell him.  He claps after one of them gives him an elegant show.  Then he taps his right thumb to his left palm to sign "more."  So we wait for another flapper show.

Grown up ducks in the forget-me-nots
(Photo credit Staci Gibson)

Braeden won't willingly leave the ducks.  He would squat there all day at the door of their house waiting for a snuggle or a majestic flap.  Staci is great because she will encourage Braeden to feed and pet the ducks.  He's still a bit afraid to feed them from his hand, but we'll keep working on it.

I enjoy watching Brady P. interact with animals -- especially when he can reach out and touch them or visit them regularly in order to form a bond.  Animals are part of our world up here, so he gets a good dose.  Maybe we will meet the bears at the campground next!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Patience is a... Wait, Hold On

Before Braeden came along, I thought I was a patient person.  More patient than most, actually.  Thirteen years of bartending made me patient.  Teaching three-year-olds at the one-room schoolhouse tested and boosted my patience bank as well.

Then I had a baby.

Extra needs or not, newborns and children in general try our patience.  This is how Braeden has been trying mine lately.

We get our shoes on to go out to throw rocks.  I hold his hand as he proudly descends our eleven steps slowly but, well, slowly.  After the stairs, he lets go of my hand because he is a big boy, and he runs to the road with me sprinting after him.

"Stop!"  I shout.  "Take my hand, Braeden.  We're at the road."  He takes my hand and I kneel down beside him.  I turn my head to the left and point.  "Are there any cars coming this way?" I ask him as he points a stubby little index finger that way, too.  "Nope!"  I confirm.

I turn my head and point to the right.  "Are there any cars coming this way?"  He points that little finger to the right.  "Nope!"  I shout.  "Okay, we can cross the road!"  Hand in hand, we scurry across.

Once we're in the safe zone, he lets go of my hand and sits down.  "Braeden.  Do you want to go throw rocks?"

He puts both hand behind his head and bobs.  That means yes. 

"Okay, then.  We have to keep going.  Come on, Mister!"

He gets up and runs for about twenty feet down the gentle incline of the road.  Then he sits down again.  I know this is how it's going to go for the rest of the way.  On the days when we go straight down two and a half blocks to the beach by the Harbor Haus, I am okay with it.  On the days we have to go seven blocks to Jamsen's Bakery so we can get a cheddar bacon scone, I get a little impatient.

"Braeden, do you want to go throw rocks with mama?"

He knocks his knuckles together several times -- our sign for rocks.

"Okay, then.  Come on. Let's go!"

He stands up without using his hands, so I clap.  Then he runs another twenty feet until he sees the loon whirlygig spinning in front of the Laughing Loon gift shop.  He plops down, staring up at it in awe.

Staring at the loon

Now I know we're going to be here for a while, so I describe parts of the loon to him.  "Here are the loon's wings.  They're spinning around!  Here is the loon's tail.  Here's the loon's beak."  Etcetera, etcetera.

When my tummy growls, I push it a little.  "Okay, bye bye, Loon!"  I announce.  "Wave good-bye, Braeden."  His floppy wrist waves to the loon, and he stands up.  He sprints down the road again, but this time I try to keep him upright.

"Jump!"  I shout, jumping over a crack in the pavement.  Braeden jumps when he reaches that crack.  "Here's another one.  Jump!"  And we both jump over.

Now I don't want this post to take as long to read as it takes us to get to the bakery, I mean, beach, so we'll just skip to the beach.  You get the gist.

While basking in Lake Superior's glory, we throw rocks and clap and make splooshing sounds.  We might see some kayakers, a freighter, a motor boat, an eagle or some ducks.  We always see seagulls and crows.  We both love to be there.  I can tell it's Brady P's happy place.

We linger as long as possible, but when I feel it's time to go, I tell him, "Three more rocks, Braed.  Then we have to go."  He shakes his head, but continues to throw until I count three splooshes.  Then I scoop him up and we turn around to stare at the lake and blow her a kiss.  Braeden is a good kiss-blower.

"Thank you, beautiful lake," I sing while we both wave.  "See you next time!"

Off we go for a trek back up the hill.  This will take half an hour, too, especially if we pass puddles or the spray-painted culvert sites with the neon numbers.  Then he has to point to each number a hundred times while I tell him which number it is.  But if I am lucky, he will let me carry him the rest of the way home.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Reader Tips

Hey!  I want you to get the most out of this blog, so here are some hints!

If you are viewing this on a mobile device, you mostly likely won't see everything this blog has to offer.  To see the sidebar info: Brady's picture, introduction, subscription information, search box and so on, click the little link at the bottom of your mobile screen that says "View Web Version."  See it?  The words will be tinier once you push it, but you'll be able to navigate, search, subscribe and more!

I plan to post every Wednesday.  It will help to get you through the week that way.  Ha!  So plan on that, and I will do my best.

Feel free to comment.  I do sometimes get inappropriate comments (can you believe that?), so they all have to get approved by me first.  Just know that I will get yours and approve it when I get a chance.  I am raising a toddler, you know!

Thanks for coming with us on our journey.  I look forward to advocating for people with Down syndrome, kids in general and Mother Nature.  We will see you Wednesday!