Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Balancing Acts

As each day reveals new facets of "who Lilli is," I am overwhelmed. I am living a typical stay-at-home-mom life, picking up messes and trying to keep everyone fed, clothed, healthy, and busy. (Note that I did not say happy. Sometimes I think it is my job to keep everyone happy, but really, that is not true. First of all, it is not possible. Second of all, being a good mom makes little people very UNhappy sometimes.) Mixed in between the regular every day stuff, I have these isolated miraculous moments throughout, with Lilli. Balancing the miracles with the mundane is a little mentally exhausting. I am constantly making decisions between the two. Pick up the two decks of cards Josh just threw all over the living room…or… type with Lilli about where she wants to go tomorrow on our weekly "field trip." Wash the pots piled high in the sink…or…go watch Lilli do double and triple digit math with Leslie and Morgan and try to capture it on video. Vacuum…or… ask Lilli a few questions about what she thinks about the book we read last night.

Needless to say, my house is a complete wreck. But Lilli's progress is thrilling.

I am trying to be very conscience of my words and actions toward Lilli. She does so many things that make us inclined to treat her like a toddler, but inside she is an intelligent eight year old. I do a quick mental check before I speak to her, thinking about my tone of voice and choice of words. She gets insulted easily. No one likes to be spoken to condescendingly, and now she finally can tell us how she feels about how people talk to her. The biggest challenge is how to say "No" and redirect her when she exhibits toddler-like behavior. She does this thing that many kids with autism do: she drags us around. She uses her whole body weight and grabs my arm to pull me to what she wants. Well, it's easier for her than talking, signing, or going to get a picture out of a book. It's definitely easier than getting the ipad and typing a sentence or two. Being pulled my toddler, Josh, and being pulled by eight year old Lilli at the same time makes it difficult for me to sort out my verbal reactions to the two of them. I have to make sure I respond to the "toddler-like" behavior in an I'm talking to an eight year old – voice when I say "Do not pull on me." But as she types more eight year old things like she wants to go to the mall and buy lip balm, it is getting easier to "see" an eight year old.

Even so, it is a huge challenge.

While I am reflecting on her latest unbelievable, typed revelation, she grabs the spoon I stirred my coffee with off the counter and starts to chew on it. As I typed the last few sentences, I heard running water in the bathroom. A familiar mad dash to the master bedroom, and there she was with the toothpaste tube in her hand and the faucet on full blast. She was in "I'm caught!" position, frozen in place next to my side of the bed. I never learn to keep that bedroom door shut. (See my post about Toothpaste on My Bed and Spoons in the Hamper.) Meanwhile I am daydreaming about how to assess her knowledge about math. The little we have "tested" her on is blowing me away, and I'm sure it is just the tip of the iceberg. All of this constant mental-checking and "where do we go from here" thinking is making my head spin.

Last night I read the first chapter of Little House in the Big Woods to Lilli. She chose it. I gave her the choice between the elementary school version (My First Little House Books – picture book) or the REAL thing. I have the boxed set. I have had it stored on the top shelf of Chloe's closet since she was born, waiting to relish the first time I could read it to my daughter at bedtime. Another shock of my life, I am reading it to Lilli first instead. I put the two on the floor next to each other, and she pointed to the thick, chapter book copy. Oh I know Chloe might like to listen to it too. But this is something special for just Lilli and me. We put Chloe to bed first because she gets up earlier for preschool. And, of course, I play up the whole, you are the oldest so you get to stay up, Lilli. She has to get something that Chloe doesn't get, and those perks are hard to find for Lilli. We sat on the couch and I read the entire first chapter to her. I had not read it in years. I did not remember that it goes into so much detail about Pa killing deer, hanging them in a tree so wolves cannot reach them, and skinning them for the smokehouse. They butcher a pig and Mary and Laura hit the blown-up pig's bladder back and forth like a balloon, and have a great time roasting the pig's tail over the fire. As I was reading it, I thought, no way is Lilli going to connect with this. What does she know about this stuff? Is she even interested? I tried not to interrupt myself to explain things as I was reading, because that can be annoying when someone is reading aloud. But there are big vocabulary words and concepts I am sure are new to her. Despite the entire chapter being about hunting and preparing meat to be stored for the winter, Lilli loved it. She grabbed my neck and squeezed it many times, laughing and putting her hand on her throat while I was reading. That gesture means she wants to say something but can't get it out. I kept on reading, not wanting to interrupt the moment by making her type.

This morning this was one of our conversations on the ipad. I typed the questions silently and she read and responded:

Me: "What was the first chapter about in the book I read to you last night?"

Lilli: "Makin met" ("Making meat.") – I love it.

Me: "What was the girl's name in the story?"

Lilli: "Lur"

Me: "Yes, Laura. Do you like the story so far?"

Lilli: "Yes"

Me: "What is the name of the book?"

Lilli: "In the woo"

Me: "Little House in the Big Woods. What was the name of the dog in the story?"

Lilli: "Jak"

Pretty cool, huh? Or as Lilli would type, "cul."

Yesterday, Leslie typed this question silently for Lilli to read and answer: "What are you most proud of doing?"

Lilli typed: "Being just me."
Little brother making a mess a minute. PJs don't match cause I'm behind with the laundry....oh well.

Not too much else I can say about this one.







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