Sunday, August 03, 2008

August 3, 2008...one year ago

The following is something I wrote a year ago and never published. I thought now would be a good time just so I can see what's stayed the same and what's changed. Time sure flies...

Meet Jakob


We're exactly four weeks from Jakob's sixth birthday. My little buddy is gonna be six. I can't believe it. He weighs almost 60 pounds and is so tall. He doesn't get that from his father, he's short. He gets that from my Dad, he's 6'4. He does have his father's eyes, toes and fingers. But the rest is me. He's a little me in a lot ways...the blond hair, the nose, the big space between his front teeth and the onery little grin. He's smart too, definitely also from me.

His hair is kinda long for a boy. I've never wanted to cut it short. Occassionally, people will refer to him as "she"...sometimes I correct them, most often, I don't. He used to have tight, platinum curls. Now it's more dirty blond and pretty straight with a little curl at the ends. Adorable, I tell ya.

His growth spurts are really obvious. He goes through these cute, chubby phases...mostly in his belly. He'll sit down and little fat rolls will appear. Just when I think that we need to go buy clothes in a bigger size, he'll sprout up and everything still fits. I like the chubby phases the best since that's when he looks more like my baby than my growing-up-too-fast son.

Jakob has a little button nose and a tiny birthmark on his right cheek. His eyes are brown and his complexion is pretty fair (pasty like his mom).

He has the most contagious smile and infectious laugh. There's no greater joy than hearing the laugh that comes all the way from deep in his belly. It has the power to turn the worst of days into a beautiful celebration of life.

Just looking at him, he appears to be a typical kid. By spending a few minutes with him, it's obvious that he's anything but typical.

In his almost six years, he's never spoken more than one or two words. He lets us know what he wants by dragging us to it most of the time. He uses some sign language and has recently started using a communication device that speaks for him...he just has to tell it what to say. Sometimes, he just screams or squeals this really loud, high-pitched squeal that shoots down the spine. We prefer all the other means over that one and I'm pretty sure he does too. He only whips that one out when nothing else seems to work or he's being really adament about something.

Jakob's not crazy about loud noises, bright lights or anything that might be startling. Vacuuming or using a mixer in this house can be quite an adventure.

He rarely takes to strangers, unlesss they understand exactly what they're getting themselves into. With the right approach, he can be extremely enagaging. He's much better with kids than adults. In fact, I think he has a couple of girlfriends at school. I caught them hugging on the playground one day. It was so sweet. I sat in my car and cried.

Jakob doesn't like his space to be invaded or his things to be moved out of place. He's not a kid that you grab, tickle, throw up in the air and spin around...unless he's totally prepared for you to do that. And if he has a specific spot for his cd player, then that's where it goes, at all times. I can move it but he'll put it right back. And if I try to put a favorite toy away, he'll not give up until I get it out and put it back where he says it goes. RIght now, there are specific spots in our house for approximately 37 of his things...give or take a dozen.

Jakob definitely has his own agenda...it's what he wants to happen when he wants it. He likes to be in charge. He's very much in touch with his wants, not-wants, likes and dislikes and doesn't have much interest in trying new things. He's pretty set in his ways. He also likes to let me know what he does and doesn't want me to do. He prefers that I don't sing along with his music (in the car or on the tv) and that the food I'm eating doesn't get too close to him.

It's amazing that he's grown as much as he has considering his diet only consists of five different food items. It's cookies and maybe a banana for breakfast, four hot dogs for lunch (that he eats with a fork) and a huge pile of macaroni and cheese for dinner (that he eats with his fingers). He snacks on chocolate chip cookies and fruit juice snacks. All five of these foods are very specific brands and flavors. He knows if we try to slip him a turkey dog or tropical flavored fruit juice snacks instead of the fruit medley flavored ones. And he's able to tell just by taking one look at it. If it ain't his usual, he'll refuse it immediately (usually with one of those spine-tingling squeals).

One word that guarantees a squeal is "no", a word I've learned to use sparingly. This is another one that he gets from me. I'm 38 and still don't like to hear that word. If I'm going to be told "no", it better be followed by a good explanation of why and I better be given an alternative that is equally as pleasing to me as what I was being told "no" to. Since that's what works best for me, I use the same method for "no" with Jakob. I simply say "yes" as often as possible.

I've decided that I'm not gonna look at the water bill at all this summer. I can only imagine how many gallons come flowing out of my backyard hose every day. From the looks of the mud pit we have going out there, I'd guess we're going through quite a lot. Jakob is big with water this summer. All kinds of water. Water in his little baby pool, water in his water table, water going down the 2 slides on his swingset and he even waters the mud. It's water, water, everywhere. I recently got him one of those inflatable water slides...just a little one and he loves it (the main cause of the mud pit). I'm not sure what he likes more...going down the slide and playing with the water as it pools at the bottom or watching it inflate and deflate. Inflating and deflating are pretty popular too. One thing is for sure, every time we head out to the back yard, there's gonna be some nudity on the deck. I'm so glad he's finally learned that he needs to wear his swimsuit if he's going to play in the water. Last summer we were doing a lot of laundry, loads and loads of wet muddy clothes. Maybe next year, he'll get naked in the house. I'm sure the neighbors will appreciate that.

The whole backyard scene has a definite routine...to be followed precisely. I attach the hose to the waterslide, tie up the air-release hole on the slide and turn on the blower. Once the waterslide is fully inflated, I'm told to turn on the water (he signs and tries to say "water"...it sounds like "ah, uh"). I turn on the hose and it's party time. He'll watch the bottom of the silde fill up with water and then he'll slide down it, usually no more than 3 or 4 times. Then he tells me "all done" and "off"...I untie the air release and turn off the blower. He giggles like crazy and jumps up and down as it deflates and continues to spray water. Once it'e completely deflated and he's had a minute or two to watch the spraying water, he tells me "off" and I shut off the hose. He's done with the waterslide and ready to move on to the water tables and his little pool. He unscrews the hose from the waterslide and walks to hose over to his little pool and tells me to turn the hose back on (he signs and says "ah, uh"). He puts a little water in his little pool and a little more in his water tables. He'll play in the water tables for a brief period and then he hauls the hose to the swingset. He'll climb up the stairs dragging the hose, watering each step as he goes. Once up there, he immediately runs the water down the tube slide. He gets it exactly as wet as he wants it and slides down. He loves to watch water flowing so he'll stand at the bottom and jump and squeal as the water runs down the slide and into the grass. Always on the move, he's back up the swingset and heading over the bridge to the other slide, dragging the hose with him. He'll get to the top of the that silde and start looking for me. He says "up, up, up" and sticks his foot out at me. I'll grab him by the ankle and count "1,2,3, go" with him and I'll pull him down the slide. He thinks that's pretty funny. Then he'll watch that water run down for a few minutes before he heads to the sandbox (which is such a treat since he's soaking wet). He loves to dig his hands in the sand, pick up as much as he can, hold it up and just watch it fall. Sometimes he throws it and sometimes he just lets it slip through his fingers. Either way, it's obvious by his little squeals that he's loving every minute of it. While he's in the sandbox, I retrieve the hose and fill up his little pool and wait for him to be done in the sand. When he exits the sandbox, he heads for the pool and the hose. Most of the time, I can get him to let me hose all the sand off of him. I have to count backwards from ten so he understands how much longer he has to put up with me before it's over. Then it's back to the watertables for a few minutes, maybe a dip in the little pool and he's done...or he could go through the entire routine one more time, if he's feeling up for it. At the end, I always have a naked kid on my deck who rarely waits until he's dry to go back in the house. That's the routine and it will happen in that order every time. He likes it that way, it comforts him.

Jakob just loves being outside, he always has. Even as an infant, he was his happiest in the fresh air. He loves to go for walks, run sprints in the back yard and be close to water. He's a nature kid.

Music is another one of Jakob's favorites. He's really expanding his interest in children's songs. BINGO was forever his number one and is still a favorite but he seems to equally enjoy "Where is Thumkin" and the "Wheels on the Bus". "Five Little Monkeys" is also guaranteed to make him smile...as long as I don't try to sing along. He always appreciates some good classical music whenever he needs to relax, sometimes in the mornings and afternoons and always before bed. That music is always accompanied by calming video (ususally of water). Sometimes, he tries to play along with the music on his piano that his Grandma and Grandpa got him for Christmas last year. He takes lessons and even knows a few songs (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, chopsticks). That's another thing that I'm not allowed to do...play his piano or sing along as he plays. Party pooper.

It seems from birth he's had a strong affection for letters and numbers. Nothing beats the alphabet (caps and lower case) whether it's a puzzle, a work of art or something he wrote himself. He's perfected his art of writing letters on whitebards, index cards and big pads of paper. I've saved several large books of his work. Someday I may have them framed and sell them, I think they're worth a fortune. Some of his alphabet work also includes 1-10. I'll charge a little more for those since people would be getting 2-for-one, letters and numbers. I have a few sheets of colors that he's done as well. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and he's recently added pink to the list. That's the whole rainbow plus one so I'm not sure how much to charge for that. A whole rainbow should be worth the big bucks. He just loves writing his letters. It calms him. There's a definite beginning (Aa) and a definite ending (Zz) so he knows exactly where to start, how long it will take and when it's done. It's a comfort to him and it brings him peace. And it's cute...especially his lower case "g" and his lower case "q". Those letters are unlike any I've ever seen...worth big bucks, I'm tellin' ya.

No matter where or when, Jakob's top choice has always been movies. Movies for Jakob include Baby Einstein, Baby Genius, Signing Time and a little Sesame Street. He used to to totally get into Elmo but not so much anymore. He just loves all the sights and sounds in videos with classical music. If the movie has pretty music and letters or words that pop up on the screen, he's in seventh heaven. He can watch the same movie 3 or 4 times in a row. This is one I get too...I'll watch Star Wars over and over and over. Movies are an every-day activity around here.

I figured out that Jakob was reading last Christmas. I got him this teddy bear that read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and it had the book to go along with it so he could read along. Jakob had no problem keeping up and would point to the words as the cute bear said them. I always loved that story...and I continued to love it and listen to it until the end of June. That's when he finally let me put it away. I tried several times prior to June but it was one of those situations described earlier. The minute he'd walk into the house, he'd check to make sure it was sitting in the foyer 14 inches from the wall. If it wasn't there, he'd grab me, drag me to the spot where it was supposed to be and give me this pathetically sweet "Mom, where is it" look. I never can resist that look. And it obviously brought him so much joy so I'd get it back out. He's moved on to books on cd. He reads along with some Dr. Seuss classics, "Moonbeam Bear", "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and "Opposites are Fun". In all, there are probably 10 different books that he'll read which provides a lot more variety than just "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". I know exactly where that bear is and it'll be ready for him around Thanksgiving. For now, I'll enjoy "Fidgety Fish".

As far as fun physical activity for the kid, nothing compares to jumping. At one point, I had the big trampoline in the backyard and three small ones inside, one for each floor of the house. He busted two of them so we're down to just the one. It goes back and forth between the living room and the family room and sees a lot of action. It's another one of those things that calms him, helps him relax. He loves it. Jumping used to be an all-day thing, now he just jumps when he really needs to. But it's definitely a popular activity.

Swinging has become something that he digs. He has two different kinds of swings in the basement, a cocoon-like one and a long skinny one that he can lay on. Jakob spends a lot of time in the basement, it's his little world down there complete with a big white board, a tv and lots of pillows that he can bury himself under. He loves to be smooshed in those pillows...another calming activity. There's plenty for him to do down there. All of his home-based therapy takes place in the basement, away from all the noise and activity going on upstairs. Whenever one of his therapists shows up, he heads for the basement door. He knows it's party time. He loves his therapists, they're his best friends.

Jakob is happiest when he knows what his schedule looks like. It's a great comfort for him to know what's coming next, whether it's lunch, therapy, school or the bathroom. A schedule and a set routine make the difference between a 2-squeal day or a 500-squeal day. 500-squeal days happen when there are big transitions like from the school-year to summer vacation then back to school. Getting him into the new routine of different places at different times with different people usually takes a couple of weeks but he always adjusts. It just takes that long for him to figure out that what we're asking him to do is fun. Once he sees the light, he's all about it.

Occaionally he'll develop a little routine within his routine. I just discovered one of those last week on the interstate on the way to his favorite therapy place. It seems that Jakob has a lane preference and is very specific about when I merge into that lane. The squealing starts as soon as he's decided it's time for me to move. He leans toward the lane that he wants me in and squeals. Sometimes, I get a little point in the direction he wants me to go. It's hysterical. I've turned it into a little game and use it as an opportunity for him to try to say the words that he knows he wants to say. I tell him to point and say "that way" and I hear from the backseat ' "a, aye". If the lane is clear, I merge. If there's a car there, I tell him "wait for blue car (or red truck)" and repeat it until we pass the car. Then, as we pass, I tell him, "say "bye, bye, blue car" and I hear "be, be, ooh, ahh". It's so sweet and he just giggles...I much prefer that to the squeal.

By the way, Jakob knows every route to every place he regularly goes. Taking a different route isn't an option. I prepare for a big squeal if I take a turn that he's never seen or doesn't know. Whenever we try to go someplace new, I'm always prepared to bail quickly just in case the squealing escalates. I swear he knows how to get to my parents house in Illinois...every exit. Unreal.

He's also great at remembering where I parked the car. We could be in the parking lot at Disneyworld with 30,000 cars and he's know exactly where to go. Amazing.

He loves eskimo kisses and is still attached to the blankie he started sleeping with when he was a baby, even though it's the fourth one we've owned... same brand, same blankie, same color. He has two of them right now but only likes the green one.

My life with Jakob is never boring or dull. He keeps me on my toes and I've become very attentive to detail. Upon entering any room, I scout for potential dangers and anything that will make him mad, scared or overly excited and I prepare for any possible reaction that he may have. It's one big adventure and a huge learning experience for both of us. I hope he's learning as much from me as I'm learning from him.

Jakob is my greatest joy and the biggest blessing I've ever received. I just love him. He inspires me.

Two weeks ago, Jakob lost his first tooth...bottom, front. It had been loose for awhile and the way he'd move it around really grossed me out. I was concerned that he might swallow it or it would fall out while he was playing and it would be lost forever. I was sitting next to him while he was eating his nightly pile of macaroni and cheese and he started wiping his fingers on the tablecloth (something I'd never seen him do before). I asked him what he was doing and when I looked at him, I noticed a little blood on his lip. By the time I looked back down, he had put the tooth right next to my hand. I told him, "thanks, buddy, I was worried about that".

My little buddy is gonna be six. I can't believe it.

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