Saturday, November 28, 2009

Asher's World

asher waits for his birthday in december when he will be excited to have a treasure hunt he will have lots of presents in trains he will be 5 years old now asher will listen so asher will invite his friends names t and r j d j and c s m s and asher has ten kids and asher will be happy thank you asher

asher has to make some cake so asher need some presents asher needs some thomas trains asher will have lots of trains asher is 5 years old asher choose the chocolate cake he love chocolate asher wonder if kids coming after asher goes to school he will have a party asher need to go to the present store whiff mommy asher has to listen asher will be for halloween as thomas

Welcome Asher!

We have a new permablogger on Just Your Average American Family. He is 4 1/2 years old and will be mostly writing on transportation issues (Thomas), education (preschool) and cultural traditions (his birthday). We can't wait to hear his insights on these subjects and many more. Hopefully his punctuation and grammar will improve with time. Blog administrators will keep their intense and compulsive need to edit copy at bay for our youngest blogger. Welcome Asher, so glad you could join us!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

early thanksgiving morning

I am up early to finish cooking and get the big bird in the oven. Asher is with me. Noe and Ed sleep soundly. I am enjoying the early morning calm, the fog that lurks outside our living room windows. I told Asher that today was Thanksgiving and I asked him what he was thankful for. Trains and toys and Noe. I think he added that last one for me. We're working on it. Later today I will take him to help with a local food drive. I don't think his little self can really understand what it would be like to have an empty refrigerator and cupboards. And honestly, I don't think I fully understand either.

Here are a few things I am grateful for this year:

-Noe's new ABA-VB program and the rapid progress he has made in it. Communication with your child is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
-the stellar teachers and therapists both Noe and Asher have this they ever have to leave us?
-my cute little house and its new cute little interest rate (4.85% - will we ever move? Probably, but I'll enjoy it for now)
-Ed's continued employment in an extremely volatile industry
-that our country is headed by a strong, smart and virtuous leader
-the town we live in and its strong and diverse community and having everything I need within walking/biking distance
-health insurance...may we soon never have to fear being without it
-the loving embrace of extended family...even if they're a coast away
-books and podcasts and good tv.....things that distract me from Noe's therapies and Ed's work schedule... both which keep me at home... alone.... more than I would like right now
-exercise, my natural prozac
-a steady and loving husband

What are you thankful for this year?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fat City!

Last night, the boys and I were chilling out in the living room just before bedtime when I had the most random childhood memory. I remembered that when I was little, my dad taught us kids to tackle him in hugs whenever he shouted "FAT CITY!"

I don't know the exact orgins of this Rasmussen tradition but I can guess. I remember my dad wore an old ragged Fat City cafe t-shirt that he probably received from my Grandpa Razz when he delivered milk to the SW Portland eatery. I'm sure one of us kids came up to him, just like Asher does to me now, and asked, "what's Fat City?" And the rest is history. I also recall that when it was basketball season, Rip City would often stand in for Fat City.

So I decided to try and pass on the tradition, right then and there. I told the boys I was going to shout Fat City and then they were to come tackle me in hugs. It kind-of worked. I had one very enthusiastic 4-year old, a rather indifferent 6-year old and a stuffed bear who came to give hugs whenever I shouted our code word. We did it a few times and moved on to our bedtime routine.

But I suddenly got how wonderful a large family could be and why anyone would want to have so many kids. Five little bodies showering you with love and laughter and hugs every time you shouted the words. I would have to say that it almost makes up for all that extra laundry and college tuition.

Monday, November 16, 2009


A couple days ago Ed woke up to Noe hovering over him in bed, signing for "drink." Who knows how long he had been standing there, patiently using his sign while Ed slept soundly. That has been one downside to Noe's use of sign language, but there have been many many upsides.

Finding a communication system has been one of the most difficult things about Noe's autism. When words weren't coming, we started him out on sign language. Unfortunately, his difficulty with imitation and motor planning kept him from making much progress. A couple of really wonderful preschool teachers taught him PECs (Picture Exchange Communication). He was able to expand his language and communicate his needs. Unfortunately, we hit a rut this summer with PECs. Despite great efforts to keep PECs reinforcing and fun, Noe began to hate his PECs book. He did, however, spontanteously begin to use some signs with us. Simple signs, like "more" and "candy", that he had previously learned. He also began verbalizing while he used his signs...something that he had never consistently done with PECs.

We decided to go back to sign language. I can't tell you how I agonized about the decision. Noe could not afford to waste any more time waffling between communication systems. I could not fail Noe again.

There were a few things that factored into our decision. We follow Noe's motivation, and he was motivated to learn and use sign language. His imitation and motor planning skills are much improved now, so he is able to learn the signs much faster than before. And most autism teachers prefer to use sign in the classrooms, very few teachers are well-trained in PECs. Last year, I had PECs training for his teacher written into his IEP. But Noe has been getting a new teacher every year, and none of them are ever properly trained in PECs. It seemed like a never-ending fight with the schools.

Since we started formally teaching sign language this fall, Noe is learning about one new sign a week. Most importantly, he is using these signs independently, and retaining them. It has been such a great thing for him. He is so much more communicative, and is naturally trying to approximate words, although his pronunciation is still poor.

It's funny. When someone learns that Noe is mostly non-verbal, they often get very sad for me. They think that I've never had a conversation with my child, when in fact, we talk every day...just not with words. Sign language is just allowing Noe to talk with the rest of the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tell Me A Story

Lately, Asher has been requesting stories. Stories without books. He wants me to tell him tales of his train friends on the Island of Sodor. He gives me a title, "Frank's Day Off" or "Peter Sam and the Incline" and I must instantly come up with an imaginative, action-packed story using proper train names and train terminology. I have no imagination. I feel my brain literally stretching inside my head to come up with original plot lines. The whole ordeal gives me a headache.

But at the same time I love it.

Asher curls up on my lap, puts his little arms around me, and listens attentively. Occasionally, he will whisper hints if I misname a train or mix up my Island of Sodor geography. As soon as I gasp out a final "The End", Asher always says, "that was a really great story, Mommy." Even if it really wasn't.

It is all happening so fast. Next year he will be in full-day kindergarten. Soon he will outgrow my lap completely. Thomas the Train and Curious George will be replaced by.....I can't even guess....but it won't be nearly as wholesome. The only thing I know for sure is that my days of snuggles and story telling are numbered.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Married to a sports journalist

Scene: early Monday morning, our bedroom

Me: Don't forget, Noe has speech therapy this's your turn to take him.

Ed: Actually, can you take him? I have an interview this afternoon.

Me: (grrr.....). Is it really important? I have a ton of stuff to do.... who are you interviewing, anyways?

Ed: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Me: Oh. Crap. You win.

Catch Ed blogging on Wizards Insider, including his upcoming book review of When the Game Was Ours.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

happy birthday to me

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like to be surrounded by lots of friends and family on their birthday and those who don't. I am one of the latter.

My alone time is treasured these days. This year, I was inspired by this friend's weekend away so I spent the day in the District doing a few of the things that I've wanted to do, instead of the usual outings tailored for the boys.

My favorite stop ended up being the Library of Congress, and specifically, an exhibit on Herblock, the famous editorial cartoonist. He spent most of his career at the Washington Post, which began in 1929 during the stock market crash and ended shortly before 9.11. I loved looking at his images hung on canvas. They are nothing like the cursory drawings that you look at in newsprint form. It was like taking a walk through modern US History, in cartoon form.

Late in the afternoon I met up with Ed in Arlington for a meal at our favorite Peruvian hangout. Later in the evening, we had cupcakes at a local bakery because I refuse to make my own birthday cake and one never magically appeared on my kitchen counter. It was a nice, albeit overpriced (really $4 for a cupcake? We're NOT in New York) treat.