January 2001 page 1 of 2
Monday 1 January

We went to see The Emperor's New Groove this afternoon at El Capitan in Hollywood, a restored old time movie theater with a pre-showing floor show, which Damian loved. It was pretty cool, I have to admit. The dancers were much better than I'd expected and there were far less huggable cartoon character moments than I expected. At the end, paper butterflies showered down from the ceiling like confetti. We were all enchanted.

Damian enjoyed the movie, too: at one point when something dramatic happened, he said, "Yikes!" But it was a long time for him to stay focused, especially in his napless state; by the end, he was snuggled into my shoulder, but still watching with complete attention. A successful afternoon jaunt, I'd say.

Tuesday 2 January

First day of preschool. Damian was exhausted, having gotten far too little sleep. To be expected with a time shift like this. I was awfully tired too. We got there early -- I wanted to make sure to avoid the parking jam and also give him a chance to settle into the room without facing a crowd of kids to boot. It worked: he saw the toys and jumped right in. He was completely fine for the first hour, hardly noticing me at all.

He got antsy during circle time, wanting to play with a toy. I restrained him, not knowing if it would be okay (turns out it was and I should let him next time). Then he ignored snack time and played with the toy in question. He was soon joined by two other kids.

Then we went out to the playground. Which was fun for Damian until a kid shoved him out of a ride-on toy car. I think this not only upset him, but threw him off, because after that he was only sporadically enjoying the free play. He fell once and sobbed for me. Then was okay, but started crying for no reason. Even after we came back inside, he was unhappy. I diagnosed exhaustion. Turns out it was also a wet diaper and hunger. I changed his diaper, gave him a rice cake, and read a book to him and he was absolutely fine. He started looking at books. Three other kids joined him. I was surrounded by two year olds reading to themselves.

Then he ran off to play with trucks, and transitioned to lunch without a hitch. He even ate the once-a-week pizza treat (two slices, actually -- he snitched one from another kid's plate at the end of lunchtime).

So all in all a success. We'll see how the mommy-getting-more-distant thing goes over the next few days.

Wednesday 3 January

Day Two of preschool. I was mostly invisible the first hour or so, except when Damian wanted help with something. I tried to redirect him to ask for help from the teachers, but with no luck. He did pay attention, though, when I told him their names and pointed each one out to him. He pointed to them in turn too.

He brought a book over to story time. Pretty funny, he sat in the circle with the other kids. They all listened to the teacher reading, but he read his own book in his lap. Different drummer...

When the kids went out for yard play, Miriam (the main teacher) suggested we moms stay behind, and she'd come get us if our kids called for us. Damian did call for me, but not for quite a while, and was apparently thoroughly enjoying blowing bubbles and stomping in the sandbox. He was third to ask. But after that, he wanted to stick real close for most of the rest of the morning (I think tiredness played a part there). Though Miriam did change his diaper (with me close by).

Miriam told me one of the girls, Simone, said to her about Damian, "he's quiet." So Miriam suggested Simone go say hi. So she did. Damian gave her a "you talkin' ta me?" look. But still, he looked and didn't ignore her entirely. That tells me he will get into the social scene after a while. I'm very pleased.

You'd think he'd crash after so much unaccustomed stimulation, but it was the opposite: he was wired, wouldn't take a nap till 4pm and only then because I coaxed him into settling on my shoulder. Kid was falling over but still wired.

Tonight he kept shouting "get out of here!" Not telling someone, but more like a "get outa heah!" exclamation of disbelief. It was very funny and we have absolutely no clue where he picked it up. Maybe the lead llama said it in The Emperor's New Groove?

Thursday 4 January

I made a tactical error: I told Damian I wouldn't be spending the whole morning with him in his classroom. He therefore kept checking in, insisting that I stick close. Even after I told him I would be there after all and that I'd be there as long as he needs me to be. Which is looking like it could be a while... He doesn't cling the whole time but he does periodically touch base and then go zooming off.

His teachers are getting to know his idiosyncracies, I think. Like having his diaper changed standing up. And how much he loves to read. It's becoming a trend in class: Damian sits down with a book and another kid spots him, comes over, pulls out a book. Then another... and soon there's a whole bunch of two year olds intent on their little board books. Too cute.

I think he was tired. He lay across my lap during story time. But he did listen to Miriam.

Jami came this afternoon. Damian was delighted to see her. Laughed a lot as they played. I think the familiar routine was welcome after the newness of school. She told me he was very talkative. I noticed that too. I think school is already having an effect. It's been a little hard for me, seeing how much more verbally communicative the other kids are, even the ones who are six months younger. I know Damian has the words, he's just too diffident or stubborn or something to use them to ask/respond. If school gives him this, it'll be such a huge blessing.

Friday 5 January

Damian would not sleep by himself last night. Dan would rock him and put him down, but the moment he got up from the bed, Damian would wake up and cry. I finally brought him to bed, where he snuggled into my armpit and fell asleep. I think he needs the extra comfort right now. School is a big deal.

No school on Fridays. We spent the whole day at home, mostly quiet together. I think Damian and I both needed a decompression day.

I've noticed he's starting to comment on books, not just quote from them. This afternoon, for example, I read him In the Night Kitchen. He pointed to the dough airplane flying up to the milk bottle. The words on the page are "up, up, up and over the top" but he said "airplane flying up." Small, maybe, but significant around here.

He loves spritzing the plants with the water bottles we keep for that purpose (well, we bought them to spritz the cat when he does something naughty, but they are technically for spraying plants). We keep the water bottles on top of the (tall) CD rack. Damian wanted access this evening, so he shook the CD rack till the bottles fell and he could grab them. Guess we'll have to put them somewhere else. Actually, he's been very good lately about spritzing the plants, only the plants and nothing but the plants, so maybe we'll even keep them in easy toddler reach.

Saturday 6 January

We had dinner at my step-uncle Jerry's house this evening; there were four children present, two a little younger than Damian. I think he found it a little overwhelming; he was pretty grouchy. He got upset at dinner, kept shouting "No! No! I mean it!" Turned out he wanted to get down and play, but god forbid he say "all done" or "get down." Oh well. But he fell in love with a dollhouse that had belonged to Jerry's daughters. He kept rearranging the furniture. He put the dog in the bathtub and so on. I'm so tempted to get him one and stock it with tiny furnishings...

Transitions have been a little tough for the past few weeks. He often protests when we stop the car, even though he's then fine about getting out. He protests when it's bathtime, then loves the bath. Protests when Dan carries him into his room to rock to sleep, then quiets and conks out. Go figure.

Sunday 7 January

Last night at Jerry's a six year old girl asked why Damian cries so much. I told her it was because he was tired, but I think the truth is more that he doesn't use words to ask for what he wants, so he whines instead. Dan and I have decided we need to be stronger about not letting him get away with this. All the whining and pointing and guessing drives us mental.

So today we tried to implement it by telling him he he could point or verbalize, but no whining. He got it. But pointing doesn't always work. He was pointing to the top of the dresser this morning. Dan asked if he wanted the big flashlight or the little one. He wouldn't say, not until Dan said "BIG flashlight or LITTLE flashlight or BOTH?" Damian said "both" and got both.

But tonight he pointed to the juice cup on my nightstand and absolutely refused to articulate the word no matter how much we coaxed. Instead of asking, he simply maneuvered around me and stretched his whole body so he could reach the cup. The lengths he'll go to to avoid saying a single simple word he's said a thousand times (but almost never as a request). I wish I understood.

Monday 8 January

School this morning: Damian wanted to keep walking past the classroom, fussed about going in until Miriam and I mentioned all the fun activities waiting for him inside. He changed his mind, went right in. He kept me near him at first (ten minutes or so), but then forgot about me. And I even told him I was going out for a few minutes and he was okay with that. So I left about three times for varying amounts of time (but all short -- I didn't want to abuse his trust). He was tired, though -- he got really upset about coming inside after yard time. I coaxed him out of it fairly quickly, but it's clear he needs to get on an earlier sleep cycle if he's going to be okay after I transition out of there. He gets clingy in the last hour as he tires.

He's still kind of a loner, off doing his own thing. Today all the kids ran over to sit in the circle for story time. All but Damian. He sat elsewhere reading a book. But partway through Miriam's storytelling, Damian noticed what was up, wandered over and plopped down in the middle of the group. I was delighted to see that.

As difficult as it is to see how much less verbally responsive he is than the other kids there, I can also see that he's becoming much more so just in the past week. I know, I keep saying that. I keep hoping for a change, but also his use of words does ebb and flow. I think/hope school will accelerate and solidify the trend. Today, for example, he asked me to "pick up" (pick him up to see a fishtank at Barney's) and to "help with toys" in his room. And when I talked to him this morning about what he was going to do in school, he repeated it all after me. Actually, he's done that several times in the past few days. Practicing conversation, memorizing what we're about to do, enjoying the mental exercise. He's caring more, though, that's the main -- only -- thing.

Tuesday 9 January

This has become the School Report. I suppose that's inevitable. And I'm glad I'm keeping track.

So. Today Damian held my hand walking down the hall, barrelled in to the classroom, still holding my hand (pulling me along). Did a circuit of the room. Still holding my hand. It took him a while to get into the swing of things, it was like he couldn't figure out what to do with himself so he kept coming over to sit in my lap. But by the second half, he was fine without me. I spent the last hour in the teacher's lounge. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday 10 January

I think he's got a virus -- he's hot to the touch and he's got less energy, and today he was very irritable. But he had a good morning at school. He wasn't grouchy there, just clingy. For a while. Less so than yesterday morning. I stuck with him until sometime in the middle of their yard time (around 10:45, I think), and then he was fine the rest of the time without me. This transition is actually working.

He was lying on his bed with Dan early this afternoon in lieu of a nap, chattering away. One of the things he said: "Daddy, I need a sun." (Or maybe "a son"??)

Later I was folding laundry and Damian was looking at his firetruck lift-the-flap book. He came to me with a cutout of three firemen. I knew what that meant, but then he said "can you fix?" I can't tell you how much it meant to me that he actually asked me, that he verbalized the request.

Shortly thereafter, he was playing with a train near me on the floor. He pulled out another, smaller train and said "big trains and little trains," but he then went on to say "black and white trains, blue trains, red trains, yellow trains all at a train party." (a takeoff on Go Dog Go). I cracked up. Then he sort of smushed one train into another and said, "Crash! into the train. Is broken." And then he said, "Baby train is not crying." (I guess it was being brave even though it was now broken??)

The major sore spot today: his slippers. He hated having them on but hated being simply sock-clad more. He was happy with sneakers on but you can't roll around on a bed with sneakers on. A problem of gargantuan proportions when you're two years old and under the weather, to boot.

Thursday 11 January

Sick day. Damian stuck to my side like glue most of the day. I couldn't go pee solo without a wail following me down the hall. But he was in good spirits most of the time. Just clingy. Well, except when he saw Jami. Then he had a screaming fit until he realized she wasn't going to stay. (I had to send her away.) I guess you just really need Mommy when you're a sick toddler.

This morning Damian brought over his gray slippers and told Dan: "But I need slippers."

This afternoon we watched Baby Songs Animals, then I said, "Do you want to watch another video or read some books?" and he said "watch on TV Baby Songs." So we watched Baby Songs, the original, and I told him this was why using words was so great, he could get exactly what he wanted. (I didn't add the caveat "assuming your request is reasonable." One challenge at a time.)

We had one bad patch this afternoon, though. He's taken to hitting me when he gets frustrated or angry. I explain till I'm blue in the face that this is not nice, it hurts me, etc. And I say "I'll walk out of the room if you do it again," and I do. This sometimes works, though he hates it. (Probably why it works.)

Well, today he was drinking some juice. A little bit of liquid spilled onto his shirt. He wanted me to dab it dry. I did, but apparently not enough. He got upset and started hitting me. When this proved unsatisfying, he picked up a tupperware and tossed it across the room. That felt good, so he did it again. Which was fine, and I applauded his safe expression of anger. But then he threw it at me. Uh, no. I gave it back but said "if you do it again, I'll take it away." And I did, I hid it behind my back. He pulled me off the couch so he could get to the tupperware. So I went into the kitchen, put it on the counter.

He followed me into the kitchen. Wanted me to pick him up so he could reach the tupperware (so he could throw it at me again -- toddler logic, Mom will help me beat her up). When I didn't, he hit me again. I left the room. He followed me around the house, from room to room, hitting me every time he saw me. It was almost comical. I finally got him to calm down and rocked him for a while, but it wasn't easy. I think he was just incredibly frustrated that he felt so lousy and it was easier to be mad at me.

Tonight he was watching Jungle Book with Dan (yes, today was a major video day). When Shere Khan knocks Baloo out and the bear is lying on the ground, Damian said, "no dead!"

Friday 12 January

Another sick day. Spent most of the day cuddled together in the oversized armchair, watching videos and reading. When Damian was ready for his nap, he just scrunched down on all fours (think fetal position, only tilted 90 degrees), burrowed into my side, and fell asleep.

He perked up tonight, started actually playing with his rains, squirting the plants, etc. Great to see. Also nice to not be attached at the hip.

When I went into his room to tell him it was bathtime, he put all his cars/trucks/planes into the appropriate drawer of his toy dresser (not sure what else to call it), closed the drawer, and stood up to come with me. I was so impressed. We've never drilled "cleanup time", he just picked it up. Somehow decided to act on it tonight.

Saturday 13 January

Back to normal. We saw sunlight and felt the breeze on our skins for the first time since Wednesday morning. I never realized before how having a sick kid isn't all that far removed from being sick yourself. Draining.

Last night was tough, though. He wouldn't sleep in his bed, woke up every time Dan tried to stop rocking and put him down. So Damian slept with me instead. Wasn't thrilled about that either. He wanted to be rocked all night. I suspect his skin and bones ached the way they do at the end of a flu. Poor kid. He guided my hand to the back of his head, and I rubbed his scalp till he fell asleep. He woke at four a.m., though, desperately unhappy. It took a while to get him to go to sleep, and then he woke at 7... We broke the "no rocking in the middle of the night" rule (my excuse: it was light out) and Dan rocked him back to sleep. We slept till almost 11. We all desperately needed it.

This morning Damian sat in my lap at the dining table. He looked up at the ceiling fan over the table (we keep it rotating slowly in winter because he likes it). He pointed to it and said, "I like the moving."

Sunday 14 January

Sleep is still a big issue. Which sucks. Big time. The flu has set him back months.

He has a rash on his back. Subtle but widespread. I don't know if we should worry. Time to call the doc.

Today's big adventure: going to the mall after hours for the express purpose of riding the escalators and running through the nearly empty open spaces. The Beverly Center is newly decked out with tall stool-chairs and chaise lounges and other interesting furnishings. Damian is newly interested in clambering from one to the other, climbing higher and balancing on thinner edges than I'd ever guessed.

Monday 15 January

I noticed something rather amazing tonight. I'd put on a video for Damian to keep him awake (kid didn't take a nap and was crashing bad). There was an upbeat musical section, very reminiscent of something incredibly familiar (I know, vague is my middle name). Damian went over to the piano and played accompaniment! I mean literally. He played notes with the same phrasing and in a complimentary key. Coincidence? He did it again later, with a different musical section. Different notes. Complimentary to the new music. Kid's got a real ear.

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