“IWANCHEE!” – The First Sentence

Dear Noah,

We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, little buddy – your first sentence.  You’ve kept us in suspense.  I anticipated that I would clap and shout and jump for joy when you reached this milestone.  I remember a time when I would dream that you had said your first sentence to me.  I would wake up so disappointed when I realised it was not true.  I have so wanted to hear your voice speaking freely for so long.  You know what?  Your mummy and daddy almost missed it!  But I’m glad we didn’t.

Noah - relaxed and happy!

Noah – relaxed and happy!

This is how it happened.  It was Wednesday, 14th February 2014.  You were 3 years and 10 months old.  We were sitting outside to enjoy the last of the summer evenings while we had dinner.  Grated cheese was on the table to eat with our salad wraps.  You and Sam generally get it all over the floor, so that’s probably why we were outside!

Mummy and Daddy were a bit preoccupied.  See, you’d just been through two separate speech evaluations with two speech therapists.  Both said you had severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech.  Your Mummy was feeling just a bit down.  I mean, you’re awesome.  In four months you’ve come so far – so many new words, two syllable words, two word phrases.  In one year you’ve gone from 30 spontaneous words to over 200.  Finally your communication is coming along.  But, according to some multitude of tests, you still have a severe expressive communication delay.  So what, buddy?  You’re catching up, right?

Just when I was wondering whether all our hard work was getting us anywhere, you sprang another surprise on us.

For months you and me have been practicing one little sentence.  Over and over.  Here’s how it goes.

Mum: I

Noah: I

Mum: want (signing want)

Noah: Drink! (after signing but not saying want!)

Mum: No, say want

Noah: want (garbled version of want with the sign)

Mum: drink

Noah: drink….pleee (please)

Anyway, Mummy and Daddy were busy discussing these latest speech reports.  You were reaching for the cheese.  I absent-mindedly reached out to take it away from you.  I didn’t want to clean up grated cheese mess.  But you, you would not suffer the deprivation.  Something welled up inside of you and out leapt a fearsome yell,”IWANCHEE!!!”

What?  I looked at your daddy.  Did he just say,”I want cheese?”  Yes.  I mean, Yes!  Three simple words.  I want cheese.  Your first complete sentence – a group of words conveying a complete idea and containing a subject, verb and object.  And guess what?  You got the cheese.

So there you have it.  Another major milestone and a reminder that you are progressing every day.  You are finding your voice bit by bit.  Since then you are saying ‘want’ so much clearer with the help of hand signals I learnt from your new speech therapist.  And you can now make the sentence on your own.  Now the exchange goes something like this.

Noah: Drink!

Mum: OK, you want a drink.  What do you say?

Noah: I….want….drink!

Mum: Manners

Noah: Pleeeee

So go ahead, Noah monster.  Ask for whatever you want.  Enjoy it while mum is caught up in the novelty of you being able to ask for what you want, ‘cause she’s more likely to give in to your requests for a little while yet!  IWANCHEE.  Awesome.  IWANBEER.  No.

I’m going to finish with this verse.  I read this the night I got the first speech report.  Discouraged, I opened my Bible and there was a book mark with these words on it.

1 Chronicles 28:20

Be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God is with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.

It was a timely reminder that we are not in this alone.  You know more than any of us how difficult it is for you to turn sounds into words and words into phrases, little Noah.  I see how tired you are after a speech therapy session.  I see how much effort it costs you just to sequence a couple of words – your brain working overtime to try and program the motor movements for speech.  I’m praying this verse for both of us.  I know that the only way to overcome apraxia of speech is to practice sound sequences over and over.  So that’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to DO THE WORK.  We’re going to celebrate every milestone, no matter how small.  And we’re going to be encouraged by your progress, no matter what the reports say.  What more can I say?  IWANCHEE!

Love Mum xoxo

Little Boys in Dreamland

Childhood dreams and imagination cast wonder on a world grown ordinary to the adult mind.  To spend a golden afternoon in dreamland is a rare privilege, led by small children into the realms of imagination and adventure.  I spent such an afternoon with my children, Sam (6) and Noah (3) last weekend – an afternoon I will long treasure.

Sunday afternoon is a wonderful time to spend together as a family.  To help the boys use up some of the energy they possess in such abundance, I took them for a walk to a park not far from our house.  This is a favourite place of ours – a wide green field, hills for rolling down, Australian gum trees and hills for BMX riders to ride (or little boys to run up and down!), playgrounds and bike paths, areas sheltered by shrubs and trees.  We have visited this park often since Sam was born and had many adventures.

Dirt Angel - Sam, age 3 on a trip to our park

Dirt Angel – Sam, age 3 on a trip to our park

Sam (3) and Noah (1) at our park

Sam (3) and Noah (1) at our park

On this particular afternoon, we were the only ones in the park for over an hour, and perhaps that is why imagination was able to ebb and flow, unstilted by the ears and eyes of curious onlookers.  It started with a camp fire.  The boys were collecting sticks and I was showing Noah how to place kindling, small and large sticks to build a camp fire.  Soon there was a small warm glow as we rubbed sticks together.  Sam announced that we were lost in the woods.  At least our camp fire would provide warmth and a means to heat water and cook our dinner.  

Some brown hens were scratching in the dirt nearby and we thought roast chicken would make a tasty dinner.  The boys had brought their shot guns and were ready to provide a bird for the cooking pot.  Meanwhile, I was hankering after some billy tea and set the water boiling, held up over the fire on a skipping rope, strung between Sam’s scooter and a branch.  My little boys had a craving for more fulfilling meat and soon were off hunting for rabbits, wolves, foxes, bears and ‘something with steak’.  We foraged for wild potatoes and yams and collected seed pods to be cooked in the embers of the fire.  This was going to be a feast we would not soon forget.

As night approached, we became aware of our need for shelter.  An old building nearby, a shack of two stories with a dirt floor and benches would be our sleeping quarters.  I became concerned about a bear that was approaching our camp site.  Sam soon allayed my fears, explaining this was ‘the friendly bear’.  He would sleep with us tonight, keep us warm and protect us from wild animals and collect wild honey for us to enjoy for dessert.  We were soon snuggled down for the night.  It was during the wee hours that howling awoke us.  Fear gripped us as we felt the unseen, but stealthy approach of wolves.  The boys got to the upper storey of the shack and levelled shots at the approaching wolves, while the friendly bear raised himself on his hind legs and growled menacingly into the night.  The wolves were set to flight and we went back to sleep.

As dawn approached, we awoke, limbs stiff from the activity of the previous day and the coolness of dawn.  Perhaps it was the open air, but our stomachs were growling and I wondered what we would have for breakfast.  The boys wanted wolves, so we prepared to hunt.  Sam had wandered off, but came dancing back towards us, a pack of cuddly wolf pups playfully snapping at his heels.  They captivated us with their frolicking ways and certainly would not be our breakfast that day!  They became playmates instead.

The sun rose and as we looked about us, the landscape took on a more familiar form.  We surmised that our direction home was approximately north and so we set off.  Other people were arriving at the park as the afternoon was cooling.  I wonder if their adventures were as exciting as ours!  We went home happy and smiling, sharing the secret knowledge that we had found dreamland and entered it with abandon.