Finding Noah’s Voice – The Christmas Gift

We started the year with one question: Would this be the year that you would talk?  Really talk.  200 words.  That’s what you started the year with.  I know.  I made the list and counted them.   Some of them were even being put into two word phrases.

I dreamed a dream.  You spoke.  Not just a word or two, but sentences.  Flowing sentences.  In my dream I heard your voice and I was happy.  Until I awoke and realised it was just a dream.  I was yet to truly hear your voice.

Well, somewhere in the course of the year, the miracle happened.  You started to speak.  Who could forget the first sentence:  IWANCHEE.  I want cheese.  This followed months of practising the phrase,”I want …” with each word being individually prompted.

We prayed and this is the verse God spoke to me:

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.

We buckled down.  We’ve done the work each day – repeating sounds, words, phrases again and again.  And work turned into magic.  You started to talk, putting together phrases and sentences to tell us what you needed, what you wanted and then simply to tell us what you thought.  We’ve been discovering you.

We now know your favourite colour.  We know when you’re unhappy with your brother and why.  I know that you love me – you said it.  I know what you do when I’m not with you, because you can tell me.  We even know that you want a jackhammer for Christmas!

What a year, beautiful boy.  You’ve done it.  You found your voice.  Now we hear you.  What a wonderful Christmas gift and blessing and we thank God for that over and over.  And so, from all of us and especially from Noah, unprompted and with his own voice: “Merry Christmas everybody!”

 

Finding Noah’s Voice – Rainbow Lorikeets

Dear Noah,

In later years, I hope you will have memories of warm autumn afternoons under halcyon blue skies, spent in our garden, simply enjoying all that God has created.  Halcyon.  What does that even mean?  Peaceful, gentle, calm.  Happy and carefree.  All that I hope your childhood will be.  The English language has so many words of subtle difference in meaning that allow us to express so many shades of an experience.  And I wonder what you would express…if you could.

I sat with you in the sandpit, fingering the sand while you moved diggers and dump trucks and used a bucket and spade to create a quarry, accompanied by the sound effects that only four year old boys can make.  I looked up at our Bottlebrush tree, the bright red flowers and deep green foliage standing out against the blue of the sky.  Soon a flock of rainbow lorikeets arrived, chattering excitedly as they fed on the nectar of the bright blooms.  I pointed out the ‘rainbow birds’ to you, their colours and how they got their food from the flowers.  You can’t ask ‘Why?’ yet, so I try to guess what you would ask if you could.

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Rainbow Lorikeets

 

You were entranced by the beautiful birds with their feathers of green, red, blue and yellow.  Jumping up and down, you waved your arms in wide circles to tell me that you wanted to be picked up and put in the tree to be closer to them.  I explained that this would scare them and they would fly away.  The best way to see them would be to crouch quietly by the tree and just watch.  I went inside, leaving you to play.  Cheeky boy!  You didn’t follow my instructions.

Soon you came in side, visibly upset.  Usually a game of ’20 Questions’ follows as I try to work out what has happened.   Yet this day, you said,

”Bird….wings (making flying movements with your hands).  Fly…away.”

A simple, yet breath-taking moment.  You communicated, for the first time, an experience that I had not been on hand to witness.  I understood without needing to ask further questions to clarify.  The rainbow lorikeets had flown away and you were upset about this.

I don’t believe anybody outside our family would have caught the words.  But I did.  Spending more time with you than anybody else, has made me attuned to your way of communicating.  I intimately know your speech patterns at any point in time.  Without words, I’ve had to tune into your moods, tone and expression, gestures and demeanour.  In many ways, I realise I am still your interpreter, deciphering those imperfect, yet precious words of yours for other people.  You understand so much, but are still unable to put most of your thoughts into words.  Little by little, your brain is learning how to send signals to your mouth muscles to form speech.  The thoughts held prisoner in your head for so long are starting to be set free and take flight, much like the rainbow lorikeets.  I’m looking forward to discovering more of the beauty that is you, Noah.  In the meantime, I’ll hang onto this precious bond we share – learning a language that doesn’t need words.

I love you, buddy!  Here’s to many more afternoons spent under those halcyon skies…blue skies…or as you would say,”Boo ky”.

Love Mummy

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.

The First Day

Little Noah,

We’ve reached that day – the first day of kindergarten.  I send you off excited for the wonderful learning opportunities you are going to have this year, but also a little anxious and a little sad.  Will you be able to tell your teachers what you need?  Will you be able to ‘speak’ with the other children?  Will you be accepted?  You see, you’re pretty special to us.  We already know what a great little personality you have.  We know that you are crazy about tools and that you love to play fireman.  We know how to interpret that little glint in your eye when the joke’s on us.  We know what each approximated word is and what each little gesture stands for.  We’re pretty good at guessing your charades when you want to communicate something you don’t have the words for yet.  But your teachers don’t…yet.  Apraxia of speech is new to them, but I think you’re going to teach them something about it and show them apraxia or not, you are awesome.

First day of kindy, Noah all ready to go.

First day of kindy, Noah all ready to go.

You were so proud and excited to put on your blue kindy shirt and jumped up and down with excitement when I told you today was it – THE FIRST DAY!  Bag packed, new hat, sheets for nap time, spare clothes and the all-important lunch box.  You badly wanted to take ‘Bear’ who has shared all your naps up until this point.  We negotiated and I think you agreed he would be safer at home, where none of the other kids would be tempted to take him home.  I tried to get nice photos of you, but every time we asked you to say ‘cheese’ you said ‘tools’ instead, meaning your little lips were more like a fish than a cheesy monkey grin!

We’ve prepared for this day, meeting with your teacher, Mrs Thompson and Peta, the lady who will be your special helper this year.  You’re such a wonderful three year old boy, with your cheeky grin, love of trucks and all things that go ‘vroom’, your love of climbing and building and pulling things apart, making messes with paints and banging on improvised drums.  There’s only one thing you’re trying hard to catch up in – being able to talk.  You see, apraxia of speech challenges your communication.  You know what you want to say, but your brain doesn’t get the messages to your mouth muscles very clearly and the sounds often come out jumbled.  This scrambling gets worse with the length of the word or phrase.

But – God is good and has provided some extra special help for you this year.  While we are applying for some extra funding for a teacher aide to help you communicate, learn and interact at kindy, we may not get full funding.  However, the wonderful director at the kindergarten has decided that you are worth it.  They will provide a big person specially to help you out for four hours a day.  What an opportunity!  Someone who can get to know you, quirks and all.  Someone who can help you to practice your words and encourage you to say more and join words together as you play, learn and explore in the kindy environment.  Someone who can help you to negotiate playground etiquette and prompt you with the right words and phrases at the appropriate time and help you to interact with the other kids.  Someone who can make group time just that little bit more inviting by sitting with you for singing and sharing time, so you are not so overwhelmed by an activity you cannot fully engage in.  I’m almost jealous that I don’t get to be that person!  But I know you will be loved and well cared for.

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My little buddy.

As I leave you at the gates on your first day, I wonder what you will do.  I imagine your struggles and your joys.  I worry about your strong will in the ‘mine!’ department and if you’ll cry when frustrated or wail for ‘Mum, Mum!’ when I leave.  I feel a little sad because I know you won’t be able to tell me about your day, at least not much.  But I left and you were fine.  I came to pick you up and couldn’t even spot you.  You see, I was scanning the corners and the edges of the room expecting you to be quietly playing by yourself.  But you were right in the middle of all the other kids!  I expected your teacher to give me a list of what went wrong and what we need to work on.  She simply said,”He settled really well.  We’ve had a good day.  A bit unsettled at music time and group time, but he’s been good.”  A sigh of relief.  I asked you what you did and you said,”Play!”  That’s about all I could get out of you, so I’ll just have to imagine you inspecting the guinea pigs, digging in the sandpit, playing pirates on the fort and building castles from wooden blocks.  I know it must have been good, because you gave several big yawns and went to sleep without a fuss, ready to do it all again next week.  Sleep well little man.

Love Mum xoxo

The Poo Painter

Art.  A beautiful reflection of the human soul.  It can move us to tears.  It can cause joy to well up inside of us.  It can cause us to experience something almost divine and awaken us to the realisation that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves.  The artist can use many mediums to express the inexpressible.  And sometimes the choice of medium causes us, the viewer, to have a new insight and appreciation for art.  But what if the choice of medium is poo?

It was back in those beautiful days of early parenthood.  Just one child.  One child who still slept in a crib and couldn’t climb out of that crib.  We could wake at a reasonable hour and wander down to Sam’s room, ready to pick up our very huggable bundle of one-year-old cuteness and chatter on about how great it was to have a new day…until the day said cuteness discovered poo as a desirable medium for crib art.

The Poo Painter, age 1

The Poo Painter, age 1

I was horrified.  His room reeked.  His hands, face and hair were covered…with poo.  The sides of the crib were coated.  Sheets and blankets had received their fair share of daubing.  Even the walls were not immune.  He had obviously been enjoying himself.  Mummy may have uttered a few choice epithets.  Realising his predicament, Sam started crying and held out his chubby little arms wanting me to pick him up and hug him.  Not to be, buddy.  I picked him up at arm’s length, turning my head to try and avoid the rank smell getting into my nostrils and marched him down to the shower, expostulating the whole way.  I recruited my husband who took it upon himself to start the clean-up process in Sam’s room.  It is not easy to get poo off a squirming toddler.  Running a shower over a poo smeared body does not result in nice easy removal.  No, poo dries and sticks.  You have to get your hands dirty to get it off.  Gross.

I thought it would be a one off.  But, no.  Pint-sized Picasso had discovered his favoured art medium.  Over the coming weeks, we faced poo art several times a week.  After a few episodes, my husband and I were like a Poo Swat Team.  “Right, I’ll clean the kid.”  “And, I’ll clean the room.”

I wondered what diabolical mental illness my child was harbouring and researched on the web.  This latest escapade was not something I was inclined to boast of to my mummy friends.  Google received such entries as “toddler playing with poo”, “poo smearing”, “how to stop your child playing with poo”.  I struck gold one day when I found a whole forum devoted to this topic.  I was not the only one with a monster child who repeatedly dipped into his full diaper and smeared the contents over himself and his surroundings.  My favourite response on this forum was a young woman who dobbed in her brother as a poo painter in his toddlerhood.  He had grown to respectable adulthood and now held a PhD.  And was relatively normal.  I found out something else too – poo play is not a sign of depravity or mental illness.  No, toddlers see poo as little different to play dough – a nice squishy substance they can manipulate and mould.

But how to stop it.  There were many suggestions, from gaffer taped nappies to giving your child opportunity to play with other substances such as mud and play dough, to remaining calm and unemotional when confronted with a poo smeared toddler and telling them,”Poo is yucky.  We don’t play with poo”.  The best suggestion was to put your child in a long legged onesie, but to put it on back to front so they couldn’t access their diaper.  I purchased a black and white striped number.  He looked just like a cute little jail bird.  And it worked.  Poo play came to an end…for the time being.

We were blessed with yet another period of poo play when baby number 2 arrived.  Sam took the opportunity during ‘nap time’ to play with poo in his room, now at age two.  It was gross.  I wondered how long it would last.  But it passed.  Yet another glorious phase of parenthood survived.  And I swore I would keep these tales alive and well for his 21st birthday!

(NB. Sam has since moved onto more acceptable mediums for art work, favouring collage and painting.  I have since met another mum whose child also went through this delightful phase.  We are now in recovery mode, having formed our own support group – POPPA – Parents of Poo Painters Anonymous.)

Why does this baby only have one eye?

Inevitably our children will ask us difficult questions at times.  Sometimes it is hard to give a good answer.  Occasionally we will ask our own children difficult questions.  And sometimes they will surprise us with their answers.

Sam is our oldest boy.  He is very sweet and compassionate.  He is also very curious about the way things work and why things are the way they are.  When Sam was five years old, we went to China.  It was a family trip.  We were going to visit friends who worked with children who had disabilities in an orphanage and to be a part of their work for a week.  China itself is confronting.  Visiting an orphanage where every child has some form of disability is very confronting.

Yet, Sam made no difference.  There were children in wheelchairs, some using crutches or frames, some with twisted limbs or with missing fingers.  And into this mix ran Sam, eager to interact with the children and be a part of their games.  One afternoon, Sam had disappeared.  It was after lunch when the children usually had a nap in their dorms.  I found Sam in one of the boys’ dorms racing around playing Star Wars.  He was shooting an imaginary gun and calling out, “Pow, pow!  Ping, ping!”  One tiny little boy on a walking frame lifted up his hand to make an imaginary gun too and returned fire,”Ping, ping!”  They were both having a great time.

There was a babies unit where we took Sam to visit.  Sam loves babies, adores them.  He can’t go past one in the park or at the shops without running up to smile, chat, play or do his crazy baby dance designed to cause any baby to smile and laugh at him.  He usually makes the mums smile as well by telling them, “Your baby is sooo cute.”

Sam was a frequent flier at the babies unit.  It was here that we met a 14 month old baby named Alec.  He was beautiful.  He had thick black hair and the loveliest smile.  He would wriggle and giggle when we interacted with him.  Sam loved him.  But he did notice a difference.  “Mummy, why does this baby only have one eye?”  A difficult question.  I replied,”He was just born that way.”  Sam, deeply concerned asked,”When will his other eye grow?”  An even more difficult question.  This time I said,”It won’t.”  Sam simply said,”Mummy, can we pray for this baby?”  “Of course we can.”  Sam immediately laid a hand on baby Alec and prayed, asking God to make his other eye grow.  For months afterwards, Sam continued to pray for Alec.  We all loved Alec and wished we could take him home as part of our family.  Sam saw Alec had only one eye and with his childlike faith believed that God could do something significant in Alec’s life.

Alec

Alec

Sam wanted to know why Alec only had one eye.  It reminds me of the story where Jesus and his disciples walk past a blind man and his disciples ask,”Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”  They were trying to figure out why he was born blind.  Jesus gave them this answer,”Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-4).  Jesus healed the man.  His sight was restored.  This man came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and went on to tell many people about what Jesus had done for him.

Sam’s younger brother, Noah is three and has a condition known as Childhood Apraxia of Speech.  It means that Noah has a lot of difficulty speaking.  He understands what is said to him and even knows what he wants to say.  But his brain is unable to send signals to the muscles of the mouth, tongue and palate to tell them how to move when he tries to speak.  Sam loves his little brother.  He has asked why Noah can’t talk much and I have explained as best I could.  He prays for Noah as well, asking God to help him to be able to talk.  One night I asked Sam how he felt about Noah not being able to talk much.  His answer floored me.  He said,”I don’t mind.  I like him just the way he is.  He’s cute.”

And there we have it.  So much of the time we focus on the question,”What caused this?” when it comes to illness or disability.  And it’s a useful question in its place.   It’s also a question than can get in the way, especially if we look to blame ourselves or someone or something for the illness or disability of a loved one.  We can also get stuck focussing on the difficulties of disability and the limitations it can bring to a person’s life.  But perhaps we can look at things from a different perspective, simply accepting the person as they are, created by God, loved by God and living a life through which God can show His glory.  Sam was able to do this with Alec and also with his own brother, Noah.  And he is teaching me to do this too, simply accepting Noah as he is and trusting God for the rest.

So, why was Noah born with apraxia of speech?  I can honestly say I don’t think about causes or why very much, because it can be heart wrenching.  But, I can picture Jesus saying,”This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in Noah.”  And that is comforting, amazing, wonderful.

Sam-I-Am

That Sam-I-Am, that Sam-I-Am, I do so like that Sam-I-Am.  In fact I love him.  Sam or Samuel is our 6 year old son.  He drives me completely nuts sometimes, but I wouldn’t swap him.

Sam-I-Am

Sam-I-Am

Sam was born with quicksilver whizzing through his veins.  In fact, it was whizzing well before he was born.  In the womb he was extremely active, regularly going through a series of rapid leg extensions resulting in kinetic chaos and a very uncomfortable mama.

At two weeks of age he was already trying to hold his head up, very wobbly, but eager to have a look at what was going on around him.  I remember at church one morning, a friend was holding him up against her shoulder in the busy café.  Sam started jiggling about and she asked what on earth he wanted.  I replied that I thought he was trying to see what was going on.  And sure enough he was trying to lift the upper part of his body and head so he could see over my friend’s shoulder.

His little body was eager to get going and he crawled at 5 ½ months and took his first steps at 9 ½ months.  He was well and truly running by age 15 months, confident stride and all.  I have a photo of Sam walking down a beach at Caloundra with me at age 10 months.  It seems ridiculous – this baby that looks way too small to be walking, striding (or tottering!) confidently beside his mum.

Walking the beach at Caloundra, age 10 months

Sam and Mummy walking the beach at Caloundra, age 10 months

During babyhood, he acquired the nickname Tigger.  Tiggers must bounce and certainly Sam has bounced through life, blissfully ignorant of many things that might be dangerous.  Puddles must be splashed in.  Fences must be climbed.  Open spaces must be run through.  Park benches and ledges must be walked on.  Open bodies of water must be swum in – clothes and all.  The world is a jungle gym.  And Tiggers MUST bounce.

Sam is always on hyper alert, wanting to be involved in everything that is happening around him.  He loves people and is always seeking interaction with whoever is near.  We have often wondered how two introverted parents could have produced such an extroverted kid.  One that has no problem going up to a complete stranger, taking them by the hand and chatting as if they were lifelong friends.  We took Sam to Southbank, a recreational park on the banks of the Brisbane River when he was about 16 months old.  A middle aged German couple were sitting on a low wall and the lady made eye contact with Sam.  Our gorgeous boy, all blond hair and blue eyes immediately ran up to her when she held out her arms and gave her a big hug.   Another heart captured!

Sam received a Tigger for his first birthday from his Uncle Earle

Sam received a Tigger for his first birthday from his Uncle Earle

One of the special things about Sam is his ability to make people smile.  It is innate.  At age 2, I took him to the doctor one day.  He had had fevers for a few nights and been generally unwell.  Tigger had lost his bounce.  As we waited, I noticed a father with a son around 3-4 years of age sitting opposite us.  They both looked pale and tired.  Dad had his eyes closed.  Sam, sick as he was, started pointing to the fire alarm on the ceiling and chattering on about it.  “Mummy, look at the beep beep.  Chatter chatter beep beep.  Chatter chatter beep beep”.  Beep beep was his word for fire alarm at that stage of his life.  The father and son both looked at Sam and started smiling.  His chatter was good medicine.

That is another thing about Sam – his general setting is happy.  Yes, he digresses to sad, mad and every other emotion, but he generally springs quickly back to happy.  A kindy friend reminded him to bring his smile for the class photo the next day and Sam replied,”I’m always happy!” with his infectious giggle.  When he was two years old he would greet the day with,”Hello Sun-shiney!”  I maintained that we never had huge issues with tantrums when Sam was a toddler because he simply didn’t have the attention span to have a decent tantrum.  He was always quickly onto the next thing.  And the next…and the next.  And I maintained I had no need for formal exercise.  Sam’s mum worked off plenty of energy trying to keep up with Tigger.  Tigger you are and a Tigger you will ever be.  And Sam-I-Am – I’m glad you’re mine!

When You Almost Lose A Child

We had a near miss in October of 2010.  It was one of those days that remain etched in memory forever afterwards, including the sick feeling of “What if?”

It was a day like any other.  I was heading to work.  Nathan was staying home with our two boys.  Sam was 3 and Noah 7 months old.  We both worked part time and looked after our boys part time.  Our backyard was big enough for kids to play in and reasonably secure with a 5 foot fence all around.  A fence with no footholds for little feet.

Sam, age 3

Sam, age 3

Nathan was in the backyard playing with Sam.  He was so energetic as a toddler that we simply let him run – up and down, round and round the yard.  We were perpetually being asked to do another running race.  This particular day, our baby was getting tired, so Nathan left Sam to play outside while he took Noah in to put him down for a sleep.  A few minutes later, he went back out to play with Sam.  Only Sam wasn’t there.  The backyard was empty.  Maybe he’d gone inside.  So Nathan searched the house.  Again, no Sam.  By this time Nathan was starting to feel a little worried and headed out to the backyard again.  Only this time he could hear a voice calling out for help – Sam’s voice.  Starting to panic, Nathan scanned the yard.  There was a tricycle against the back fence and Sam’s voice was coming from the neighbours’ yard.

Nathan quickly got himself over the fence and ran towards Sam’s voice.  The neighbours had a pool.  And Sam was in it, struggling to keep his head above water.  It didn’t take Nathan long to jump in and pull him out.  A very frightened and subdued Sam.

Somehow Sam had managed to climb over their pool fence.  He had stripped off his clothes and jumped into the deep end.  Our impulsive little boy simply sensed a bit of adventure and some fun, not comprehending the dangerous situation into which he was heading.  He had managed to keep his head above water just long enough for my husband to reach him.  We were thankful he had had swimming lessons since the age of 13 months.  We think this helped him to stay afloat long enough for Nathan to reach him.

Our backyard fence

Our backyard fence

It was frightening.  Nathan called me at work.  That night we barely slept.  We were struggling with the fact that we could have lost our son.  Thankfully we didn’t.  We thanked God for sparing us tragedy that day.   We still had our Sam.  And we wouldn’t let him out of our sight for quite a long time after this event.

Yet we know there are other parents out there who have not been spared and have lost a child to drowning, or are living with the lifelong consequences of physical and intellectual disability in a child who was resuscitated.

We thought our yard was pretty safe for kids.  It only took a few minutes for our adventurous little boy to find a way over the fence while one parent was seeing to the needs of another child.  There is a study that has shown that 20% of three year olds and 62% of four year olds can scale a standard pool fence.  We had never feared a drowning incident near our home as we didn’t have a pool.  But we did have a little boy who wasn’t easily stopped by natural boundaries such as high fences.  To this day I still cannot fathom how he managed to scale that fence without hurting himself.  Or how he even got himself over.  He was only three.

One good thing that came of this incident was a comprehension of danger.  Sam became much more cautious and was able to understand that warnings from Mummy and Daddy needed to be heeded.  He developed a better sense of his own limitations.  In fact, today we call him Mr Safety.  He takes great interest in all sorts of safety signs and warnings.  He often points out things that could be a danger and feels the need to alert any adult with authority of anything he considers a threat (in true dramatic Sam fashion!).  On a flight last year he was carefully examining the pictures in the laminated safety card – the one that shows you where to exit the plane if it crashes into the ocean, how to put on lifejackets and get into a life raft.  I had to answer a multitude of detailed questions asked by my 5 year old safety inspector in his little high pitched voice.  I hoped the person sitting behind us didn’t have a fear of flying.

Sam loves the water, age 4

Sam loves the water, age 4

We still have our beautiful Sam.  He loves the water and is becoming a confident swimmer.  We had to let go of “What if?” and simply accept that we still have our Sam.  However, we sincerely hope that other parents will be spared the emotional turmoil of such a close call with their children.

And that is why we chose to share our story as part of National Swim Safety Week.  Sam’s story was featured in the Courier Mail this week as part of a national campaign to raise awareness in regards to water safety.

Courier Mail article launching Swim SAFER week featuring Sam

The Donkey Fart

Every now and then, something happens in my interaction with Noah that takes me by surprise and reveals some of the gold hidden away inside of a little boy who cannot yet fully express himself verbally.  On my days off, I usually spend some time with Noah going over speech exercises or incorporating speech practice into games.  This particular day I had pulled out all the Little People sets that we owned so we could have some practice making a verbal choice.

Anyway, the game was proceeding in the usual bland way.  “Who do you want to put on the bus?  The sailor or the farmer?  Which animal do you want next for your farm – the cow or the sheep?  What does the cow want to do next – eat or sleep?”

This eventually led to an interaction between a clumsy donkey and Doctor Pig.  “Oh no!  The donkey has fallen off the roof.  Has he got a sore ear or a sore foot?  Okay, Dr. Pig will fix his foot.  Oh no!  The donkey has fallen off the roof again.  Has he got a sore nose or a sore tail?”

Anyhow, “Tail!” was Noah’s choice on this fateful occasion.  Starting to get a bit bored of the game myself, I decided to let Dr. Pig grow a gruff personality and harangue the clumsy donkey before examining his tail,”Okay donkey.  I’m going to look at your tail now.  Whatever you do, don’t blow off in my face.”  Dr. Pig closed in and clumsy donkey let rip blowing the startled Dr. Pig across the room protesting vehemently.

I looked at Noah to find him curled up on the floor, laughing hysterically, with barely any sound coming out and hardly able to breathe.  Of course, the scenario had to be repeated another few times,”You stinky donkey!  You’ve been eating too many beans.  Now don’t you dare blow off this time.”  And off went Noah into another convulsion of laughter.

Well, I discovered that fart jokes are still incredibly funny to a three year old boy with speech apraxia.  Certainly Noah’s sense of humour is intact.  And a certain principle of my family of origin is passed onto the next generation: Farts Are Funny.