Friday, 30 December 2011

Summertime, and the living ain't easy

It's low-tide at Middle Beach in Kenton-on-Sea, probably the most picturesque shoreline in the country. Sandbars, bright umbrellas, rock pools and golden bods in bikinis... this post is my postcard from paradise.

The sea air makes you ravenous! In the whole 30 minutes we've been here, Travis has mowed through his sandwich, a tub of yoghurt, one soetkoekie, his dad's sandwich and half of my sandwich!

I'll tell you what else these sunny beaches make me hungry for... a little sideplate of normal.

It's gotten easier, watching the happy and whole kids splash in the waves, and attack the crumbly sand with their bucket-and-spade sets... but I'll never be able to watch them play without that twinge inside, a cramp in my heart.

That's when our Lionheart's baby brother goes from being just a regular kid to the Great Hope - and that's not a fair burden for any nine-week-old kiddo.

A few minutes ago my hubby tried for a second time to take Travis down to the water, and he screamed blue murder! I could feel our fellow beach-goers peeping out from behind their paperbacks. Judging us.

Yesterday my husband and I went for a sunset walk on the beach.

"Come on, babe," he said. "Don't be in such a bad mood."
"I'm not in a bad mood, I'm in a sad mood," I replied.

Travis has tested us to the limits lately. He's getting stronger, heavier, angrier... So much so, that I've created shelf space in the back room of my mind, for a box of thoughts labelled 'What happens when we can't care for our Lionheart ourselves anymore?'

But that's another blog post...

On a brighter note, coming back from our romantic walk on the beach, we came across Sharks player Brian Kantowski Ryan Kankowski and one of his team mates doing a workout on the beach. Yum! They'd left their slip slops at the top of the sand dunes while they exercised...

"Let's steal them," I suggested to my other half.
"Are you crazy!" he said.

He he he...

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Ruggles, snarks and other curiosities

Baby Ryan and I are in a race: the Rice Cereal Relay. I spoon a blob of goop into his mouth; he gurgles cheerfully and pushes it back out with his tongue. Back and forth. Back and forth. Me opening and closing my mouth like a tropical fish, mirroring his first attempts at mastication (< - - - fun word alert!)

This morning, I’m winning by at least a tablespoonful when Ouma suggests helpfully: “Is Mommy going to talk to Ryan while she’s feeding him breakfast?”

Well, I’ll be darned, it’s true. I haven’t said a word to the Little Prince (a.k.a. the Squishy Gorilla) during our gruel-tastic morning exercise. I blame Travis for this. Or rather, I blame the bad habits that have accumulated over these last four years of raising a non-verbal child.

Travis the Lionheart doesn’t speak a word apart from dolphin. A language my husband and I have become fluent in, I might add. Another language I’m fluent in that of the Comfortable Silence. My first-born and I share many of them. Don’t get me wrong, I speak to Travis all the time, even if he doesn’t talk back – but more oft than not these one-sided conversations are like an echo in an empty room.

Back to Ryan. I’m remembering to verbalise with him.

I’m spooning the last of the cereal into his mouth and telling him how much I’m looking forward to watching Terra Nova, which starts on M-Net in January. I’m cleaning the mess off his chin and discussing my favourite new magazine, Good Housekeeping. I’m changing his nappy and wondering aloud which colour Le Crueset casserole dish I’m lusting over the most. (< - - - attention PR people: like THIS)

Mentally, I’m rewinding back to 2007, when I was a freshly minted mom, and I’d read all the baby books, memorised the milestones and bought into the Mozart-equals-genius-offspring hogwash. Back to those few months before Travis was diagnosed with his brain malformation.

I’m unlearning. For instance, Ryan is not obsessed with things that spin, like his autistic brother is. Neither is Ryan predominantly left-handed, like Travis was straight from birth (because the whole right-hand side of his body is weaker than his left). I keep trying to press Ryan’s rattle into his left hand; I didn’t even realise I was doing it until someone pointed it out!

Thankfully Ryan and Travis do have one very important thing in common. They both love to splash up a storm in the bath! I don’t think the Big Guy Upstairs and I could still be friends if He created my ruggle with an aversion to long soaks in the tub.

Yup, raising ruggles is a new frontier, and my husband and I are just setting out on the adventure. Oh, and what’s a snark, you ask? Damned if I know, but it’s Out There, like unicorns and jabberwocks.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Give them wings

Cats might hate the water, but Travis the Lionheart is more like those Bengal tigers that like to go for frequents dips in the rivers of Bangladesh.

Travis feels the same way in a swimming pool as an astronaut feels in zero-gravity: weightless, and... free. It’s a place where his awkward, stubborn limbs that refuse to obey the instructions that travel down to them from his brain, can untangle, and be almost... graceful... It’s no mystery why our special needs child loves his bath tub so much, or why we indulge this and let him spend an hour or more each day in it. Wouldn’t you?

Hope floats, I tell you.

You should see our Lionheart in the swimming pool! He hurls himself from the safety of the kiddie step, into the deep blue with both arms and both legs paddling furiously, shrieking in delight (and briefly sending mom into cardiac arrest each time he does it). Travis has no fear of the water, and no sense of danger: he gets ‘dunked’ frequently, and goes wide-eyed in alarm underwater – and comes up spluttering and... giggling!

We may well have the only kid in the world who masters the art of swimming before taking his first unassisted steps.

Naturally, we’ve tried to nudge this poolside progress along with swimming aids like Polly Otters and inflatable swimming rings and what-not. Which left us a little deflated, frankly, as Travis bulleted them all to various degrees.

I considered the idea of water wings, but quickly discarded it when I imagined the Mount Eyjafjallaj√∂kull-like volcanic meltdown that would ensue if I tried to slip them on his arms and blow them up. Water wings have ‘sensory overload’ stamped all over them. I’d probably get a black eye and some prize-winning bite marks for my trouble.

Kids. They love to show you up.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Eye of the Tiger

Flashback: the Wiggles & Squiggles Sports Day, October 2011

There’s plenty to be proud about in this snap. That’s Travis the Lionheart between Teacher Angie and I, and he’s about to dribble a soccer ball over the finish line. It’s his first race ever. And he can’t walk yet... but look at him go. Champion!

Also, that lady in the white summer dress - that’s me weighing in at 80kg, with the Ruggle Formerly Known as Bump due in five days. And my cankles.

I’m thinking my frock might have been see-through in the eyeball-searing summer sunshine - which would explain the look of horror on the little girl in the green T-shirt’s face. That I was probably wearing over-sized granny panties does not make the big reveal of my dimpled backside any better.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

I can has underpants!

UnderPANTS – say it. It’s a fun word (as the authors of the best-selling kiddies’ book Aliens Love Underpants cottoned on, much to their bank balances’ delight).

You may recall we’re having a small nappy problem. And by that I mean that it’s not the problem that’s small, it’s the nappies, specifically the nappies for four-year-old, 30kg Travis. Or if you asked the manufacturers, it’s his butt that’s too big.

Moving along... the bad quality and R5-per-poop price tag of the adult-sized nappies is bankrupting us at a most unfortunate time of the year. At this rate, Santa may be gift-wrapping Dis-Chem gift vouchers for the Lionheart, which is where afore-mentioned leaky, ill-fitting bum-huggers are purchased.

My husband the inventor went so far as to dissect 2 x Pampers nappies, and staple together a waistband (it’s a prototype, m’kay) made out of those Velcro tags that keep disposables in place. This Nappy-Keeper-Upper innovation shows promise, but... ja... erm... there’s that ‘staples’ thing.

A more elegant solution (which was suggested by Bronwyn) has been this: slip a size 5 or 6 Pampers nappy inside a pair of underpants. Ta-dah! No mess, no fuss. No more desperately uncomfortable toddler directing my hand towards the tags on his disposables that cut into his hips to ‘Please fix this ouch right here, Mom’.

Thanks goodness this is working, because the toweling nappy idea some of you suggested was starting to look attractive, ha ha...

Dear readers, can I just gush for a moment about what it feels like to finally see my special needs kid wearing underpants? To see those firm little butt cheeks finally ensconced in a pair of tightie whities?

On Travis the Lionheart’s current developmental timeline, I’m expecting him to be walking at around the age of 6, and potty-trained by only 8 or 9 – which is the milestone when you usually get to buy that first pair of underpants.

Really, no mom should get this much joy out of seeing her son standing (wobbling) in his jocks – but I do.

PS: Travis is rather big for his age (read: chubby) and is wearing 7-8 years’ pants, so we had to buy 11-12 years’ undies that can stretch over the nappy! Yikes! 

PPS: On the subject of potty-training, Margot over at Jou Ma se Blerrie Blog is having a most hilarious time potty training her son Felix – you’ll be depriving yourself of a good giggle if you don’t read this post, here.