Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Pursuit of Perfection

We had Thanksgiving at our house this year, which consisted my parents, brother, sister in law and nephew. Six adults, two kids under the age of five. A simple and (mostly) quiet holiday.

The task fell on me to prepare The Turkey. Now, for those of you who have prepared The Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, you know this is no small task. I mean, sure, it should be simple… put turkey in oven and roast it. Ta-Da! But no, there are a myriad of pitfalls in the preparation of a turkey. First, you must thaw it, a process that takes place over a 3 day period. There is no thing as a "last minute turkey thawing”. Then there are a dozen questions to answer.... to brine or not to brine? How long to cook for maximum juicy-ness and least likelihood of salmonella poisoning? Method of cooking... grill, roast, deep fat fry? Stuffing in or stuffing out? Seasonings? The turkey is the centerpiece. The "make it or break it" part of the meal.

Juicy Turkey = Thanksgiving Perfection.

Dry or Undercooked Turkey = Complete Failure.

Can you feel the drama?
After dinner, my mom and I were chatting. She confessed that this time of year is not her favorite... that there is too much pressure to do everything "just so".... sorta sucks the joy out of the season. And that got me thinking about the pursuit of perfection.

I think (and mayhap you agree) that many people dread the holiday season because of this pursuit of perfection. The holidays are suppose to be happy! With singing and good food, smiles and perfect presents, joyful church activities and holiday decorations. And family and friends in perfect harmony. And if you don't have those Norman Rockwell moments, something is seriously wrong with you.

The "perfect holiday" is a like a condensed example of our pursuit of the perfect life.

And to not have a "perfect holiday" is some sort of failure....

Much like not having the 'perfect life'.

Jonathan is teaching me that there is no such thing as that 'perfect life'. Not that I didn't know this before Jonathan. But the pursuit of perfection ... the possibility of having the perfect house, job, and family is still there somewhere. The illusion still beckons from the shadows. But that definition of perfection has faded in importance for me. I am trying not to care about those things anymore.

My goals are smaller now, but so much more important. My desires are simpler, and yet so much more complicated. I feel like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole, not quite knowing my place in the world where the pursuit of "perfection" seems so important. I don't fit... we don't fit... and I am not sure what that means. Or how to be apart and yet a part.

But how about that Turkey?

Roasted with onions in an oven bag
at 325 F for 3 1/2 hours.


Saturday, November 21, 2009


The J-Man put together a fifty piece puzzle today.

Fifty pieces.

He turns 3 in two months.

Fifty pieces!?!?

Is that normal? To be honest, ever since we started down this strange road, I have no idea what is normal anymore. To me, it just seems like 3 year old child shouldn't be able to do a 50 piece puzzle. But he does. He sits and works on it with way more patience than I would have now!

I am reading a book by Temple Grandin called Thinking in Pictures. For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Grandin, she is an amazing woman and probably the most accomplished and well-known person with autism in the world. She has her doctorate in Animal Science and has written several books on both autism and animal behavior (no, not in the same book!). She didn't speak until she was 3 1/2 years old, and yet through her own determination and that of her family has reached levels of functioning far surpassing what anyone would have dreamed of in her generation.

In her book.... of which I must admit I am only 30 pages into... she is talking about how she (and presumably many other people with autism) are highly visual learners. In essence, she thinks in pictures, not words. So, that internal dialog that goes on in your head, or my head.... that is not how she thinks. She sees things in her head, three dimensionally, and creates associations based of memories of pictures.

One of the things she mentions is that many people with autism have this level of visual-spacial ability. Often... and I know you saw this coming... they are highly artistic or interested in design, and guess what.... they tend to be good at puzzles.

Now, while I could take this as a sign that the J-Man truly has autism, I am not really ready to go there yet. His social nature is starting to peek out, and I think we might start to see it blossom in the months to come. But, I am willing to say that undoubtedly he is a visual learner. To my core I know it. As I watch him solve the problems of a puzzle, I marvel at how focused and persistent he can be.... so very different than when the task involves language or auditory input.

The puzzle for me, now, is to find a way to harness this ability.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kendra's Story

I am lucky to be a NICU nurse.

I am lucky to make a difference.

Not every story ends up like this...

In fact, many don't.

But I get a chance to be a part of the possible.

This is why I do what I do.

Happy Birthday Kendra!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


How many two year olds do you know who have goals?

Next month, we have Jonathan's IEP meeting. An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is essentially a road map or 'contract' for establishing educational goals and tracking those goals. The IEP not only establishes these goals (and some kind of metric to measure those goals) but also helps establish the ways in which these goals will be met. Generally speaking, the goals are built by information on the the educational assessments previously done, and on both parental and teacher feedback on where the child is and where they need to go. The IEP is like the Bible for special education students. It guides all.

Crafting a good, quality IEP is not an easy task. It requires an understanding of the child's strengths and challenges, how they learn best, how to capitalize on those strengths and minimize the impact of the challenges on overall performance, and how to address the areas of weakness in a way that is most effective.

Parents come to the table with the Child Knowledge. We know our kids. Alas, we don't always know the best way to address the issues and implement them in the classroom. We don't always know the words to describe the subtle problems and issues, and frankly... if we could fix our 'broken' children, we would.

In a perfect world, teachers and therapists have the education and skills. They are suppose to know what to do and how to do it. And we parents look to them to help craft the perfect IEP... the IEP that will provide everything the child needs to progress... no, EXCEL!!
Do I set expectations too high, perchance???

So with Jonathan's IEP coming up, I have started thinking about what kind of goals we should be establishing for him this next year. I have been brain storming a list of "good goals" for his IEP.... and I found that this was not an easy task! It is so hard to articulate what his goals should be in a meaningful way. It is so much easier to just say what I want....

I want him to say "Hi mommy!" when I walk in the room.

I want him to share with me his interests and show me things he likes, not just get me to do things that he needs or wants.

I want him to play with me, not just by me.

I want him to have friends. Real friends that he likes to see and wants to play with.

I want him to try and tickle me. And chase me. And chase and tickle me.

I want him to be able to use his imagination and play creatively.

I want words.

Lots and lots of words.

Am I asking for too much?

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Sometimes he is so quiet.
Frequently he is so quiet.

Word attempts are sporadic.
I can never predict when
he might make a sound or word.

He doesn't jabber or babble.
Not to himself, and not to us.
At least, not often.

He is quiet.

Some days I think he wants to communicate.
To talk.

Other days I think he is happy being quiet.

Our Halloween Fireman

Sunday, November 1, 2009


We have a fairly standard bedtime ritual in our house, one that is no doubt very similar to most households. After bath and teethbrushing, we get J-man a drink of milk, read stories in the rocking chair, turn out the light and rock him a little bit and then lay him down in bed. One of these days.... no doubt soon.... we will do away with our rocking time. But, for now, it is my favorite time of day.

Tonight, after the lights went out and we snuggled together in the rocking chair for a bit, J-man started wiggling and turning (my signal that it is time to lay him down in bed). As I picked him up and started to his bed, he said... clear as day... "Bye-ie".

He told me BYE!

It both thrilled me and sent a pang into my heart. But thrilled me more.


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