Look not upon the seed, look upon the tree

When I picked the color for Lei’s first hearing aids, it was a major philosophical decision: hide or flaunt?

Did I want her to blend in or stand out? Did I hope for her to be mistaken for normal? Did I dream for her deafness to go unnoticed or celebrated?

What do you think I chose? Her first hearing aids were bright pink.

Why did I think about it so deeply? My mom.

Continue reading

Speech and the Language Sundae

Buffy: "Stop new wordage? Never gonna happen."
In addition to being bouncy, our speech therapist Buffy was also into slaying anything that interfered with speech and language development.

A playful area rug on the floor, a foot massage with fragrant lotion, a little song performed as though Lei’s toddler feet were microphones: thus began her early speech therapy sessions. Her speech therapist was petite, perky, blond Buffy, a person worthy of sharing a name with the Vampire Slayer. Her approach to speech therapy was to get the child’s nervous system regulated, to give them all the sensory input they needed, to get the muscles of their mouths and faces all working in perfect concert, and only then work on speech. She was (and is) the best.

All this laying of foundation taught me something about speech and language.

Continue reading

From the archive: Controlled chaos all over my shirt

White pit bull terrier

This is a post from December, 2005, that first appeared on my now-defunct blog, Today in the Life. The funny thing about reading this now is the idea that I had any kind of “control” over the chaos. Em … no. Coco was our white and brindle Staffordshire terrier (a.k.a. pit bull), who died in October, 2014. 

Lei just came into her playroom where I am trying to escape my parental responsibilities and made a sign I couldn’t understand. It wasn’t the sign for HOT, but she sounded like she was saying “hot.” I followed her into the living room.

White pit bull terrier
When Coco came to live with us in October of 2005, she had heartworm and was just not well. She was in the pound, a day away from being euthanized when a rescue group swooped in and delivered her to us. She was a handful, way more than I was ready for, but she got better and mellowed out eventually. We loved her dearly.

I still don’t know what she was trying to convey, but when I got into the living room I saw a big puddle, complete with surrounding splash, of watery dog vomit. I guess it’s time to feed Coco.

Coco hasn’t been fed yet this morning because I have to make her food for her. Yes, boiled ground chuck and instant white rice, because anything else gives her the runs. She eats better than three quarters of the world’s population.

But before I could make her food, I had to wipe up the mess. I grabbed a receiving blanket – our answer to towels of all kinds – and used it to absorb the foamy liquid, then added the blanket to the bag of puked-on stuff from last night. We’re not doing so well when it comes to keeping peristalsis heading downward. Continue reading

From the archives: This I believe

In 2004, my brother emailed me that I should think about submitting an essay to NPR’s then new series, This I Believe. About a year later, near the end of my daughter’s second year of life, this playful reflection is what I wrote. I never did submit it to NPR, just posted it to my long-defunct blog, Today in the Life. Anyway, enjoy!

Someday they really are going to grow up.
Someday they really are going to grow up.

I believe that housework offers its own reward, and those who perform it are bounty hunters.
Continue reading

Doctors, fairy tales and oxytocin

You know what happens when your car is making a weird noise and you take it to the mechanic? Right. Nothing. Suddenly everything is smooth as silk and the noise has mysteriously gone away.

Lei has always been like this. No, she’s not a car, but when she was a baby she could have a high fever, or never make eye contact, or emit a horrible high-pitched shriek all day every day, but as soon as we were in the same room with a doctor, she was golden. Bright, alert, looking that doctor straight in the eye, as if to say, “I’m the healthiest, happiest, milestone-hittingest kid in the world, doc.”

And the doctors mostly thought I was extremely neurotic. It was great.

Continue reading

Can’t you see? Inklings of life as a deaf visual thinker

The other day my husband was telling Lei to come to the dinner table and not sit back down at the computer. She had her CI processor on and it seemed to be working, so he figured she could hear him. But she walked steadily towards the computer as he repeated, “Lei, please don’t go to the computer. Lei! Please come to the table!”

No response, no change in trajectory.

Finally Hubs got a bit impatient and took Lei’s arm. “Hey! I’m talking to you! Why are you completely ignoring me?!” I heard the commotion from the kitchen and came in to see what was happening.

Lei was upset with him for grabbing her arm. “Why are you grabbing me? I didn’t do anything wrong! I was going to sit at the table as soon as I got a sheet of paper from the computer desk.”

For the millionth time in Lei’s life, I wanted to tear my hair out, wondering WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY SO?

Continue reading

William Shakespeare’s guide to communication options for your deaf child

William Shakespeare portrait

So you’ve discovered your infant or child doesn’t hear the way you do. Congratulations! You’re at the start of a journey that will take you places you have probably never been before. In the words of William Shakespeare,

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

William Shakespeare portrait
The Bard’s advice: To thine own self be true.

One of the first big decisions you are probably faced with is how you will communicate with your child. You are probably getting a lot of advice from doctors, audiologists, speech therapists and other “experts.” But the real experts here are parents, and those are the people you must speak to about your options. Continue reading