Aiirrow!

I know, I know: I didn’t hand in my bloggy homework. But the dog ate my internet! Thanks probably to our notoriously fault-prone landline, I dropped to 9 (nine!) kbps bandwidth. And when it speeded up a bit, I promptly had a serious, life-threatening bout of ennui; yadda yadda yadda I’m here now, m’kay?

I have re-read my last post. It was not precisely overloaded with narrative sense, and I am pedantic enough to have a need to explain further. Harry tugged his balloon free by accident, watched it fly half-way across the car-park, and said ‘Uh-oh!’ to tell me what had happened. I saw the balloon but didn’t realise it was his balloon, made up some spurious little balloonless boy for the purposes of my life-suckage lecture, realising only at the very end that Harry’s balloon had flown away. It was his balloon all along.

Doh. This is the sort of minor tragedy you get a plethora of when you have a little boy who can’t talk to you.

Yet.

I no longer lie awake in the pit of the night worrying that Harry will never talk. Since the end of April, when he first blurted out ‘Bye’, and particularly since early June, when he and I triumphed together in his hard-fought-for ‘Mum!’, he has been steadily acquiring more spoken language – and every new word is a jewel and a delight to me. I do worry absolutely plenty about the immaturity and clarity of Harry’s speech: when – or even whether – he will pronounce ‘normally’ and not start nearly every sound with a D/T hybrid that ends with an ‘uss’ variant. How long it will take him to speak in sentences. When – or even if – he will cease to struggle to arrange his words.

I do particularly worry about all the sounds (awfully important sounds) that, aged 3 whole years old, Harry hasn’t learned to make at all. K. J. CH. P. F. G. Q. V. EE. (That’s the first time I’ve sat and listed all his vocal ‘can’ts’, and I’m now chewing my lip. Didn’t realise there were quite that many.) And the words I have completely failed to teach him, even when he already uses the constituent syllables often. The word ‘No’ is a good example of this last: he can say ‘Nan’ and ‘Oh’ perfectly well, but when gently encouraged to copy my ‘No’, he can only say ‘Nan’.

But these are merely anxieties. Elephant-sized anxieties, admittedly, concealing plenty of misgivings underneath them, but they are, importantly, not the cold clouds of panic and out-and-out fear that parked themselves overhead for so long. I no longer worry he will be utterly voiceless.

Harry’s words, few as they are, make such a very profound difference to us all. For starters, every time I hear a recognisable word from his mouth, there is a gleam of sunshine from somewhere directly above my head; it’s a particularly warm beam of light when the word is ‘Mum’.

He has, this last couple of weeks, began to sing a tune that is a very recognisable excerpt from ‘Wheels on the Bus’. It only has one (varies day to day) syllable in the lyrics, but do we have a proper melody with several notes. He has now officially outstripped his father in musical vocal accomplishment.

Harry is touchingly proud of, and pleased with, his words. I can’t really discern to what extent Harry realises that he has a problem with speech – the chatter and questions that give an insight into the Dr Seuss-like world of a child’s mind are, of course, absent in the enigma that is Harry – but I think the issue in general doesn’t concern him overly. He is simply delighted with the fact that he can express himself in this exciting new fashion, and as his words become more entrenched in his vocab, he stops using the corresponding Makaton sign. 

Unfamiliar children – and occasionally adults – can be quite perturbed by the lack of speech in Harry’s social interactions, and we have the odd encounter and subsequent explanation that upsets me when we are out and about, but by and large his 2nd-centile 88cm height and unsteady run has worked in our favour, as the overall effect is for him to appear rather younger than he actually is.

Harry’s vague and excitable Makaton (his core communication language) can often be frustratingly hard to interpret, which lends his spoken words even more critical importance. The status quo is in daily flux – he learnt ‘Yes’ two days ago, and it is now in hourly, useful use; just as nodding was when he learnt the trick of that back in January. Hence I’ve compiled a list – I like lists – to remind me in later years just where we were today.

Speech

Mum – ‘Murm’

Dad – ‘Dairt’

Nan – ‘Nnan’

There – ‘Dere’

There it is – ‘Dere E tis’

Yes – ‘Yesss’

Bye – ‘Burr-bai’

Hello – ‘Aiirrow’

‘Bugger! Broke it!’ – ‘Uh-oh!’

WE know what he means

Two – ‘Terr’

Green – ‘Deeen’

Red – ‘Rare’

Juice – ‘Deuuce’

Geese – ‘Diesss’

Bus – ‘Dus’

Please – ‘Deease’

Impressions

Cow – ‘Muurmm’

Sheep – ‘Baaare’

Train – ‘Tsu-tsoo’

Ambulance/Fire/Police – ‘Eee-ah-Eee-ah’

Horse – Clip-clop noise

Clock – Tick-tock noise 

Sleeping – Snoring noise. It’s awesome.

Makaton signs.

Colours – Green, Orange, Blue, Yellow, Brown, Black, Orange, White.

Animals – Dog, rabbit, crocodile, bird, tortoise, fish, butterfly, (Lion/Tiger/Dinosaur – identical roar & pounce!)

Transport – Tractor, combine, crane, digger, train, helicopter, aeroplane, bike, (car/bus/truck – identical).

Food – Apple, chocolate, bread, sweeties, cake, biscuit, ice cream, drink, juice.

Outside –  Tree, flower, wind, rain, grass, waves, snow.

I am –  hungry, cold, hot, sad, scared, angry, naughty, excited, hurt, all done.

People – Dad, Mum, Nan, Grandad, ‘J’, ‘T’, ‘R’, Mr Tumble, ‘self’, Harry, baby.

Things I do – shower, bath, tooth-brushing, telephone, storybook, painting, kite.

Misc – Please, Thank-you, bye, help, bad, good, love, sleep, hear, yes, no.

Moviemaker Hates Me. I Hate Codecs.

Six hours I have sweated to bring you this short magnum opus. Six!

It’s Been Emotional

HARRY IS SAYING ‘BYE’!

That is all.

You’ll Never Know, Dear, How Much I Love You

Last night, I stayed up until nearly dawn writing a report that was 5 times longer than I’d originally envised it, detailing Harry’s… quirks… for his new nursery staff at School Fabulous (© May). I’m hoping his more adorable qualities will become self-evident to them, because I haven’t had space to talk about those. It’s… kinda long.

John and I took him to meet the staff there today (he banged his head three times in 30 minutes). There are four nursery staff, and currently only 3 other children doing afternoon sessions, one of whom we already know. It is, you will not be surprised to hear, a special school, catering for children aged 2 to 19, all of whom have special educational needs.

School Fabulous is a pretty cool place. Sensory garden, light room, soft play centre, hydrotherapy pool, huge indoor sand pit, areas for every type of play I can think of, and a playground strewn with Exciting Stuff. There are speech therapists, physiotherapists, nurses and nursing assistants, all visiting on-site.

The school is well-known throughout our county, as… THE special school. How can I put this? There’s a lot of parking for wheelchairs. There’s lots of kids wearing head protectors. When I tell friends who haven’t heard about Harry’s lack of speech that he is starting there, they all look mildly horrified and blurt out a variation on ‘Why, what’s wrong with him?’ before hastily re-modelling their faces into Kind Concern and I’mSureHe’llComeOnVeryWell fervent nodding.

What I feel about that generally depends on how much I like the friend.

What I feel about his admission, following a panel meeting, is huge, profound relief. I sat and wept writing my long, pitifully long list of the things that Harry does that, taken as a whole, make him such a challenge to parent. I’d never held the collective weight of every single one of our difficulties in my mind before then, and I’d not realised quite how many minor troubling issues I had been hoping he would grow out of.

Whih is absurd, really, because Harry is making very discernable progress, if not in his actual speech, then certainly in his communication. Either his comprehension of our speech has taken a  leap forward, or his newly-acquired skill of nodding has motivated him to integrate with us more – perhaps both.

This morning, on a whim, I asked him to say the word ‘Tesco’ (Yeah, yeah, I know. Of all the words to pick. We were outside!). And he tried! He’s never mimicked a sound on request in his entire life. I think he either hasn’t hitherto understood what ‘say’ (i.e. ‘Harry say it’) meant, or his brain just can’t retrieve and reproduce memorised speech-sounds accurately yet. Again, probably both. I’d most likely have had no luck had I asked him to mimic any sound except T or D, which letters begin most of his babble, but he definitely sat there having a go at repeating ‘Te…Te…Te’ after me. 

I floated into the shop. Which was some achievement considering the scales registered an all-time personal worst for me this morning – why, yes, that does include pregnancy OMFGlalalalaHalpHalpHalplookattheprettyweather. Looking on the bright side (I will, consequently, have to move out of the way of the GODDAMNED SUN) I have re-joined my old gym, and will shortly be gymming and swimming Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons while Harry is in his new nursery, just around the corner. My health, sadly, desperately needs these 7.5 hours a week devoted to improving its host.

I am planning to keep him at our local mainstream nursery on Friday mornings, and extend his session over lunchtime. We will be financially better off all-told, as his new nursery place is fully funded on account of his specific need, and I will be paid a mileage allowance for taking him there.

Which brings me to the only part of this that makes me really bite my lip and think about the whole Holland thing again. I don’t have to take him myself if I don’t want to: Harry is entitled to free transport there and back, as it is a needs-based placement. Although I would not even remotely consider the option at present, the school would arrange to deliver him door to door.

In their – short – Sunshine bus.

To Infinity and Beyond

I had the shittiest dream last night. I dreamt I was pregnant in the same uterus Harry was in – the uterus I now think of very firmly as the blood-deprived, factory-of-doom, Wrong One To Use. It has been cramping and spotting again lately in its usual will-I-won’t-I-wait-until-you-get-into-the-swimming-pool fashion, plus I have a vague viral thing that has settled joyously upon my weakened form and issued orders for Dizzyness and Mild Nausea: stat, so there was a reasonable physiological subtext for my brain to have Bad Fun with.

I remember feeling frozen cold in fear and so absolutely convinced that the pregnancy would be another oxygen-deprived how-much-brain-damage? nightmare –  that I was actually considering an early termination rather than play another months-long game of Russian Roulette: Choking the Fetus.

(When I woke up, I realised that that part was actually true. That’s how much I distrust Cameron, my right uterus. She is never to be given another child of mine to house. I awoke in an actual waking panic, having dream-connected the Nausea and Twanging Cameron and shot out of bed towards my peestick stash like a wild-eyed, snaggle-haired, ungainly cannonball.

I never thought I’d see a time where I was truly glad to get a single line. Life: you are bloody strange.)

My dreams are no more logical than anyone else’s: despite being panicked and horrified about the location, I was also aware that I had a scan and blood test tomorrow to see if the baby was still alive – and I was desperately hoping that it would all be ok. Contradictory much, yeah yeah yeah. The fear was gut-wrenching and miserably upsetting: I was trying not to cry whilst I was frantically wrenching the correct pee-stick from its bag, dancing from foot to foot because A) snow-cold, unheated bathroom and B) large mug of tea just before bedtime.  

My brain hasn’t thrown these sort of night-time bricks at me for years – they stopped right about the time they changed to NICU-horrors, oddly enough. I’d forgotten the exact nature of the torment, the excruciating uncertainty of waiting for the next appointment. I’ve remembered now, this weekend, because my darling, deserving friend May is sat squarely, again, in that Place of Fetal Uncertainty. It is a spiky, needle-strewn chair, with a ground glass cushion.

Tomorrow morning, she and H will collapse Zombryo’s wave function and see if and where there is life, death, or further zombryonicity in Schrodinger’s uterus. 

Either way: she will need much in the way of virtual cuddling and I shall be away on holiday, so I am handing y’all (What? What? I have American family. I have American friends. I read American blogs. I’m Entitled. If she won’t use proper English then neither shall I, so there.) the banners reading ‘Cautious Rejoicing & Temporary Exhaling!’ and ‘Stop All The Clocks’ for you to take over there and display as appropriate while I am gone.

 Her blog is considerably better-written than mine: you will like it.

My preparations for tomorrow’s departure consist of packing a basket full of illicit sugary consumables – partly with the intention of indulging ourselves, and partly in the hope of shamelessly bribing Harry into good behaviour –  and sorting Mount Laundry

into its respective drawers. It’s 9pm. I should now go and pack, or something.

It’s been nearly a year (caravan excepted) since we last took Harry away, and I’m hoping he’ll settle better at night than he did last February. He is (this week, at any rate. It will All Change with his next cold virus) sleeping through for 12 hours, no bother. He learnt to jettison his Grobag so has spent the last week sleeping successfully with a toddler duvet. John and I are currently chewing tensely on the issue of moving him into a toddler bed, as he is perfectly capable of vaulting out of his cotbed – greedy boards notwithstanding – now his legs are free. 

He swiftly gets bored with the books we plant in the hope of delaying him and generally briskly completely disrobes on waking. If we don’t get in there sharp-ish in the morning, there is not only a giggling na.ked tod.dler (the google searchers who necessitate my fullstops will burn a long time downstairs, I hope) bouncing gleefully up and down, but a large puddle on the mattress to boot. The potty, incidentally, is going… badly. Not ready.

There’s not a cat in hell’s chance of him staying meekly in any bed without bars yet: he’s simply not old, placid or mature enough and I have the devil of a job getting him to stay on the sofa to nap every day. There’s several weeks/months of shitty-awful sleep involved in moving a toddler of Harry’s disposition to a open bed – and once it’s attempted, we can’t go back. Harry has Views on withdrawal of privileges: if he’s had or done something new once, then case precedent has been firmly set and he will throw heaven and earth about in a rage until he is allowed to do it again. So in summary: it’s a damn shame he’s in proper danger of hurting himself by falling out, because the bugger really needs to sleep in there for the foreseeable.

Of course, we could better the odds by providing something like these

   

to render Staying The Fuck Put a little more alluring, but there’s a wee problem with that, to wit: I blew well over a grand – our entire baby budget – just on nursery furniture for Harry’s room.

I bludgeoned John into making this purchase of QUALITY, SOLID ELEGANT OAK  (Fer the love o’God, don’t tell him they’ve just reduced it by 10%. I keep having to reassure him about the resale value) by telling him that it would totally last until Harry is 5 and then we could have another 8 children who would all use it too and it’d be a heirloom for all of them and then I would use it as a day bed and if we have the cot bed then we really have to have the beautiful changing unit as well or it’ll look odd on its own and oh look the changer top comes off so it can be our chest of drawers afterwards and I really really love the gently flared design it’s so stylish and we’re only going to ever have one child so it needs to be absolutely perfect because I deserve it after all the shit we’ve had and OMG look the blanket box has got little teddies sat on it and there’s squeee more inside we have to have one of those as well it’s the most gorgeous thing ever and OW the baby just kicked I think he really likes it I think I’ll just sit down on this glider chair here that I really love as well and rub my bump obviously in a pleading fashion whilst you peer in foaming disbelief at the price tags and mutter.

He bought the furniture. My Nan bought the glider. My parents bought the pushchair/carseat. I am a spoilt middle-class cow. If I suggest buying another bed he’ll want to murder me… but the man does like to sleep…

It’s bloody cold in this office and I’ve had no supper yet, but I have to log that Harry has continued to do New Stuff this week, or later, I won’t have the foggiest clue when it happened, and it’s important to me that I remember the When for some reason.

He has built on last week’s Nodding triumph (it is now in hourly, useful, exciting use) and used it to facilitate Abstract Questions. Formerly, Harry has only been able indicate a Yes/No to specific ‘do you want to: do [this]/eat [this]/go to [here]’ questions. He has been utterly bemused by any other question apart from ‘where is [actual object]’ to which he will point in response. Ask Harry if he wants food: you get a yes. Ask him if he likes his food/has eaten his food/has dropped his food/his food is hot and you get a blank, uncomprehending stare. It’s a communication wall of iron.

Yesterday morning, I asked him if he had done a poo in his nappy? 

And he nodded.

Now, I knew it was there: I have a nose. I know he knew it was there – if I’d asked him (as I often do) to point to the poo, he will cheerfully point to his own rump before leading me in a Benny Hill chase around the furniture, as he hates nappy changes. He has never responded like that before, and my streaming eyes were not purely down to what he had to declare in the turd department.

Yesterday afternoon, John accidently caught Harry’s nose on the zip of his jumper: because Harry was tired and crotchety he cried. I knelt down and asked, as I have for many many fruitless months (often several times a day, too) where his hurt was? and shook my hand in the ‘hurt’ makaton sign. This time – he pointed sadly to his nose.

Yesterday evening, John and I were pratting about and chasing each other around the kitchen island – over the last bottle of Heineken lager, in fact. Harry was gurgling with laughter and joining in, when he slipped over and banged his head on the kitchen cupboard. I cuddled him, and asked him where his hurt was? He pointed to the exact bit of head I’d seen him bash. The iron wall is definitely beginning to crumble a little. Knowing which bit of your child is causing the pain is pretty key. Not having a clue where to look has hitherto caused me much grief.

I asked him later on if he had been tobogganing with Daddy, and he nodded. (He had). I asked him if he liked tobogganing, and he nodded. I’m not completely sold on how much he understood the completed action/active liking element to my words because he was giving at least 50% of his attention to Timmy Time at that exact moment, but it was certainly progress from tuning me out completely. The current professional opinion on Harry is that he has a listening and attention disorder with sensory oddities. Some noises upset him. Some noises he completely zones out. Some noises he is absurdly sensitive to. Paraphrasing his SALT report: he has difficulty following adult-led activity unless it is very high-interest or active, and prefers to follow his own play agenda. The challenge is to attract his focus for longer periods: when he pays more attention and listens to others better, then his speech should follow.

I can see him taking longer and longer steps away from his babyhood: I am pleased and pained. His babble sounds seem to me to be growing in scope and range. Shortly before Christmas he began to join in with me when I sang him carols in the car (a fine way to explore which carols you don’t actually know the second verses to, although you thought you did. I got mightily confused and started singing cut & shut hybrid carols instead; I fear the resulting lyrics gave a reasonably heretical impression.), making sounds that remarkably resembled his father’s two-note repertoire.

He won’t let anyone except John’s mother touch his hair. He has fallen deeply in love with Playdoh. He has possibly the biggest fleet of toy tractors outside of a retail environment and copies perfectly what he sees his father do with the real thing. He copies everything that he sees other children do: usually things I would prefer him not to notice. His proficiency at jigsaw puzzles is impressive and markedly in advance of his peers. He still loves feeding his toy animals, often from his own plate. He is a clambery, ants-in-his-pants, unco-operative arsehead when he is tired. He gives absolutely the best lap snuggles – with extra kisses – in Christendom. God, I love him. So, so much.

Taxi! The Cococabana!

Reasons to be happy:

  • Carry On Cleo is on TV. Infamy!
  • Harry has learnt to nod! We have actual nodding! Nodding to go alongside the shaking he learnt last (pause to peruse own archives) September. At the grand old age of 29 months he can now give a silent no AND yes – when he responds at all; his continuing speech delay, it turns out, is part of a wider listening and attention disorder. But… back to happy! Nodding! It’s a… strange nod, admittedly; it looks more like a slooooooow motion yoga move than a gesture, but it’s clear to see and he enjoys doing it.
  • Christmas has been put back in its box. It’s hard to say which experience I enjoy more: the festooning-with-holly-and-twinkly-lights festive gearing-up, or the get-back-in-your-bloody-box-coz-I-want-my-house-back-now winding down.
  • I tackled the heaps of near-sentient washing in our bedroom on Christmas Eve, so I am no longer obliged to groan and feel depressed by the morass that previously concealed 90% of the actual carpet. It was actually all clean – at least, it was, before it spent weeks on the floor – it just never made it as far as being folded and placed in the wardrobe. 50% of my share of the clothing  mountain was also too small for me; I would grab it, hold it to the light, scrutinise the label, and cast it impatiently back onto the tangled skeins of sleeves and legs. Annnnd I have sharply deviated away from subjects that please me. Clear floor! I have a clear floor! I can see my Laura Ashley rug again! The only one I own! Harry now has his brio train track all laid out on said floor – John and I spent a happy half-hour elbowing him imperiously out of the way while we re-visited our respective childhoods – and Brrrrrrmmms his trains around in the morning for 20 precious minutes or so, before remembering that he likes to bounce up and down on Mummy’s sleeping head.
  • I have booked a little holiday. On Monday 11th I am heading for Center Parcs for 4 nights, where I plan to ensconce myself with a good book on a deckchair in the 29.5 degree tropical dome, sipping something cool, while Harry & John splash about in the pool. Disconcertingly though, it seems John is planning on making me actually cycle places, and has just bought a bike carrier for the car. Sigh. But… 29 degrees! Wave machines! Flumes! Lagoon Bar!

A Tiger? In Africa?

First things first: a sincere and very humble thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful, unexpected, staggeringly generous support. I am truly bowled over by it.

I had thought maybe a handful of you might chuck in a couple of quid for a good cause and I would have been so delighted and appreciative had you done just that. As it was, I kept blinking at the screen in awe as the total kept going up; the fact that so many of you dug deep into your credit-crunched pockets has left me stupefied, touched and grateful beyond words. I cried so many bloody pints, in fact, I couldn’t shift the resulting headache until yesterday. As of this evening, the grand total http://www.justgiving.com/DarthToddler stands at £751, and the gift aid (tax relief) Bliss can reclaim on our direct donation of the £261 raised via the coffee morning, will send the effective value well over £800.

Bless you, internets.

(BTW, UK readers might like to consider Bliss’s lovely Christmas cards. If you are a knitter, there is something else you can do, too: knit some breasts.)

I’m still not in my usual mental place about cake (deep and fervent desire, generally) and I was fair buggered after it all on Sunday. John, with a forbearance he does not usually exhibit, let me sleep in until 10am without muttering under his breath OR inflicting Harry – a bouncy, morning toddler – on me. He didn’t even moan much when I disappeared, grinning broadly, to the Hobbycraft show at the NEC, although it was absurdly, tiresomely crowded and the queues for coffee were daunting; after an hour or so of employing the wifey Elbow into unyielding backs I was beginning to feel a bit limp about things again. I even fell asleep in front of the TV, which is almost unheard of – and followed it up with a night of insomnia, which isn’t.

And since then my arse has not stopped scurrying dementedly about, because this is, work-wise, the busiest month of my year. I attempted to combine parenting with work this morning: my post natal group (which, for want of a suitable collective noun, I term the Piddle) meet at the local playbarn on Wednesday mornings, and I thought, as Harry generally scuttles about the playframe by himself – much like a hamster on speed – while I latte-up and wave from the ground, that I could arrange a regular stationery-selling gig there, and still take him with me. The playbarn agreed, so this morning I saw him bustle off to play alongside the rest of the Piddle toddlers, and had no sooner begun unpacking my boxes of Christmas cards when a friend appeared at my side.

‘I realise this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but Harry’s filled his nappy. It… errr… reeks!

Ohhhhh. Nice!

Gave friend cash tin to guard. Captured protesting child before he could spread it about any further. Inserted him in arms of another friend who had unwisely strayed too close. Galloped outside and extracted nappy bag from car. Reclaimed child. Carted yammering child to changing rooms. Recoiled in dismay from diarrhoea-y output. Noted glumly that vest was heavily… compromised. Trousers, thankfully, escaped with mere light staining, which I pretended not to notice, due to absence of any alternatives. Changed impatient child. Double-bagged shitty vest. Noted sore bottom. Rummaged through bag for barrier cream, unsuccessfully. Cursed. Unleashed clean child back into main area. Returned to unpacking cards.

A few minutes later I am still head-down, arranging, when a lady I have never seen before in my life approaches, holding Harry by the hand. He is wearing … Christ! … just his nappy and t-shirt, and she is holding his trousers.

‘Excuse me! Is this your son?’

‘Oh God.’

She took this for assent.

‘He was running about happily at the bottom of the big slide, but his trousers were sat half-way up it!’

I managed to splutter something about thanks, made reasonably incoherent by shame. The Piddle were all wetting themselves – ha ha – and Harry was firmly shepherded into the toddler section where they could keep an eye on him for me. Work/Motherhood FAIL. Thankfully he forgot about his trouser-removing mood, but later duly proceeded to have more diarrhoea, necessitating another lengthy trip to the changing room. I was worried about him rubbing his little bottom raw, but repeated enquiries about ‘Home?’ all met with a determined nolle prosequi and it was gone lunchtime before I brought him home for a late nap on the sofa, nappy off, legs sprawled and bum slathered in barrier cream.

His portage visitor is coming in the morning and I am guiltily aware that both cramming in more work than normal and the weekend’s frantic activity have meant that we have not done our piano practice, so to speak. His portage worker is puzzled by Harry, as are we all. He seems such a bright little boy in some respects, yet there are some fundamentals that he still isn’t grasping at all. He can answer a question regarding his own wants easily, but cannot grasp anything more abstract.

For instance: although he can give a firm and clear affirmative to ‘Would you like some grapes?’ he cannot grasp the meaning of ‘Have you finished your grapes? Are the grapes all gone?’ It’s not that he has no personal gain or motivational interest in answering an abstract question per se, or even that he doesn’t understand the meaning of the individual words, because he does – it’s just that there’s no comprehension there at all. He listens to my words, but remains impassive, clueless on how to respond, or even that a response is required. Yet if I ask him to give me one, two or three kisses, he wheel-spins towards me happily to plant the appropriate number of smackers on my lips.

His communication is slowly, imperceptibly improving. His proto-words and phrases are becoming more consistent and although he still does not have a single clear word he is sometimes easy to interpret; one of the playbarn ladies who rescued his trousers (pause to wince and mourn my maternal pride) assured me she had asked him where his Mummy was and understood his response. (I expect she got ‘Daretiss!’ (‘There it is’) with an enthusiastic gesture to back it up.)

His gains are so gradual that I’ve had some panicky days about it again lately. His default babble-noun currently is ‘Tayzass’. Everything is bloody Tayzass, all day long. He  has expanded on the ubiquitous Muuurrrrmmm! and his repertoire of animal sounds now includes piggy-snorts, horsey clip-clops (with jiggly rein hand-gestures), sheep baas (glotteral throat-coughs that sound like a machine gun with a terminal blockage) and tiger, complete with a lovely little RrroOAaaaWWRrr and pouncey-paws. I get regaled with the Snorty-oinks, the Muuurrmmm, the Ack-Ack-Ack-Ack-baaas and the clippety-clop sounds pretty regularly from the back seat as we drive around Warwickshire – and his hawk-eye spots a tiny specimen 4 fields away. Tiger-roars from the back seat are, reassuringly, reasonably infrequent.

I have only just now realised (go me! but Yay for the constructive thought-process that is blogging) that his effortless recognition of large numbers of Makaton signs coupled with his indistinct, confused and highly limited use of them, precisely mirrors his difficulties with spoken communication. His understanding of speech is entirely age-appropriate – everyone thinks, bar the reservations over his puzzling comprehension-gaps – but his speech output is currently still fairly banjaxed. He only uses the signs for ‘ice-cream’, ‘more’ and ‘please’ pro-actively, although he uses those plenty and often. Are you getting a cupboard-love theme coming through, here?

I had a fair few people who caught sight of him beetling happily around, a beaming centre of attention, at the coffee morning, later ask me breezily about his speech – in the obvious expectation that I would have news of his suddenly starting to speak in sentences, Just Like Their Neighbour’s Cousin’s Stepbrother’s Friend’s Kid They Cited To Confidently Reassure Me last time I encountered them. And I found myself taking no pains at all to let them down gently – or give them much of a leg-up out of the subsequent conversational hole they found themselves in – when I answered that No, no speech and next stop: Psychology & Brain Scan. Which was undoubtedly uncharacteristically unkind of me, particularly as they had dutifully tipped up to give me some money, but I’ve been feeling rather angst-ridden about Harry’s future lately and its been spilling out around the edges of my Politeness containment field. We saw the little girl who is Harry’s direct contemporary this evening, and she is suddenly three inches taller, spouting huge sentences, jumping with staggering co-ordination and rolling the skittle ball like a bowling pro.

And to think I was revoltingly smug because Harry could sit up and walk first! I know, I know, I know: he’ll probably catch up, and the fact that she’s obviously developmentally surged ahead of him shouldn’t get to me, but it really bloody has. Despite everyone’s best efforts he is still struggling against difficulties with both his body and his brain – and the more I feel like this, the more I feel that I really want that MRI, for the bringing of either reassurance or answers.

And And And And my period is now well into its third sodding week, and getting heavier and more aggravating by the day. My hair needs cutting. My gym membership has run out. I have lost no weight at all. My eyes will no longer accept my contact lenses, and I detest wearing glasses. The gastro thing I kept moaning about so often earlier in the year is still happening, I just got tired of whinging about it continually. I am woken up at erratic intervals, always and without exception between the hours of 2am and 4am, by a 3 or 4 hour bout of debilitating upper abdominal pain. Drs best guess is endometriosis, ulcer or – mostly likely, given the symptoms, but least likely given that prodding my gallbladder doesn’t make me yelp – gallstones. I am currently on anti-acid thingies, with the additional instruction to eat a thoroughly greasy curry and see if it brings on an attack.

I’m too… ummm… chicken to do it.

That is all, as it is nearly 2am and I can think of nothing else to whinge about just at present.

Thank you so very very much, again, for your marvellous support of sick, small and premature babies – and of me.

To borrow the phrase of a dear friend: I appreciate the fuck out of you.

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