Monthly Archives: July 2008


I had a marginally eventful day today, with various unrelated things happening that gave me some pause.

  • The first event was being met with this message:

    Scrabulous is disabled for US and Canadian users until further notice. If you would like to stay informed about developments in this matter, please click here.

    I was just saying last night that I needed to buckle down and get stuff done. And mentioned my “other methods of procrastination.” Well, as it turns out, this was one of them: I’ve been playing a few games of Scrabulous (the Scrabble rip-off) on Facebook with a few friends.¹ It’s not a huge time sink, since a whole day usually passes between turns. But I was usually playing 2 or 3 games. (Okay, and I’ve tried a couple of other word games as well. What can I say? I love to play with words.) But now the makers of Scrabble are suing for intellectual property/copyright infringement (and I can’t say I blame them). So no more Scrabulous for me. And seing as I was just hinting at needing to cut down on my procrastination, this seemed to be a sign. Or perhaps a S₁I₁G₂N₁.

  • This evening I also experienced some more signs that my pregnancy is progressing. I’ve had quite a few (painless) contractions and various other sensations that remind me how little time may be left before the little guy makes his appearance. I’m almost 37 weeks along, and as such, I could go any day now. I’ve sort of been counting on having a few more weeks to get stuff done.
  • The final sign of the day was more unambiguously welcome. A box of brownie mix that has been sitting around for weeks (or months) caught my eye. In particular, the directions calling for 2 eggs. We had eggs for dinner last night, in part to try to finish them up before their expiration date. After last night, we had 2 eggs left. Exactly 2 eggs. Eerie, don’t you think? Add to that a craving for chocolate, a mixing bowl out of the dishwasher and not yet put away, and evening temperatures cool enough to consider turning on the oven, and I ask you: could the universe be sending me a clearer message than that?

  • —-

    Okay, there was one more event that happened today that got me riled up, but I can’t say I took it as any sort of a sign. I got into a bit of an altercation with a truck driver in Boston. He was trying to “help” me out of my parking space (which he, or perhaps another truck driver, had half-blocked me into) by yelling out somewhat useless and conflicting instructions. Which were then supplemented by rather patronizing and sexist comments. I was about ready to engage in fisticuffs. Perhaps I’ll have time to share the full rant later, now that I’ll have gained all that time from abstaining from addictive word games…


    Oh, and there was some other good news. A good sign, even, one might say. Phoebe used the toilet at daycare for the first time today. (And second and third.) After my rant just last night. Further, she wore the same diaper home that she left home in. (And no, not due to neglect. Nor due to her stubbornly holding back all day, which did cross my mind.)

    ¹ So, az, it looks like I can’t play for a bit. How does this affect Canadians living in Spain, by the way?

    catching up, bearing down

    I don’t have much time tonight, as it’s 10:30, and I’ve got some work to do before a meeting tomorrow. However, I feel compelled to give an update.¹

    Pregnancy seems to have finally caught up with me. After feeling strangely spry for the first 2 months of the 3rd trimester, my body apparently caught sight of the calendar. Suddenly, the heartburn has kicked in stronger. I’ve started having joint pains. Gravity is now exerting a greater than normal force on me, causing me to be more strongly adhered whatever surface I happen to be sitting on. And most irritatingly, the sausage feet that visited me occasionally have not only returned, but apparently camped in for the long haul. I feel like I am walking around with a 5 pound weight strapped to each of my feet, and I can barely shove my feet into the pair of sandals that had previously fit just fine. When I take my sandals off, I get a couple of big stripes of puffiness and dents that would make the Michelin man proud. Attractive as this may sound, there is a downside. My feet hurt, dammit.

    I’ve been trying to keep my feet up when I can, but this is not as often as one might expect when one is tending to a toddler. While Phoebe has gotten quite capable at many tasks, showing amazing fine motor skills in her paper-folding abilities, she has not yet mastered the art of cookery. Letting her have a go with the cooking knives did not go well, and she struggles with even the most rudimentary recipes. (This should not surprise me, considering previous research.)

    Then there’s the potty training, which continues to be the bane of my existence. We are on our third chart now, each glimmering with sparkly stickers of victory. 28 stickers on each completed chart. And not a single potty usage at daycare. (The child, who apparently has some sort of will of her own, has announced her intentions of using her diaper at daycare. She can do well keeping her big-girl underwear clean and dry at home, but if she is wearing a diaper, she tends to use it. And the daycare provider is not comfortable with kids wearing underwear until they have demonstrated an ability to use a potty for a couple of weeks.)

    I had an ultrasound today, as the new kiddo was stubbornly keeping his head up at my last appointment. Happily, he is now facing the general direction of the exit. Also, he appears to be growing well. (I actually had an ultrasound 4 weeks ago, too, to check on growth. My external measurements were not increasing over a whole month, which was a bit unsettling. We’ve both caught up, though.)

    I also had my last violin lesson for some indeterminate amount of time, which should at least make my schedule feel slightly lighter as I continue to grow heavier. Which is good, since I am feeling the pressure of time bearing down on me. I still have work/school goals I haven’t yet abandoned, and there is some chance I can get some of them done.²


    ¹ I’m apparently still addicted enough to this blogging business that I will take a break from my other methods of procrastination in order to blather on.

    ² Assuming I stop procrastinating.³

    ³ I’m still also working on finishing up writing about our experiences with Early Intervention. I’ve also got some pants on the backburner. (And I say Phoebe has trouble with cooking?) So, as soon as I have a chance to catch up….

    she picked black for the background of the most recent chart.

    Phoebe's progress charts. Note the evidence that Phoebe is our child: she picked black for the background of the most recent chart.

    a sopping Thursday

    It’s raining here today. Lots of rain. It’s a good day to bring out some umbrellas, so I give you a ThThTh list of umbrella things.¹

    a selection of umbrellas

  • The Sopping Thursday, by Edward Gorey. This is one of my all-time favorite Gorey books. John and I have been known to send each other messages that are quotations from the book:
  • I have lost my umbrella.
  • I do not find my umbrella
  • I have been poked in the eye with an umbrella
  • None of these umbrellas will do
  • And perhaps our favorite:

    The child has somehow got shut inside its umbrella

  • Mary Poppins: The famed fictional nanny of books, stage and screen uses her wind-propelled umbrella as a mode of transportation. (I think that’s how it works, at least. I confess that I haven’t read the books, and this horror trailer recut video is the most I’ve seen of the Disney movie.)
  • John Steed. A character from the 60s British spy show The Avengers. Carrying a finely crafted traditional British umbrella is one of his trademarks.
  • James Smith & Sons, Umbrellas Ltd.: An umbrella store in London, established in 1830. A place to go if you would like to buy a finely crafted traditional British umbrella .
  • The Correct Way to Kill: An episode of The Avengers. The plot involves a lot of umbrellas, as well as an umbrella store. Also spies with bad fake Russian accents. A favorite quote, which must be spoken with a bad Russian accent is:

    What would a chiropodist want with a case of umbrellas?

  • Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964). A musical starring Catherine Deneuve, featuring an umbrella shop.
  • Chatri Chor/The Blue Umbrella (2005) An Indian movie based on the children’s book by Ruskin Bond. About a poor girl who gets an umbrella, which is then stolen by a shopkeeper.
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952): The famous scene where Gene Kelly dances around in the rain with an umbrella (though generally not held over his head) singing “Singin’ in the Rain.”
  • Umbrella, a song by Innocence Mission (also the album title):

    You dance around with my umbrella.
    You dance around the obvious weaknesses.
    Around the room with my umbrella.
    You dance around the room with me.

  • let your smile be your umbrella: an expression meaning something like “let a good attitude keep your day from being totally crappy.” It’s probably good that the meaning is metaphorical, because let’s face it. A smile is pretty ineffectual at keeping you dry in the rain.
  • “Under the Umbrella of the United States”. This was a song that I remember singing in my Junior High chorus class as part of a series of jingoistic patriotic songs about America.²
  • umbrella superstitions: It is considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors. Or give an umbrella as a gift. There are a few others, too.³
  • a Haitian riddle:

    Q: Three very large men are standing under a single little umbrella. But, not one of them gets wet. Why?⁴

  • little paper umbrellas: What can I say about them? They are little umbrellas. Made from brightly colored paper. Often used in tropical-esque cocktails. I really liked them when I was little.⁵

  • ———————-
    ¹ I’ve had this list in mind for a while, but I was saving it for a rainy day…

    ² The song was pretty awful, and I can’t find a record of it. Anyone else ever heard of it? (I fear it may have been written by the chorus teacher himself. And someday he may find my scathing review.)

    ³ My own superstition, if you want to call it that, is that carrying an umbrella with you will prevent the rain. At least, it rarely rains when I bring an umbrella, and I rarely have an umbrella with me when it does rain.

    ⁴ A: It’s not raining.

    ⁵ The umbrellas, that is. I didn’t so much get to try the cocktails…

    a chicken joke

      Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
      A: To get to the other Starbucks


    This was a joke I made up a while back, inspired by a list of chicken jokes. I cracked myself up with it.

    However, recent news that Starbucks is closing 5% of their stores (especially those “unprofitable stores …being cannibalized by nearby Starbucks locations”) may make my joke obsolete. (Though at BU, some students were recently protesting the new Starbucks location, which is basically across the street from not one, but 2 nearby Starbucks locations…)

    And what will future generations think of this?

    (From Best in Show.)

    early intervention: starting to get into it (part 3)

    Last week I started writing about our experiences with Phoebe and Early Intervention for a language delay. Part 1 was about the original assessment, and part 2 was about starting to work with a speech pathologist. (If you are interested, you may also want to see what I wrote before the original assessment back in November.)


    Some time in January, our speech pathologist told us of an opening in a parent-toddler group that we could attend on Mondays. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the play group. I hadn’t had a whole lot of interaction with groups of parents and toddlers.

    The group leader, N., was a very friendly young woman who welcomed us warmly. The other parents were generally quite friendly as well, and all were supportive of all the kids in the group. There were about 8 kids in the group (each accompanied by a parent or other family member), with the number fluctuating a bit week by week. The first week we were there, Phoebe was the only girl at the group. Apparently boys are flagged for Early Intervention services much more frequently than girls. However, our group did have quite a few girls re-appear and join the group over time, as well. (In fact, at the last group we attended, there were more girls than boys. However, this was considered remarkable.) All kids were under 3, as services only cover kids up to 3. The youngest child was 18 months when we started, though I later learned that he was a “community child,” meaning a child not receiving EI services, and attending the group as a “model.” Most children were closer to 2. (Phoebe was almost 2 when she started.)

    While I know groups vary quite a bit, here’s an overview of what went on during the group.

    The group met for 2 hours, from 9 to 11 in the morning. Things started off with some unstructured time where kids could ease into things, and play with various toys set up in stations around the room. This gave adults a bit of time to chat (and thankfully, time to run late). The group leader, N, would also move around the room and chat with each child, and also with the adults to get progress updates. Other activities then followed, in a more-or-less fixed order: clean-up from the free play, snack time, playground time (indoor or outdoor, depending on weather), craft time, “circle time” (with songs) and then the good-bye. Each activity had it’s own routine and sometimes associated songs.

    Because the group was geared towards working on expressive language and communication skills, the routines typically involved getting the kids to participate and communicate. For example, for the snack, there was always a choice of 2 snack items, and the child was encouraged to express their choice. “Do you want crackers or raisins?” N might ask, showing both options. And depending on the individual’s abilities and level, different answers would be encouraged. For most of the kids, a single word or sign was encouraged. (Some of the kids weren’t speaking, though all in the group were hearing.) Sometimes a “please” would be encouraged. For some kids, such as those just entering the group, pointing to the desired snack was enough. For more advanced speakers, a whole-sentence request was elicited: “I want crackers.” I remember being impressed by one little boy, who was almost 3 and had been attending the group and getting EI services for at least a year, because he could sometimes be prompted to ask: “Can I have crackers, please?”

    Our own goal for Phoebe was to get Phoebe to make requests using single words. Even after she started making such requests with us, she was still very reluctant to speak in front of others. She would sometimes manage only to point, or only to whisper her choice in a single word. What was nice was that every attempt was greeted with encouragement and praise, and there was little pressure. If a child wasn’t up to making a request, a choice would be made for them and they would still get encouragement.

    I swear that Phoebe loved every bit of the play group time. She was probably fondest of circle time, where we’d all sit in a circle and sing songs. Each child would get a turn, in the order of our seating arrangement, to pick between two toys representing songs: a spider, a fish, a boat, a bus, etc. Most of the songs (or at least the tunes) were familiar to me (and some to Phoebe), and a subset of the same group of songs would be chosen each week. All the songs had some sort of movement or gestures, so that kids could participate with their hands and feet. (Mostly the kids did not sing along, but the adults all did.)

    Phoebe behaved quite wonderfully during the group, staying in her seat, following instructions, and observing everything going on around her. I think it helped that she had already been attending daycare, which also had a bit more structure than our time together at home. (I think Phoebe is also rather on the mellow side, as toddlers go.) The kids in the group varied in how well they could focus. A few kids would have trouble sitting still, especially by the end of the 2 hours. But for the most part, all the kids seemed tuned in for at least most of the group time.

    While I was worried that I would find the whole thing painfully hokey, seeing Phoebe so engaged was really gratifying. And while she continued to be quiet during the group time itself, she started to show a lot of signs early on that she was really taking in the lessons of the group.


    Okay, I’m still not done. Next time, I’ll write more about Phoebe’s progress. And maybe about the one-on-one sessions. If anyone out there has questions about particular aspects of the EI services we received, please feel free to leave a comment or email me. (See the “contact alejna” page in the sidebar.)

    staying put for a bit

    We just got back from a visit to my in-laws in New York. (We got in close to 1 a.m.) This will be our last visit down for a while, and also my last long-distance trip planned for this pregnancy. I’ve got less than 5 weeks to go before the due date, so it seems a good time to stick around close to home. (Holy crap, have I travelled a lot this pregnancy. 2 trips across the country and another to Texas, a trip to South America, a 7-hour-each-way car trip up to upstate New York, and umpteen 4-hour-each-way car trips down to see the inlaws. Not to mention all my 1-to-2-hour-each-way commutes into Boston, which I’ll still be doing twice a week for a couple of weeks yet. Does this mean I’m saddling the new kid with a gigantic carbon footprint? Or do we get some sort of break for essentially carpooling?)

    I still owe that next post on early intervention, for anyone who might be wondering. I haven’t forgotten (or abandoned the idea), just had no breathing room over the weekend. And likely will have no time till late tomorrow night, either.

    a butterfly collection

    A while back, I gave you a list of moths for a Themed Things Thursday list, and I said I’d get around to the other major set of lepidoptera shortly. So here is a collection of butterfly things, which I have carefully skewered with pins and lined up for your enjoyment.

      A Butterfly Collection

    1. butterfly collecting: a hobby that involves collecting specimens of butterflies, and typically pinning them to a board and displaying them under glass in rows. It was a particularly popular hobby during Victorian and Edwardian times.
    2. The Collector (1965) A movie about a butterfly collector who kidnaps a woman to add to his collection of creatures.
    3. butterfly net: a type of handheld net used for catching butterflies (often for a collection). The image of using oversized butterfly nets to catch people is sometimes used in cartoons (or the imagery is evoked in humor writing). Particularly when depicting the “men in white coats” in pursuit of an escapee from a mental institution. (cf: this, this, or this cartoon.)
    4. “The Butterfly”, a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. A tale of a butterfly seeking a flower to be his bride. Unsuccessfully. In the end, he gets caught by people and pinned down, a state he likens to marriage.
    5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. A picture book about a caterpillar who is hungry and eats a lot before becoming “a beautiful butterfly.” (Sorry, did I give away the ending?)
    6. Heimlich : a caterpillar (who is generally very hungry) from Pixar’s animated feature, A Bug’s Life. At the end of the movie, he emerges from his cocoon as a butterfly with wings disproportionatley small for his body, saying: “Finally, I’m a beautiful butterfly”?) (You can watch the scene on YouTube.)
    7. butterfly kiss: a nickname for the act of brushing one’s eyelashes against another person’s skin as an act of affection.
    8. In the Time of the Butterflies. A novel by Julia Alvarez about 4 sisters who participated in a resistance against a brutal dictator in the Dominican Republic. Their codename was “las Mariposas,” or “the Butterflies.” Also a 2001 TV movie based on the novel.
    9. butterflies in the stomach: an expression referring to temporary minor gastrointestinal distress triggered by stress, such as that due to an anticipated meeting or public performance. (Doesn’t that sound poetic?)
    10. The Monarch. A bumbling arch-villain from “The Venture Bros.”, a cartoon shown on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Wears a butterfly costume, as do his henchman.
    11. Madame Butterfly: an opera written by Giacomo Puccini about a Geisha in Nagasaki called “Butterfly.”
    12. “Butterfly”, a song by Weezer about catching a butterfly in a mason jar. It also makes reference to the opera Madame Butterfly, and is on the album Pinkerton, which is the name of the male protagonist from the opera.
    13. the butterfly effect:
      An idea from Chaos theory whereby minor events can trigger a chain reaction of other events, which can sometimes lead to big events. Such as the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings leading to a tornado changing its path. (Also a 2004 movie.)
    14. butterfly ballot: a voting ballot notorious from the 2000 US presidential election, as its confusing layout may have led some would-be Gore voters in Florida to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan.
    15. The Sinister Butterfly: “Nefariously fluttering from leaf to leaf.” John’s blog. Which he doesn’t update very often these days. But he has posted some great photos there before, as well as some other stuff that’s worth reading.


    Butterfly collection image source: Worcester City Museums, UK. The Monarch image was found here

    early intervention: getting started (part 2)

    Last night I posted a bit about Phoebe’s initial assessment for Early Intervention services. This is part 2. (If you are interested, you might also want to look back at what I wrote back at the end of November, and how we ended up getting the assessment.)


    As I mentioned, because of the time of year, it was several weeks after the assessment before our services got started.

    In early January, we heard from the person who would be taking on our case. (I’m actually not sure what her specific qualifications were. And actually, I never thought to ask. But we’ll call her a speech pathologist.) She set up an appointment to come to our house for a first meeting to talk to us about goals, and to write up our ISP (Individual Service Plan).

    At that time, our main concern was that, while she used quite a large number of different words to label things at her own discretion, and would occasionally produce longer utterances of her observations, Phoebe didn’t often use language to communicate her needs and wants. What was most difficult was that she would typically only ask for things by pointing, or sometimes just by becoming unhappy, and we would have the job of trying to figure out what was wanted. Most of the time, we were able to do this, largely through playing what was a lot like a game of 20 questions. Are you hungry? Do you want milk? Do you want the toy? Are you hurting? Those times when we didn’t come up with the right question, Phoebe would get frustrated. She would sometimes start making that sort of grunting/groaning toddler noise, and occasionally break down crying. Mind you, these times were few and far between, but we wanted to get past them. We knew, for example, that she could say the word (and in some cases the sign) for many of things that she wanted. But somehow, she was never willing to say them as a request.

    This was the main goal written on her ISP: for Phoebe to make simple requests, using single words.

    We also worked at that first meeting on getting a schedule for services. The speech pathologist would meet with Phoebe once a week, either at our home or at Phoebe’s daycare. Phoebe could also attend a weekly group at one of the program offices (either a parent-child group, or a “drop off” group). Since I wanted to be involved in the process, we got signed up for a parent-child group. I also wanted to be around for the one-on-one meetings, rather than have them take place at daycare. As it turned out, because of my tight schedule, we ended up scheduling our one-on-one meetings right after the play group, at the program building, rather than having a separate meeting at our home on a different day.

    We did have one more home visit from the speech pathologist before starting the regular schedule. She came over with a bag of toys, and sat down to play with Phoebe. Because that was just what it seemed like. As they played, the speech pathologist used very short, simple sentences and repeated single words often. I was very impressed with how engaged Phoebe was right from the start.

    The speech pathologist also left us with some suggestions for encouraging Phoebe to make requests. The main suggestion was to frequently give Phoebe a choice of two things. For example, when offering a crayon, we should ask “Do you want green or blue?” When she’d point to one or the other, we should use the single word, repeating it clearly a couple of times. I was a bit skeptical about how much difference this could make, but having seen how engaged Phoebe was during the meeting, I decided to work this into our daily routine.

    It may well have been a total coincidence of timing, but we had a breakthrough shortly after. I wrote a post about it on my old “Phoebe blog” (which I used mostly to post updates for family and friends) on January 19th. Since that site seems to be broken just now, I’ll copy the whole thing here:

    We’ve been working on trying to get Phoebe to express her wants to us more clearly. Phoebe uses a lot of words, but usually just to name things. She’s quite good at responding to questions, like “what does a dog say?” (“woof”) or “what color is this?” (“gee!”) or “do you want milk?” (“yup.”)

    She has started asking for things that are just out of her reach. She will, for example, point to where we keep her beads and say “bee?” There has also been at least one time when she has wanted us to get her Bunny out of her crib, and she’s pointed towards her room and said her version of “Bunny.” However, she has been reluctant about making requests for things that she can’t see.

    Today, though, we had an exciting moment. We were in the car heading home from a meeting in Boston, and having a snack of graham crackers. I asked Phoebe if she wanted some water. To which she replied. “No. Milk, yeah!”

    (Unfortunately, we didn’t actually have any milk in the car with us. But we were at least able to acknowledge her request by saying that we would get milk later.)


    Okay, I’ll have to continue this again later. (It’s late at night once more.) Next time, I’ll write about going to the play group.

    early intervention: getting in (part 1)

    Yesterday, Phoebe and I made our last appearance at the play group we’ve been attending since January. I’m sad that we won’t be going back. Phoebe loved it.

    It actually wasn’t just your average play group, though. It was part of Early Intervention services that Phoebe was receiving for a speech delay. As of last Monday, it was official that Phoebe would no longer qualify: she no longer has a delay.

    I’ve wanted to write about our experiences for a while, in part because I think it’s good to have stories out there for people who may be concerned about what it means to be qualify for Early Intervention services. I’ve also found the process quite interesting, as a linguist. Plus it’s been something big going on in my life as a parent, too.

    It turns out I have quite a bit to say, so this post will be just the start. (Also, I have to get to bed. It’s after 1:00 am now.)

    Way back at the end of November, I wrote about how we were going to have an assessment to see about a possible language delay for Phoebe. The pediatrician was concerned that Phoebe wasn’t speaking often. I resisted, being sure that Phoebe was just taking her time. And then decided that, while I knew more about language development than your average mother (and probably more than the pediatrician, even), I wasn’t qualified to make an assessment.

    I told people back then that I was about 85% sure that Phoebe wouldn’t need services. A funny number that.

    As it turned out, Phoebe did qualify for services.

    The initial assessment was actually quite a lot of fun. A team of specialists came over to our house: a case manager, a developmental specialist, and a language specialist. They ran a bunch of tests, which actually involved playing a bunch of games. Phoebe had a fun time. She was cooperative and remarkably at ease for having strangers around asking her questions. While we’d worried that she would clam up, she spoke quite a bit for what was her norm at the time.

    As the core of the assesment process, they gave an approximate age level, in months, for a vareity of developmental areas: fine motor skills, gross motor skills, self care, cognitive abilities, receptive language and expressive language, and probably a couple of others that aren’t coming to mind just now. Phoebe was 21 months at the time of the assessment, and she tested right around age level for a few things, and several months above age level for a few more. Her receptive language skills were remarkably high, testing at 27 months. 6 months above age level! (And they don’t necessarily push the tests to the limits, once they establish that there is no delay.)

    But for expressive language, measuring what she would actually say, she was scored at around 16 months. Almost a full year behind her receptive language score. Also, it meant that her expressive skills were below her age level. A 5 month delay, in fact, which qualified her for Early Intervention services.

    While we had some doubts, we decided that if this was something that could benefit Phoebe, we should take advantage. We had heard that such services were generally very positive, and that even if they did not help, they were very unlikely to actually harm or hinder. We would be having weekly one-on-one visits with a specialist, and could also attend a weekly toddler group.

    Things got going slowly due to the time of year. The offices were closed for a couple of weeks at the end of December, people went on vacation, and January arrived before we started services.

    To be continued…