Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How they do it up north

Neil posted this to Facebook today:

took 5-year old Ben to my intro logic class today since his school was closed (wimps). We were doing a proof and needed to derive a contradiction, and two were easily available, (F and not F) and (G and not G). I asked the class which one they preferred. Ben said "F and not G." I told him that was not a contradiction. "It is in Canada," he said.

In other news, Ben performed in his second piano recital this evening!  In full costume!  He did beautifully.  Video to follow, as soon as I figure out how to edit video. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Costume

Here are some more pictures from when my parents were here for Ben's birthday.  (In fact, all four of Ben's grandparents were here -- lucky kid!)  We drove over to Lake Erie right before sunset and took in the views and the gentle breezes.  (That was before Sandy swept her ominous arms across the land -- right now we're being pelted by a driving rain, but it could be a lot worse.)
My mother is addicted to collecting rocks.  Ben keeps her supplied.

My father demonstrates proper stone skipping technique.

Aforementioned sunset
Nothing to do with my family, but had to share -- the Math Club's attempts at pumpkin artistry
And ... The Costume
Okay, so The Costume needs an explanation.  Several months ago Ben decided that he wanted to be Bugs Bunny for Halloween.  I heartily approved.  Not only do I like Bugs, but I figured we could get a costume online -- just whip out a credit card and we're done.  Then, about three weeks ago, Ben decided that he wanted to be ... The Sky.  Yes, the sky.  All of a sudden he's Nature Boy.  So, after a momentary panic, I said, "Okay, honey, that's a very creative idea.  What exactly do you have in mind?"  After a bit of back and forth, and with very little guidance from me, Ben came up with an elaborate design.  The pants would be the Day Sky, and the shirt would be the Night Sky.  There should be trees growing out of his feet, plus a rainbow going behind the sun.  I'm thinking a sweat suit adorned with felt.  (One small hitch is that nobody makes sky blue pants for boys.  We managed to find this pair in the girls department.)  I'm also thinking glue.  Because I just don't have time for a big sewing project.  Well, turns out that there's no glue short of Super Glue (which I figured was inappropriate) that sticks felt to fleece.  Apparently, from the felt's perspective, the primary role of glue is as a stiffening agent.  Very long story short, out comes the sewing machine, and there goes most of my weekend.  My perfectionist tendencies were constantly thwarted, and the result is not quite the Martha Stewart masterpiece I'd originally envisioned.  But the overall effect is pretty impressive, and Ben is delighted.  He made the cloud hat.  There is also "fog" in the form of a fringe of greyish blue yarn that hangs down from his arms, but we haven't put that on yet because it involves safety pins and Ben is a little freaked out by that.

Of course, it's looking more and more like Halloween is going to be washed out by Sandy this year.  We'll see.  If that's the worst of the storm damage, let's all count ourselves lucky.


I spent much of this past weekend making Ben's Halloween costume.  But that's not what this blog post is about.  (Once I manage to get Ben to wear the darn thing, I'll post a pic.)  There was quite a lot of felt left over.  So Ben was urging Neil to use this to make his own costume.  Neil said that he could put a giant felt "N" on his shirt and go as Super Neil.  Ben liked this idea, but suggested that instead he go as Robert.  Robert?  Yes, Robert.  Another superhero, named Robert.  Y'know -- he doesn't fly, like Superman, but he's a superhero.  Named Robert.

Aaaaaaahhh -- Robin!!!

For whatever reason, Ben doesn't get much superhero exposure at home, but I'm sure he overhead talk of Batman and Robin at school.  Or slightly misheard, as the case may be.

There should be a superhero named Robert.  I wonder what his special power would be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Picture Barrage

I'm going to try to make up for a total lack of recent blog posts by just plastering pictures all over the place.  Between work and preparing for Ben's birthday (the kid just turned five!!!), I've been a leetle busy lately.
Ben shows off his work at a Kindergarten Open House.
Okay, so I've taken to rewarding him with a doughnut after a good piano lesson.  His compliance and engagement during lessons has improved.

At the entrance to the corn maze at Harvest Hollow
With a school friend on the hay ride at Harvest Hollow
Ben's birthday party theme:  The Sorcerer's Apprentice

His specially requested birthday dinner:  Potato leek soup
Five years old?!?!?  How did that happen???
The ceremonial watching of The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The kids' party the next day:  Making sorcerer hats.  Note the Mickey Mouse cupcakes (cookies for ears).

The ceremonial watching of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, with friends.  Note the wands.
Make your own pizza!

More pizza assembly

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Discrimination and Silly Shoes

Well, kindergarten is up and running.  Ben's first day was a moderate success.  He was nervous but excited in the morning, worried we would be late.  He had a big smile as we walked into the classroom.  Me, I was feeling a little frazzled -- still recovering from the trauma of a new morning routine, an alarm clock set 15 minutes earlier, and the total mayhem that was the elementary school parking lot.  While I'm helping Ben find his place and put away his things, a staff person pulls me out of the classroom to discuss some concerns she has with the gym teacher using the FM, and then somehow this morphs into the question of whether the CI itself will be adequately protected during gym (what do they do in there -- professional wrestling?!?), and I'm trying to figure out what the heck she's getting at, does she want him not to wear the CI during gym, cause that's not gonna happen; it's not just expensive bling, folks, it's how he hears?!? -- and then poor Ben, who has no idea where I am and figures I've left without saying good-bye, comes running out of the classroom in tears.  Staff Person is still Expressing Concerns while I'm trying to calm Ben down, until finally I put my foot down and say that I needed to attend to my child, thank you.

I took him back into the classroom, comforted him, got him interested in a book, and things were on the mend.  But he was still crying as he waved good-bye.  That was not how I wanted his first day of kindergarten to start.

Fortunately, the Special Ed Director (and I'm getting to like her more and more!) e-mailed me during the day to say that she'd checked on him during lunch and he seemed to be in good spirits.  And a friend who volunteers in the cafeteria sent me a similar message.  When I picked him up that afternoon, he was a little stand-offish at first, as if he was still reeling from the ordeal of the day, but a quick trip to the ice cream parlor put things to rights.

The next day he didn't have school -- they do a staggered start to kindergarten, half the kids one day and the other half the next.  So his next day of school was Thursday.  Everything went so much better.  Thursday and Friday were great.  According to Ben, the gym teacher is indeed using the FM, and (of greater importance) is very funny and wears silly shoes -- a different color every day.  (We met him on the way in to school on Thursday; pink Converses.)

In piano news, Ben is reading music!  Still a bit of a slow chore for him, and he doesn't know every note on the staff, but he's getting better with practice.  So he now tends to look up at the book while playing, rather than down at his fingers.  Now, here's the really cool part:  He can tell, just from the sound, whether he's played a wrong note!  Meaning that he can totally tell the difference between adjacent notes on the keyboard just by sound, and he has enough auditory memory to know when the pitch he hears doesn't match the one he remembers!  This is a very natural and common phenomenon for people who hear normally.  It is an unexpected and miraculous one for someone who hears through a CI.  One of the phrases that rings through my mind on a regular basis is "There was a time..."  As in, there was a time when I thought that music would forever be a closed book for him, or a mystery, or at best something that brings a bit of pleasure but that he would have a very hard time creating for himself.  There was a time....

Friday, August 31, 2012

Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road

When I was a wee tot, there was a preschool in my hometown called Yellow Brick Road.  I didn't go to it.  I went to Mrs. Ray's preschool, which had some boring name that I've forgotten.  I loved it, don't get me wrong, but I always envied the kids who got to go to Yellow Brick Road because the name had so much more panache.

Today was Ben's last day ever of preschool.  He started at this facility two years ago, when he was two going on three.  Most people think of it as a daycare center, and it certainly provides excellent basic care.  But it's so much more than that.  Every classroom has two teachers, plus plenty of floaters and aids.  Every teacher either has or is currently working on a masters in early childhood education.  They have a coherent and amazingly rich curriculum, regular teacher-parent conferences, and impressive record-keeping on each child's development.  I could go on and on about the staff, the building, the gymnasium, the outdoor play spaces, etc., but suffice it to say that I really can't imagine anything better.  This past year he was enrolled in district-funded UPK (universal pre-kindergarten) there.  He received push-in and pull-out speech therapy, as well as PT right there in the gym.  His teachers, Brenda and Jenn, were fantastic.

So this post is basically a little homage to this home-away-from-home that was such an important part of our family life over the last two years.  When I picked Ben up this afternoon, for the last time, all of his things were already packed in a big paper bag labeled "Ben's Last Day Bag".  I wasn't going to cry.  I swore I wasn't going to cry.  I cried.  Jenn gave us each a hug.  And we left.

He's not a baby anymore.  He's not a toddler or a preschooler anymore.  Kindergarten starts Tuesday.  It's go time.

The Bisy Backson

Ben has always been a shy kid.  Shy, clingy, anxious.  And I'm probably largely to blame for this -- by all accounts I was much the same at that age, and for a long time after.  He's more comfortable with adults and older kids, but his view of peers ranges from disinterest to antipathy.  He's not antisocial in the sense of being aggressive or violent; he'd just be far happier if all the other kids weren't there and he had the entire classroom and all the teachers to himself.  The kids are usually out in the play yard when I go to pick him up, and sometimes I'll watch for a few minutes through the large windows before I go out to claim him.  I always feel a little sad when I see the other kids ranging around in herds, running after each other, calling out to each other.  And there's Ben, wrapped up in his own complex little world, creating masterful cuisine in the kitchen area or conducting Beethoven from the top of a hill or explaining to one of the aids that ABBA will be visiting later and they're currently boarding a plane in Sweden.  You gotta marvel at his sophisticated imagination, and he seems entirely content, and yet I feel a twinge of sadness and anxiety.

We made some progress via play dates.  We especially enjoyed hanging out with a boy who was in Ben's previous classroom the year before, and whom we also saw weekly in music class last winter.  We managed to meet up with him maybe four or five times this summer, and would have met more except for all the trips we were taking.  The boys played well near/with each other, and C. made charming attempts to engage Ben.  There was a lot of potential there, but still some work to be done.  Summer play dates are often complicated by the temptation of water play, and until Ben got his Neptune this meant that he was unable to hear for much of the time.  We tried to make this as normal and nonthreatening as possible, but it inevitably throws up a pretty big social barrier and kinda defeats the purpose.

Then, another former classmate moved in down the street!  Furthermore, he has a cousin who is yet another former classmate and who comes over just about every day, so we got two for the price of one.  The family is only here short term, renting the house while they build another.  But for now, nothing beats the convenience and spontaneity of having friends right on the block.  Our doorbell is now ringing most of the afternoon, followed by the sweet supplication, "Can Ben come out and play?"  Now, Neil and I are Older Parents, rather set in our ways, and perhaps a touch overprotective, so sometimes it's not exactly to our taste to have three boys rampaging through the house and yard, and heaven knows what they're getting into.  We were quite surprised at the degree of freedom that cousins B. and R. are granted to roam the neighborhood unsupervised.  But we're doing our best to roll with it.  And, miracle of miracles, Ben loves hanging out with the boys.

Last night, B. rang the doorbell and invited Ben over to play with a configuration of cardboard boxes in his front yard.  Ben couldn't go out just yet, but promised to join him in a few minutes.  So, after we finished the task at hand (slicing yam with the mandolin to make yam chips -- tasty, but disappointingly soggy), Ben grabbed his sunglasses and dashed out the door yelling, "Bye!  I won't be long!"

I feel like if I blink, he'll be asking for the car keys and rolling his eyes when I ask him where he's going.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A big pile of shhhh-aving cream

Ben, eying some white antibacterial cream that had been rubbed onto his skinned knee:  "I wonder why they call it shaving cream, when it really isn't shavable at all."

If you have any idea what he means by this, please enlighten me.

It's been an intense week for Ben.  Last academic year he was enrolled in PreK at his daycare facility, and he continued over the summer, but his program ended last week.  Kindergarten, however, doesn't start until next Tuesday.  Meanwhile, our classes started this past Monday, leaving us with a week where we're working full time on campus without any childcare.  The director of the daycare managed to find a spot for him in the same classroom where he'd spent the last year, which was fantastic.  However, he's one of only two veterans in a room full of newbies (the other veteran is from a family in the same situation as ours).  He had to give up his cubby and mailbox, and settle for another cubby at the far end of the row.  In various other ways, it's clear that he's not really supposed to be there.  His teachers (the same ones he's had for a year) are wonderful as always, but he's a sensitive kid and I can tell he's picking up on the vibe.  Anxiety level is a little higher.  Plus, he's a little sniffly, maybe fighting a mild bug.  And his excitement about kindergarten is definitely tempered by a healthy dose of trepidation.  Put it all together, and the kid is under stress.  He's not really acting out or anything, but he's not quite himself.

We're also, perhaps not coincidentally, going through a phase of Catastrophic Nuclear Meltdown over any tiny booboo.  When he was a baby, we actually worried from time to time because he seemed to have an unusually high tolerance for pain.  But over the last year or so, he's definitely migrated over into Wuss Territory.  A little stumble on the sidewalk the other night produced a skinned knee and elbow, and it was all I could do to dab at them a little with nothing more potent than water and slap some band-aids on while he proceeded to communicate his distress to all of western New York.

This afternoon was Kindergarten Visitation Day.  Neil took him over.  Intense, clingy; it's all becoming just a little too real.  And then right after that we had an appointment to test out all of his FM system equipment.  I raced over after my class and joined in the fun.  Basically, it consisted of four to five adults standing around talking about things that he didn't understand, and occasionally jamming a piece of plastic into his equipment somewhere and saying things like, "Ben, can you hear me?  How does that sound?"  If he wasn't exactly cooperative by that point, you can hardly blame him.  It's a complicated system, because he has to have different kinds of receivers attached to his hearing aid and CI.  The teacher speaks into a mic, and her voice is broadcast by FM directly to his devices.  There's also a soundfield system in the classroom, which has its own microphone -- the teacher's voice is sent to a set of speakers around the classroom for the benefit of all kids.  We spent too much of the last few weeks agonizing over exactly how these two systems were going to interact.  It turns out that the FM system came supplied with the cable necessary to link the two together, but it was still going to be an extra layer of complexity -- but fortunately the teacher has decided that she doesn't need to use the soundfield system for the foreseeable future.  Long story short, everything seems to be functional at this point, and hopefully the whole thing will quickly become mere routine.

Throughout, I could almost hear Kermit singing in my ear:  "It's not easy, being deaf."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Of fruit and pizza

Ben:  "Mom, next time you get -arines, make sure you get tangerines, not nectarines."

Here's a video that my cousin Madeline made at the Wilson family reunion back in late July.  It features many of my cousins, and you can see sundry other relatives milling around in the background.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ben throws a bowl!

So, earlier in the month I promised myself I would blog five times during August.  Looks like I'm leaving it a bit late, so I'll have to scurry to get it in under the wire.  Expect some fast and furious blogging action this week.

Sooooo much has happened this summer.  In fact, that's part of the problem.  Trying to get caught up and fill in all the gaps in the story is overwhelming.  So y'know what?  Ain't gonna happen.  You, dear reader, will have to fill in the gaps yourself with your fertile imagination.  The short story is that we went on some more trips, Ben's Neptune processor is great, we're getting ramped up for the start of kindergarten a week from Tuesday (and the start of our own classes tomorrow -- eek!), Ben is doing amazing things all the time, we're seeing some progress on the social integration front ... whew, had to pause to catch my breath.

From tonight's dinner conversation:  Ben asked how long ago dinosaurs lived.  We asked him what he thought.  (He actually knows the answer, roughly, but this is his way of exploring a topic and attaching more meaning to it.)  He said it was probably about ten billion years ago.  After a little back and forth, he zeroed in on a more realistic figure.  "That was before you were born, right?"  Yes, considerably.  "That was before Grammy and Grampy and Grandma and Grandpa were born, right?"  Yes, believe it or not.  "That was before your great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were born, right?"  Yes, in fact it was before any people were born; dinosaurs disappeared long before there were people.  Ben, smirking slightly, "Even before Mozart and Beethoven?!?"

We visited Neil's parents at the beginning of August, and while there we visited a friend of theirs who is an excellent potter.  She was having an Open Studio day and demonstrating the use of the pottery wheel.  She let Ben help her throw a pot, and here is the video.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In which I use far too many exclamation marks!!!

Oh, my -- has it really been exactly one month since I last posted?!?  Well, never mind -- Ben has a Neptune CI processor!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our insurance gave us approval about a week and a half ago.  As soon as that was official with AB, we were able to place the order over the phone, and it arrived two days later.  Our audiologist managed to squeeze us in this morning to activate it.  It's so small!  And light!  And waterproof!  And pretty and shiny!

This afternoon we went to the County Fair.  Fun times, aside from the distressingly unhealthy food that we consumed.  Ben rode his first "roller coaster" -- by which I mean a smallish caterpillar-shaped train that went at moderate speed around a circular track with at most five feet total vertical displacement.  He was nervous at first, but then had a blast.

Tonight Ben wore his CI in the bath.  In the bath!!!  He kept saying, over and over, "I can hear!!!  I can hear in the bath!!!"  I confess, I got a little emotional.  And y'know what?  It turns out that just about every aspect of bath and bedtime is a little bit easier when your kid can hear you!  Who knew?  Tonight, I actually read books to him, out loud, as he lay in bed.  (Prior to this we would "look at" books during this time.)  He kept his CI on right up until lights out.  Weird.

Soooo much has happened since I last posted -- including our trip to New York City, complete with audiological evaluation and a somewhat disappointing audiogram.  July 4th happened.  We built a kick-butt swing set for Ben in the back yard.  It's been hot and terribly dry.  What else?  Oh, yeah -- we got a Neptune!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Massive Onslaught of Pics

Okay, okay, June has obviously been a Very Bad Month for Blog Posts, at least as authored by me.  Time to get caught up.  I'll start with the trip we took almost a month ago to Toronto.  Here we go!
We stopped by the Canadian Falls on our way up.

Ben in Franklin's Children's Garden, on the Toronto Islands
Drinking chocolate milk at Fran's Diner
Ben puts his hand in a tornado at the Ontario Science Centre.
Going to town on the steel drums at the OSC
Ben's fave exhibit at the OSC -- google "George Rhoads" to find out more.
At the Allen Gardens
Back home again, a family outing to Big Dipper

The next batch are from our more recent trip to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, where we celebrated my parents' 50th Anniversary in true high-octane Wilson style by watching the June Sprints at Road America.  We stayed at a really nice house (Crystal Lake Lodge -- we highly recommend it!) just a few miles from the track, and we could hear the engines roar even as we made s'mores in the firepit and cooled down in the pool.
Tired after our 10+ hour drive, and more than ready for some s'mores!
My parents and sister preparing the ingredients
Near the start-finish line on a hot but thrilling day
What my father did the entire time
What my mother did the entire time [sketch]
Cousins in the pool
Triple celebration -- and crazy cake!

What we went there to watch!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ben's Life

[This blog post is being dictated by Ben.]

I am Ben.  Ben I am.  I have blog pictures to show you.  One is me and Jannis.  Two is me, and three I'm coming up with back in Hunter a picture of New York City that I made with Grandma.  Now, four I say is me on Uncle Fred's rock.  But it was a strange rock because it was moss-covered and magic.  The end.

Now, let's find some sort of way to get it with those pictures on my blog.

Here are some new pictures from Toronto.
This is Daddy and me at Niagara Falls.

Power Toronto Turtle

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guild Audition!!!

This morning Ben had his first guild audition, an annual event where he plays for a member of the Piano Teacher's Guild (not his own teacher) and gets feedback.  He did wonderfully!!!!!  As of a few weeks ago, he was very worried about the fact that Jannis, his teacher, and I wouldn't be in the room with him -- just him and the guild member.  But once he found out that the guild auditions take place in Mason Hall, the music building on campus, so that he would be playing in a piano studio on campus just like a college student, he was sold.  Last week we had his lesson in the studio so that he could get used to it.  And this morning he marched in without even looking back.  Jannis and I listened from out in the hall.  He played four pieces, and he nailed 'em!!!
Here he is with Jannis before the audition.
Sporting the ribbon and pin he received afterward!  Note the Beethoven action figure in his hands.
In other news, we had an audiology appointment this afternoon at which we got to look at and handle the new waterproof Neptune CI processor from Advanced Bionics.  It was pretty sweet!  It's a body worn processor, just like his current one, so there's nothing behind the ear, but it's much smaller and lighter than the one he has now -- no need for the bulky harness and a hot undershirt.  And it's ... totally waterproof!!!  As in you can swim in it!  When we were talking about it a few weeks ago, Ben was rather hostile to the idea -- I think he was worried that it would sound different.  (And in fact another big plus is that it can use the ClearVoice processing strategy that's been getting rave reviews for improved hearing in noise.)  But when he saw it today, he was pretty interested.  By the time we got home, he said that he would really like to be able to hear in the water.  The upgrade offer that AB is making isn't attractive to us -- we would have to trade in his (currently unused) Harmony BTE processor for the Neptune, whereas we'd rather keep that as a back-up and unload the neolithic PSP processor that he's been using.  Our insurance company probably isn't going to be very enthusiastic, either, but we're going to see what we can arrange.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Great comparison video

Jodi posted this great video comparing the experiences of listening to a G&R song with no hearing equipment, with a hearing aid, and with a CI.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Small town life

Beautiful spring day.  Ben and I slept in, worked our way through a stack of pancakes, and eventually ambled downtown to check out the Farmer's Market.  Ben decided to recreate his own market in chalk on the sidewalk around the fountain.  Here he is drawing some bread:

We hung out for awhile, chatted with friends, and then walked home at noon listening to a cascade of church bells.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Roasted rat, anyone?

I think someone swapped out March and April.  We're back to bundling up in coats.  Last Thursday Ben and I braved the chilly temperatures and enjoyed the bright sun at a local playground.  Ben has traditionally used the space below one of the jungle gyms as his "restaurant," and this time he arranged the menu as follows:

He then asked, "Do you want any died roasted rat?"

His understanding of death and its related vocabulary is (thankfully) somewhat stunted by lack of direct experience, although the passing of our cat last fall did provide an initial exposure.  We've gradually allowed a little more violence into his viewing repertoire.  He now prances around the play yard at school singing "Kill de wabbit, kill de wabbit, kill de wabbit!" a la Elmer Fudd.  He loves watching a DVD of the opera Hansel and Gretel, and in that production a rather gruesome burnt witch corpse is brought out at the end for all of the remaining cast to feast upon.  It saddens me a bit to have to give way to reality like this.  Death happens.  The kinds of death that people seem to take the most interest in are usually pretty violent.  I can't protect Ben from this reality forever, and I guess the honeymoon is over.

But back to sunshine:  Having enjoyed our rat, here's Ben and me cuddling on the jungle gym.

Here he is looking very sweet and contemplative.

And here he is tucking into his chocolate Easter rabbit -- ears first, of course.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bennyisms and Holiday Pics

This evening Ben announced, "Let's chop down Batman's lasagna tree!"

We have absolutely no clue what this means.

Yesterday at breakfast Ben was chewing loudly and obviously enjoying the sound.  He said, "Listen!" and proceeded to chew for awhile.  "That was Smoke on the Water!"  [Yes, my son chews Deep Purple songs.  Heaven help us once he learns to belch on command.]

And here is a massive onslaught of recent holiday pictures.  Enjoy!

Ben and the hip hop gang

Engrossed in the etch-a-sketch before the Seder

Ben's Seder plate, suitably bedecked

Neil reading to the boys about Passover

Ben took this one.

Easter morning -- found the basket!!!

Playing with some basket contents -- the life stages of the butterfly and frog!  (Yes, even our Easter Bunny is uber-nerdy.)

Why do my bunny biscuits always look more like pigs? 

Ben seems to enjoy them, despite their porcine tendencies.

Easter egg hunt -- in the sanctuary of the local Presbyterian church, of all places.  (Called inside on account of rain.)