Meet The New Boss, Same as The Old Boss

So, turns out I was actually serious about getting this going again. :D

And whether you’re new here or just want to get caught up, you’ll need to know a bit about Josh, or, He For Whom the Planet is Named. Otherwise referred to as Toad or Toadie.

For anyone looking for extra credit or if you’ve run out of good stuff to watch on Netflix, reading the Archives from when I started this business back in 2010 will provide you with the best background. But for those without that much time on their hands, in a nutshell (full disclosure: it’s a pretty big nut):

My name is Sarah and I started writing this blog for those interested in what life is like raising an autistic child. Not as an example for everyone (yeah, no, do not look to me as any kind of example) more as a peek at the realities of day-to-day life that might inspire some understanding and compassion with as much humor as possible. This is our reality, this is not everyone’s reality. All people with autism are different, all families are different, and all circumstances.

Josh, the younger of my two sons is severely affected by autism and developmentally delayed. And when I say “severely,” I mean at almost 21 years of age he cannot care for himself, communicate more than very basic needs, and deals with a significant amount of anxiety and mood dysregulation which manifests through various behaviors—some of which are harmful to himself as well as others. He is on a number of medications, needs almost constant supervision, has a very limited/unusual diet, and is obsessed with certain things.

Toad’s story is a bit atypical, in that he had motor/developmental issues that were apparent when he was still a baby. He wasn’t rolling over when he should have, and when he finally did, he would only roll one direction; he was a late walker and late talker—and only had a couple of truly discernible words; he growled like a baby tiger; bear-walked instead of crawled … it was initially thought that he’d had a stroke in utero.

He had a full evaluation with a neurodevelopmental specialist which included a brain MRI, loads of tests and blood work including genetics and a skin biopsy (for a mitochondrial defect). At this point he was 17 months old, and fairly typically social.

His MRI did not show a stroke, or the remnants of one. None of the other tests showed anything out of the ordinary either.

Two months later the “socialness” disappeared. He stopped interacting with others, started screaming when anyone other than me even looked at him, lost all interest in his brother—who, up until that point, he had always wanted to be around—and began “flapping” his hands and jumping when he was looking at certain books. He started carrying toys around—always had one in his hand—or just throwing them over his shoulder instead of playing with them. His couple of words went away and, he stopped waving “bye-bye.”

I had been a nurse/nurse practitioner and his dad was a pediatrician, and we both knew what were seeing at that point. He started early intervention, which due to his age involved various physical/occupational/speech therapists coming to our house, and ultimately, at the age of three, he was officially diagnosed with autism.

I should probably note that this was the late 90s - early 00s.

Otherwise known as the last time Train was any good and we still had VCRs and VHS tapes.

And this, was little Toadie:

One of my all-time favorite pics of him :)

One of my all-time favorite pics of him :)

This would be a good time to hit the Archives. Here, I’ll even throw you a page to get you started .

Really, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Which is something that hasn’t always made sense to me, but, it actually works as far as current Toad vs 2010 Toad goes.

  • There is no more french fries counter. This is not because Toad stopped eating or asking for them, he does still, but because he perseverates on a number of different things these days, not just fries. We make a weekly trip to a local drive-thru for them, and the folks there know us so well they start his order as soon as they see my car coming.

  • His footwear of choice went from Uggs to Crocs. Because of course it did.

  • He’s still all about Blue’s Clues. It’s all on the iPad these days, and, in weird ways on YouTube. We’ll talk about that later.

  • He is mostly independent with toileting now—he was 18 when it finally happened. I honestly didn’t think it ever would. Still needs help with cleaning up, but, this is a huge, huge leap away from changing diapers.

  • Aside from nursery rhymes, his musical tastes these days lean toward classic 90s R&B/Hip Hop. And the Home Depot “Search for a Star” music video winners. We’ll also talk about this later.

  • Still likes all the same toys. Weird cat piano thing? Yep. Peek-a-blocks? Yep. Chuck and Friends soft trucks and cars? Uh-huh. Any Blue’s Clues book or toy? YAS. Most of the things he likes can only be obtained via eBay or Amazon Marketplace sellers now. Which, thank goodness, but also $$$$$$.

  • He doesn’t try to disrobe in public any more, but still does at home on occasion.

  • Still loves to swing.

As I mentioned, he is nearly of drinking and gambling age now, and just finished with school.

And he still loves water/walking on the beach.

And he still loves water/walking on the beach.

One of the biggest reasons I stopped writing the blog when I did was that I got a job writing for a newspaper. Which is what I have been doing for the past six years while he was still in school. But care for Toad is expensive, and the bottom line is we can’t afford for me to keep working outside the home now that he’s out of school for infinity. At the moment we live on an island, which while very close to a major urban area, doesn’t have enough of a population to support day programs for adults like Toadie, so, I quit my job and am back to supporting life on Planet Josh full time.

Transitions for all of us, hooray! Join me while we work through it all, won’t you?

Did I mention the Elder Spawn is graduating from his post-secondary endeavor in a week?

Anyone? Credit: SNL GIPHY

Anyone? Credit: SNL GIPHY

Long Time, No Blog

Well hey there the three or four people who still check Planet Josh’s FB page even though I haven’t written anything for six years—I don’t know who you are, but your persistence is either really flattering or kind of creepy. And since you’re the only audience I have at this point, flattering it is! S’up, stalkers? #loveyou

So it’s 2019, and the last time Planet Josh showed signs of life it was 2013. You remember 2013, right? President Obama was cruising into his second term, the U.S. wasn’t running prison camps along its southern border, climate science wasn’t illegal and the evil hormones of puberty hadn’t yet found Toadie.

As he is now just a month away from his 21st birthday—it’s ok, you can finish reading after you pick yourself up off the floor—and finished school (forever), I thought I might dive back in to the mosh pit of writing about life on this here planet of his.

I realize that we just kind of skipped the whole Toad Goes To High School years. Honestly, you didn’t miss that much. If you have been here before, or if you want to take a deep dive and set the waaaaaaay back machine for the early days of this blog, you’ll find a post about my thoughts on why it was actually easier to have a child who is on the higher-needs side of the spectrum, scale, fence, playing field, hallway… whatever you want to call it, and most of what I wrote then has held up through the years.

I’ll write about some of it, I mean, last time I was writing about Josh he was still very much a little boy and now, he grows facial hair that rivals Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. So yeah, things are different. But also, much the same, as you’ll discover if you stick around.

I know, Hugh, we were shocked too. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

I know, Hugh, we were shocked too. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

The idea here is pretty much the same as it was when I first started Planet Josh nine years ago. To give anyone who was interested a look at what life is like with our Toad, parenting triumphs, fails and general weirdness—a place other parents with kids like Josh can come and feel a sense that they are not alone or learn from our mistakes, successes, maybe help solve a mystery or twenty.

But before I leave you on the edge of your seat and sign off for now, a few things:
There were a bunch of reasons I stopped writing when I did. Many of which had to do with how unpleasant and just straight up difficult it had become to write honestly—”mom blogger” became a derogatory descriptor, truth became unacceptable to a certain segment of the autism community, parents were vilified for writing about their kids … and yes, some of the concern/criticism was deserved. But as I have stayed connected online to many of my former blogging counterparts, I see that there is still a need for this. Especially as our “kids” are either grown up (like Josh) now or in their teens. This is uncharted territory the likes of which would have given Shackleton a run for his money.

So, here we go.

We’ll get through this. Photo credit: Royal Geographical Society

We’ll get through this. Photo credit: Royal Geographical Society

  • For those who may be concerned about my son’s privacy: Yes, he is an adult now. No, his last name is not the same as mine. He can’t read, and would not understand what I’m writing. Yes, he still deserves dignity and respect. I will write about him and his life with all of the love and care that I have for him as my son and as a human being. If you feel the need to voice a concern over something I write, I am more than happy to engage in thoughtful and civil discussion about it. If you feel the need to be a dick? I own the delete button.

  • For those who are truly new here: “Toad” or “Toadie” are nicknames for my son that came from how my dad used to refer to babies and young children. It’s not a comment on his looks so don’t jump on the outrage train just yet—wait until I actually do something that warrants it.

  • Toad’s big brother is also all grown up now—well, if you consider 23 “all grown up” :D —I will keep his appearances here to a minimum, and as before, will ask his permission before I post anything about him. He will be referred to henceforth as The Elder Spawn.

  • This is NOT, I repeat NOT a safe space for anti-vax idiocy or propaganda. I used to be a nurse practitioner and take science and public health/safety very seriously. I believe Andrew Wakefield is a criminal who should be in prison and Jenny McCarthy should be his cell mate. Post any of that bullshit here at your own risk. The Kraken doesn’t care if you have “done your research.”

  • I WILL write the truth. I will write about the realities of what life is, and has been like for us. I know there are people out there who won’t like it and will think I’m terrible for writing it. But as I have written before, not all of our kids are creating incredible art or are talking to the UN about climate change. Think more “Rain Man” and less Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory.” That doesn’t make them bad, undeserving of love or acceptance or anything else. But it is a reality that does not get talked about. And I think it’s important that this reality is both understood and acknowledged.

  • I use A LOT of pop culture references and I’m old, so, you might have to look some shit up. Not sorry.

Ready? Stay tuned, and I’ll get you caught up on the state of the Planet.

ps. In case you’re wondering about French Fries and Blue’s Clues?

Always. Credit: Giphy

Always. Credit: Giphy

So This One Time at the Auto Mechanic...

This is my car:

Hey, car.

Hey, car.

Car is now 8 years old and has put up with a lot of abuse over the years. But it does its job well, hauls as much as we can throw at/in it, and, I like driving it.

Over the last couple of years it seems to have become self-aware enough to have decided that many parts of it have secret expiration dates that only it knows about.

Fair enough.

A few months ago, however, something felt very wrong to me out of the blue. Couldn't really explain it, it was just... wrong.

So I took it in to Car Fixing guy, who keeps my baby for a day and tells me that from what he could tell, something has been chewing through some of the wiring on my car.

Uh...

image courtesy of  wallpixy.com

image courtesy of wallpixy.com

And apparently the chewed wiring included the bits that tell my car it's a 4WD.

So now it's only 2WD. Sort-of.

Hence the "wrongness" I was feeling whilst driving.

You might be wondering at this point why I'm writing about the Xenomorph attack on my car on the blog about Josh. If you're not, what the hell is wrong with you?

Patience, grasshoppers. It's coming.

Turns out that the culprits here were not actually bad-ass, teeth-wielding Aliens - which would have made this a much better story, by the way - but something a little less exciting and, frankly, a lot more annoying.

image courtesy of  wired.com

image courtesy of wired.com

Jerks.

And yes, mice were eating my car. This is not something I've ever experienced before, even in places were my car was always parked outside, as it is here. I am told however, that this is common on the island. Seriously? "Oh yeah, the mice totalled my car last year".

Ok then.

Note to self: next time we move make sure to ask about car-eating rodents.

ps. we moved to an island.

ANYWAY, now that I have been fully briefed on the potential hazards of life on Auto-Munching Mutant Mice Island, car still needs fixing.

The morning of its admission to the car hospital to get its 4WD back and a rabies shot, I loaded the boys up to drop them at school first.

As I was closing the rear hatch, there was this... noise. It sounded like something inside the hatch had broken in to a million pieces, and all those pieces were falling down as the hatch closed.

Zach and I just stared at each other.

"What was THAT?"

I had no idea. So of course we tried opening and closing it again just to make sure we weren't hallucinating.

Nope, not hallucinating, there's the million-pieces-of-petrified-mice-and/or-their poop sound again and yes, that is exactly what I was thinking.

Luckily the drive to school is only about 10 minutes - Zach couldn't get out of the car fast enough.

I get the mouse version of Watership Down to Car Fixing Guy and inform him of this new development. He promises me he'll check it out after they deal with the previously identified carnage.

Richard and I head back later in the day to pick-up my fixed and (hopefully) exterminated vehicle.

As we are walking toward the garage, Car Fixing Guy sees us, gets a funny look on his face, and runs in to a back room.

He emerges with a look of both triumph and confusion. He says, "We took the rear hatch apart for you to see what was happening. There was something in there alright, but we've never seen anything like this before... ever... "

As he is finishing his sentence, he holds up a large (gallon-size) Ziploc bag.

The bag is full.

Of these:

So... this is better than mice junk... right?    image courtesy of  nourish-and-flourish

So... this is better than mice junk... right?

image courtesy of nourish-and-flourish

Richard and I stared in disbelief at the giant bag of peanut M&M's for about 3 seconds before we both said "Josh... " and then burst out laughing.

Car Fixing Guy was really confused now.

So, I'm sure I've mentioned Toad's love of candy and how I will resort to handing it to him when the situation calls for it. Mostly this happens in the car, if he's really unhappy. Since someone else I know also really likes candy, and particularly peanut M&M's, that's what I've had on hand.

But how on earth did they get from Josh's hands, to the INSIDE of my rear hatch???

It's a mystery...

Professor Moriarty, I presume? LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Professor Moriarty, I presume? LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Toad sits in the middle row, right behind the driver's seat.

This, is the rear hatch:

Because I'm sure you've never seen one before...

Because I'm sure you've never seen one before...

Which at first didn't appear to have any connection to the inside of it.

Ahhh, but then I saw these:

See that black sort-of corrugated tube coming out of the side and then attaching to the hatch?

See that black sort-of corrugated tube coming out of the side and then attaching to the hatch?

There are two of these and they are the ONLY connection that actually leads to the INSIDE of the hatch itself.

Ok, we found the exit point. There is absolutely no other way inside the body of that hatch.

So where's the ENTRY?

Because we are super-duper smart, we knew it had to be close to where Josh sits. I know right? It's like we're geniuses or something.

But where? Lightning strikes a second time as we realize that the wayward M&M's could not be moving UP  that door panel to the connector spot, so they had to be coming DOWN from inside the roof.

This clip is taken from the NOVA PBS series "THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE' and is used under the provisions of the Digital Millineum Copyright Act of 1998 (Title IV). Brian Greene guides us through Newton's discovery of gravity to the explanation of it, through Einsteins Theory of Relativity.

But how is he getting them in the ceiling? HOW?!?!

Oh hey Mr Ceiling seat-belt, what's up?

Oh hey Mr Ceiling seat-belt, what's up?

I don't know, I don't really think you could...

Well there's that...

Well there's that...

Josh routinely reaches up to pull that middle belt down and play with it. Also, apparently, to squirrel away his M&M's for the winter.

Wait...  I DID NOT SAY SQUIRREL!

You rang? Also, the mice tell me your car is made out of nuts and rainbows. I'll be moving in tomorrow, so could you get my room ready? ps. I don't really like the blue ones - Kirby

There But for the Grace...

In honor of Mikaela Lynch, Owen Black, their families, and every family who has experienced the unfathomable pain of losing their autistic child because they wandered/eloped/ran/slipped away in that heartbeat they can never get back.

I have more "child proof" gear in/around my house now than I did when the boys were toddlers. There is a safety knob on the inside handle of every door that leads to the outside. For the slider we have an old broom-handle that we can put in the track to keep it from opening. In several places we have had to change the type of handles our doors have in order to accommodate the safety gear. In the house we lived in before, we had an alert chime set up with the alarm system so that any time an outside access door was opened, we'd hear it no matter where we were in the house. That was not because we were worried about people getting IN to the house - it was because we were worried about Toadie LEAVING. Our current house does not have the door chime but it's on our list of home improvements.

And we're lucky because Josh has not figured out how to get around these safety measures. Yet.

When Toad was 5 I started to worry about the possibility of his wandering off. He's never been a "runner", as some autistic kids can be - fortunately he has never put any real speed in to his leaving. But he still leaves.

I spent the next 3 years working on getting him a service dog. One that was trained to track - as in, search and rescue tracking - so that if Toadie ever did become lost, we could save precious time by being able to track him with the dog ourselves.

I still sleep with a baby monitor in his room/on my night-stand, so that I can get up if I hear he's awake at night (which happens often) because he would not be safe awake on his own, even in the house. Because he gets in to things he shouldn't no matter how careful we think we're being, he is very skilled at that. And one of these days, he will figure out those safety knobs. I'd rather it not be in the middle of the night while the rest of us are sleeping.

Josh is going to be 15 this summer. And I STILL SLEEP WITH HIS BABY MONITOR on.

When we first moved to this house at the end of last summer, my desk/computer were downstairs, but Josh's room and all of his things were upstairs. Logistically this was the only way it could be. I tried to make this work for a while but it became obvious very quickly that I could not leave him alone upstairs for any length of time. So I ended up buying myself a laptop so that I could still write/work and keep an eye on the Toad as well. Not everyone has that luxury and I'm thankful that I was able to. But these are the kinds of things you have to manage.

I know people who've had to turn their homes essentially in to prisons, padlocking doors on the inside at their highest corners, putting bars over windows, all in efforts to keep their autistic children safe.

And these things don't even scratch the surface of the amount of vigilance that is required of most parents who have kids on the spectrum prone to leaving. All parents know what it's like to have a baby or young toddler around, completely dependent upon you for their safety and well being. What is not well understood by many people is that unlike a typical child who can be taught to be safe, understand hazards, follow instructions and communicate, as they grow and mature, many autistic children can't be, even as they get older. Which means as their parents we have to maintain that intense vigilance for longer than most, sometimes indefinitely.

Naked? Absolutely. As I've mentioned here many times, Toadie's preferred state is undressed. So reading the story about Mikaela didn't strike me as unusual or strange at all - it was not wrong nor concerning nor any kind of parenting issue. It's just what some of these kids do. Josh tried to strip in the middle of his first high school assembly this year.

Water? If there's any to be found, Toad will be there. I know that some autistic self-advocates do not like it when generalizations are made about "autistic people being drawn to water", because, not all of them are. However, for my part I can tell you that it is true of my son and it does seem to be the case in what appears to be a significant number of others. Josh loves water. He loves being in the water, and he loves just being wet. Especially if he has clothes on, wet clothes make for an awesome Toad sensory experience. Wet clothes also make you heavy, especially if you are already in water. Toad cannot swim - and at least as of now, can't be taught to. His developmental delay/disability is too significant, not to mention the communication issues. So if he's in water, he needs someone bigger, stronger, and responsible hanging on to him. I was holding him in a pool once, in about 4 feet of water and he pushed himself out of my arms and sank like a stone. I was right there with him so luckily I was able to just reach down and bring him back up immediately but it was a very vivid and clear message as to what would happen if he were ever alone.

So these two most recent losses hit close to home. Very close.

And I say most recent because sadly, heart-wrenchingly, this happens several times a year.

Do you have any idea what it's like making sure that someone has their eyes/ears and in some cases hands, on your child 24/7? Unless you have a child that needs this kind of attention, you do not. And if you do not, you are in NO position to judge anyone who DOES. Our kids are unpredictable. You never know when they will do or try something that they've never done before. You don't know if your child is one who will leave until they do it the first time.

I'm not looking for a medal. I'm not looking for sympathy either. Frankly, I'm not convinced I'm any good at this and certainly not any better than anyone else, whether they're parents of autistic kids or typical kids. I wake up terrified from nightmares where I've lost Josh somewhere. I'm not saying that for dramatic effect, it's true. I don't very often dream of familiar people or places or events, but not being able to find Toad is the stuff my worst nightmares are actually made of.

But you do what you need to do. It's just part of being a parent. Most of us are doing the best we can.

What I'm hoping for is some acknowledgement that losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to any parent. No matter how it happens. Honestly, I don't know that I could go on with my life if I ever lost either of my kids. But parents of autistic kids who escape have to live at a Def Con level of 1 every minute of every, single, day. 

And kids like Mikaela, Owen, Josh, and so many others, can be in your sight one minute, and gone the next. Literally. Unless you've experienced it for yourself you can never truly understand. Try to imagine it. Put yourself in our place. Try to imagine your life if you had to watch your kids like we do. How do you go to the bathroom if you are alone with them? I only get to go alone when Toad's at school, or there are other people available to watch him. What if you have things to do, as most adults do? Home repairs, other kids that need attention... ? THINK ABOUT IT. Think about every thing that you do and then think about how you would manage your life if you also had to make sure that your autistic child wasn't wandering or running off somewhere every moment. Not a toddler who isn't going to move very fast or far, but a kid. Who can walk or run. Who likely won't come if they hear you calling. Who won't stop. Who you can say "stay here" or "don't go outside without mom/dad/whoever" to 8000 times and they leave anyway. Who you try to explain danger to and it simply doesn't seem to mean anything. 

Walk a mile in our shoes.

And maybe try to be human and have some empathy for these parents, and all of those like them instead of making assumptions, casting doubt or accusations, and judging.

My heart broke into a million pieces for these families just as it has each time I read/hear of this happening. I can imagine what it must be like for them all too easily. I panic about Toadie and all I want to do is put him in a big bubble that has a tractor beam permanently focused on it. 

But we have to be able to live. Toad and other kids like him deserve to live full lives that include all kinds of experiences, we can't keep them locked-away. 

I've written this because there have been some awful, ignorant, and flat-out hateful things written about the parents of these children. This is a difficult issue for families of autistic children and one that is not easily solved.

Casting accusations, harsh criticism and judgment are not the answer.

Much love to the Lynches and Blacks right now. There are many of us who understand.

And who know that there but for the grace of whatever we believe in, go we.

IMG_0028.JPG

Everything Toad is New Again

So. How do you like the new digs?!?

As Toad is growing-up it only seemed right the the blog should too and now it has company - feel free to peek around, this place is pretty big! I have been wanting to write about more than just autism-related things for a while, so I think these 4 blogs should take care of that nicely. Yes, I'm serious. No, I'm not on drugs... unless you count coffee (we live near Seattle, the stuff is practically in the water here, so you know, that works for me).

I'll give you a quick run-down on the other blogs, then I'll treat you to a good Toadie story.

The main page is pretty much where I will write about anything. Current events, politics, social/cultural issues, random thoughts, whatever is in my head. Along Came George is a blog about losing my mom to cancer last Fall. Yes, so very sadly, Toad's much beloved Grandma is gone, which I will also be talking about here, just from a different perspective. The last one, Tales From the Shed, will be fun - if you have any interest in DIY projects that you might see on tv or in magazines and think "that's really cool but seriously, who does that?", I know someone who does that. I know if you're here for Planet Josh you may have no interest in the other blogs but at least check out the mastheads - each blog has its own, ALL IN THIS ONE SITE. Which is ridiculous, exactly what I wanted and completely awesome thanks to Meredith at DropFoundry and BuenoBaby (for any of you who were around back when I was writing for Momversation, she was writing for them as well, that's how we "met"). Also, please thank her husband Ben, because while she was going insane trying to figure out how to make my design wishes come true, he was busy bringing all of Planet Josh's posts over here.

OK. Now that you've seen the new blog neighborhood, let's talk about Josh. I know it's been forever, but while there have been a number of big changes in our lives over the last year or so, Toad is still pretty much the same little dude.

He is in high school now, though technically he should still be in middle school. It's a long story and I'll fill you in later. Yes, HIGH SCHOOL, where apparently he naps almost daily. I know I would have enjoyed high school a whole lot more if I'd been able to crash on a big bean-bag chair whenever the mood struck...

He still asks for fries 1000 times a day and Blue's Clues is still his whole world. He has, however, changed his shoes of choice from Uggs to (wait for it) ... Crocs. Because of course he did. The Fashion Police can sit-down and shut-up, Planet Josh is where questionable footwear trends are welcomed with open arms....er, feet.

Here's a picture of him from last summer (obviously before the Uggs fell out of favor) at one of his most favorite spots. This was also the last time he saw his grandma :(

July 21, 2012 at Dundarave Park, West Vancouver, BC

See that little block sitting beside him? That is a Peek-a-Block by Fisher-Price. I have mentioned these before in an earlier post about the toys Toad loves. He still loves them. Mostly just to hold in his hands and chew on. Endlessly. It is rare to see him without one or two as he'll even take them to school. 

A few nights ago, he surprised me. You see, Little Man has never been one to follow the crowd, even as a baby/toddler - he never crawled, he bear-walked; he didn't babble, he growled (which was hilarious, by the way); he didn't play with his toys, he either carried them in each hand or would walk around the playroom picking them up and then dropping them over one shoulder as went. Aside from being early signs that Toadie was marching to his own drummer, it also means I never saw him learning/developing in a conventional way. Which is not a problem, or anything I'm unhappy about, it just means that I do on occasion end up surprised when for example, he starts building a block tower. Which he did. And it was fascinating.

It was amazing to watch this process. I do think it was the first time he's ever really tried - at very least it's the first time I've ever seen him try. He was determined, yet unfazed by failure. He seemed amused when they fell, but was also clearly intent on trying again until he had stacked every block he could find. Problem was, his first two were always perfect, but at 3 or 4, he'd put them off-center so that any further stacking was bringing the whole thing down. I could see him thinking when he would put one on top and notice that the stack was wobbling. He'd hang on to the one he was trying to place, and try to use that one to stabilize the tower. That of course would not work and the towers were coming down every time.

I decided that while letting him figure things out for himself is good, and as a parent you do that with your kids often, I also didn't want him to get bored or even upset enough to melt-down or walk away and stop trying - the speed with which Toad can go from being happy to being in a rage is impressive and unnerving (and clearly no fun for him). So I went to him and let him start another stack. When he got to the point where he would put one off-center, I gently took his hand and showed him how to straighten it out. I did this twice, and then left the room to watch from a distance again.

The first couple of times he tried after that, he did it the same way he had been and the tower continued to crash down after just a few blocks. Then he started another one. This time I watched him straighten out his off-center ones the way I'd shown him. His tower went up high and stayed tall, he was so excited. He was laughing, making his "so happy I just want to growl really intensely" noise, and bouncing. Then he leaned over and tried to chew on the very top block. OBVIOUSLY. I mean really, what else are you going to do with it?? Then it all crashed down, Toadie giggled and built it back up again. He was a pro at it by bed-time. He made a few that were about as tall as he is and tried to chew on all of them, laughing the entire time. I so badly wanted a picture, but he's very camera-wary these days and as soon as he senses there might be one nearby, he'll stop whatever he's doing that you want a picture of. I didn't want to take the chance of ruining the fun.

It was awesome to see him enjoying a newly discovered use for his old standbys, as well as fun to see him doing something that for Toad, was quite out of the ordinary - aside from the chewing :)