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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snowy Days

We have had a lot of snow days lately. Right after the Presidents' Day four day weekend, my daughter had another four day weekend due to an ice/sleet/snow downfall. Even after the sun came back out and the icicles started to melt, it was still too cold for Bow to go out.

The sun can be shining but it can still be quite cold.

On snowy days, Bow tends to be less active. He is not upset by the weather, as in the case of a thunderstorm, but he just doesn't seem to want to do much.

In the spring and summer, Bow is active all day long. But when it is bleak out, Bow tends to nap more, even in the morning. This gives me a chance to catch up on my other work, such as editing and writing and even just posting things on Facebook.

Here is a video from yesterday, when Bow was napping:

All the ice from the previous storm had pretty much melted by yesterday afternoon, but this morning it was snowing again, and again school was canceled.

When I asked Bow what he thought about it snowing yet again, he accepted the situation philosophically. When it is cold out, sometimes Bow just likes to snuggle.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bow Turns Eleven

Yesterday was Bow's eleventh birthday! The day started normally, with grapes for breakfast, followed by cereal.

 Although we didn't throw a party, there was cake and balloons and presents. As usual, Bow got very excited when I started singing the birthday song. The dogs also wanted to join in. We could hear Brownie howling outside, as if he, too, wanted to sing the birthday song to Bow. In the end, Bow was vocalizing to the dogs in response to their birthday greetings.

The cake was a cheesecake sampler. Each piece was a little different, but they were all cheesecake at their base. Bow chose the "brown" piece -- which had chocolate and nuts on top.

If you would like to see footage of Bow eating his cake, please read today's post in "The Feast Before Us".
There wasn't just cake, though. There were also balloons.

Bow received a basket full of goodies from his uncle for his birthday. It arrived by Federal Express the day before, and it was labeled "Open At Once: Perishable". The box was addressed to "Bow Katz".

Bow wanted to open the basket of goodies when it first arrived, but I told him it was a birthday present from his uncle, and he had to wait till his birthday. Bow spelled: לקשת יש דוד טוב. "Bow has a good uncle."

Here are some pictures of Bow enjoying a luscious pear from his fruit basket on his birthday.

If you would like to see some footage of Bow eating the pear, please check today's entry on "The Feast Before Us."

I also gave Bow a couple of other presents more suitable for a literary chimpanzee -- a giant pencil and a small notepad, but to be honest with you, he was not impressed.

I don't feel too bad about that. Parents are always trying to give kids educational toys that the children just ignore. It's normal!

All in all, Bow had a pretty exciting and happy birthday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What We Do On Our Day Off

Wednesdays are my day off. Of course, I still start out the day the same way. Breakfast with Bow and watching my daughter board the bus. It's only a little later that the routine is different, when Lawrence comes in around eight a.m.

Yesterday, there was a little snow on the ground as my daughter waited for the bus, and I watched from a distance. It was unusually noisy, because a neighbor across the road was feeding his cattle. After the bus came and my daughter boarded, a truck carrying a giant hay bail drove off in the opposite direction.

The snow did not last long. By the time I took off to run my usual Wednesday morning errands, it had already melted, and by afternoon it was quite sunny, though still a little on the cool side.

Wednesday isn't just my day off. It is also Bow's -- he gets a nice break from my constant companionship when Lawrence arrives. Bow looks forward to this change in the routine. Before Lawrence gets here, Bow is already waiting for him. And yet when Lawrence arrives, you would think Bow was greeting an invading army. (The footage below is from last Wednesday, but Bow's display does not vary much from week to week.)

In addition to my usual routine errands of picking up mail at the post office and buying groceries, I also got a chance to visit Jill Dabney yesterday, and she gave me a tour of her farm and introduced me to some of the animals.

Highlights of my visit included Jasmine, pictured above, who is expected to have babies very soon, and Trixie, the Jersey cow who has a young calf.

Jill Dabney is an excellent musician and voice and piano teacher. That's the side of her that I usually see, as she is my daughter's music teacher. She is also helping me with The Debt Collector song demos. But yesterday I got to see a different side of Jill. She has a way with animals, and everyone on her farm is happy and well cared for.

Later in the afternoon, I came back to Jill's house to bring my daughter and her friend for their weekly voice lesson. Jasmine, the sow I had met earlier in the day, was wandering free outside. She came up to me and greeted me as I was getting out of my car. Then she wandered into the woods, pursuing her own interests.

I had a very nice day off. And Lawrence and Bow also had a great time together. It's good to vary our routine from time to time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Using Words When Gestures would do.

Today started with a stormy, overcast morning. I watched from the front door as the bus picked my daughter up for school.

Bow napped a little after breakfast, and then he got up and called to me to come and talk to him. When I asked him what he wanted, he started to take my hand to spell it out, then changed his mind and pointed at the lock of the door that leads to the corridor that leads to the outer pens. Only after he had signaled what he wanted in this non-verbal way did he spell out what he wanted: לצאת -- To go out.

I opened and shut all the intervening doors, but when he got out there, he hesitated, because it was cold and wet. Then he gingerly stepped over the wet concrete to assume his typical posture, perched on top of the bench and with his index finger balancing against the grid.

This type of incident involves communication that does not require language. Bow didn't have to spell out what he wanted, because I already knew the moment he had pointed at the lock. But Bow is not the only person who is prompted by caretakers to use language when he has already made himself perfectly clear.I know of autistic children who have the same experiences. They can tell you what they want without using language, and yet people keep pressuring them to use language, in the hopes that the practice will one day make them say something unexpected -- something that conveys information that only they know and expresses opinions and desires that are complex enough so that a mere gesture would not be enough to convey them.

When people see a video such as the one above, they are quite within their rights to assume that it is Clever Hans syndrome: I know what  Bow wants to say, and Bow can read my body language about what letters to use in order to say it.

But we have had other conversations in which the communication was unexpected and only Bow knew the information. Conversations about mice, for instance, that Bow knew about, and I did not. Or the time he told one of our volunteers the Chinese name of a girl she had never met and did not know.

It is in these unexpected moments that Bow proves that he can use language. But most of the time, language is superfluous for Bow. as it is for many parents with their kids: you don't need him to say it before you know what he wants.

Language isn't such a great thing in everyday life. But on that rare occasion when you cannot read another person's mind through posture and gesture, it can be a powerful tool.