July 2002 page 2 of 2
Tuesday 16 July

A report from school: the kids were in the sand yard. Lucas went to the fence, started shaking it and shouting "Fire! Fire! Fire!" Damian joined him. Stood next to him and shouted Fire! too. Then Cory joined the two of them. They all three stood shaking the fence and shouting. Just like typical kids.

Seems like most of the reports I get of Damian playing interactively with other kids, it's these two boys. Lucas and Cory, but especially Cory. Damian seems to have made -- or be making, it's early days yet -- actual honest to goodness friends in his new class. I hope our leaving town won't throw that dynamic off.

Wednesday 17 July

We were working in the back yard. Damian ran past, down the driveway (which is gated at the halfway point), shouting, "I'm running through the forest, mad!" I thought he was acting out a moment from a book (probably When Sophie Gets Angry, Really Really Angry). And maybe he was. But then when he got to the gate, he stopped, grabbed hold of the bars, then walked behind the empty (outdated) round trash cans there -- a narrow fit. He declared that this was the Happy Machine and that now he was happy!

He acted this out several times and then coopted me to join in becoming happy. I believe this Happy Machine is his sole creation. Amazingly inventive.

Thursday 18 July

Today as we walked into the house after school, Damian commented, "Today is cooking day." I wasn't sure what he meant -- did he want to cook? -- but then I remembered. Jumpstart class has different activities depending on the day of the week. Thursday is cooking day. So I said, "You mean at school? Was it cooking day in class?" Damian assented, then added, "I made fruit salad." Knock me over with a feather. My son volunteered something about his day at school. What a great milestone.

Friday 19 July

The day's highlight, of course, was Damian's walrus joke and his retelling later.

Damian was in tears at least three times during Kahuna's session with him. I know Kahuna's pushing him a bit, but not as much as we do when we set boundaries. I think Damian's just exhausted at the end of the week. School is much more interesting but also much harder now.

Saturday 20 July

Damian spent most of the afternoon naked. He loves it now. He and Dan built a fort out of couch pillows: Damian pulled them off the couch and Dan built them around him. Seems like Damian was seeking sensory input/comfort a lot today. I think that's what the nakedness is about, in part: a different sensory experience. And the fort is an enclosed space, which feels safe and comforting. Getting all the way under the covers does that too.

Damian and Sophia talked to each other more today than I've ever seen. When she said something, he replied. I can't remember the exact conversation, just bits. Sophia commented on her play-doh. Damian commented on his ("I have this play-doh. Brown is my favorite.") When I asked Sophia if her play-doh was hard or soft, she said "hard" and he said "Mine is soft." They talked about cutting it with a knife. She said her knife was green. He said "We have two green knives." When I asked who had two green knives, Damian said, "I do." Diane and I asked him who else did, and he said "My friend has a green knife." "Who's your friend?" "Sophia is my friend." And then he came over and said "Mommy and Daddy are my old friends." I think he was going to continue and tell me Sophia was his new friend, but we got interrupted. But the whole thing was lovely. A simple back and forth. It's the first time I've ever personally experienced what I've been hearing about from school: Damian talking to another kid spontaneously with no prompting.

When we heard Simon (Sophia's two month old brother) crying in the next room, Damian asked me about it. I told him babies don't have words to tell us what they want so they cry. He was struck by this. He said "Babies use crying words." Thought about it some more and added, "I don't use crying words." It's a fairly simple thing, putting what I said together in that configuration, but what I liked was his thoughtfulness about it. Really putting it all together in his head.

Saturday 27 July (in NYC)

Can't possibly catch up. Won't try. We took off for New York on Wednesday. Damian's first plane flight in two and a half years, the only one he remembers. He kept saying it was the first time he'd been on a plane. It went well, for the most part. One sticky moment getting through the security gate. Damian was holding his Mousey and Mousey's motorcyle. They insisted it get x-rayed instead of letting him walk it through. Damian started wailing. They were forcing us to take away his comfort object. I thought that was completely unneccesary. I understand the extra security measures, but a toy mouse in a child's hand? He would have walked it through the metal detector.

He loves his grandparents' house. The first day or so, he kept talking about how we were going to move in. Today he said it's a pretty house but our house is a nice house too. And he told Dan he misses the cat. But still, he's fine about being here. More than fine. Been in a good mood except when he's tired. Chatty and interactive and very sweet.

Thursday we met up with my friend Julia. Damian was comfortable around her, a marked difference from last March, the last time she saw him. He embraced her from behind, let her put him in a tree (while holding on to him). And when we brought her to the bus station, he stayed home with his grandparents. Even pooped for them.

I went out to lunch solo with my friend Cathy yesterday. Damian kept saying all morning that he was coming too, but when it came down to it, he did let me go. Was a little clingy for a while after I came back but got over it.

Today got a little rough, not too bad. His cousins came. Steven is eight and no problem. Alex is two and a bit rambunctious. Pushed Damian with no cause. Damian was very shaken up. But to give him credit, he didn't shy away from Alex later. Still, no interactive play. Though there was one moment in the back yard. Dan was giving Damian a wheelbarrow ride. Damian was cool with Alex joining him, offered to make room. So the two cousins got a wheelbarrow ride together.

Monday 29 July

Yesterday: We went from Dan's folks to my friend Cathy's, where we spent the night. We were a little anxious because she has twins four days younger than Damian, and Damian still sometimes gets overwhelmed by other kids, doesn't know how to react to their demands and their questions. When we got there -- we'd just pulled in the driveway, hadn't even gotten out yet -- Damian declared, "I love this house!" Promising start.

Things started a little oddly: Isaiah wanted us to come in through the kitchen door but Hannah blocked the way, insisting we not come in that way. Sounded an awful lot like Damian; the only difference is that he doesn't show this side to strangers and she had no such inhibition. When we came inside, Isaiah had an agenda (for us to see their bedroom, I think), and so we followed. Or started to. They have a house rule: no shoes allowed. Damian doesn't wear shoes in our house either, but couldn't tolerate taking his shoes off in this unknown environment. So we sat in the front hall for a good fifteen minutes while he became acclimated. Eventually he decided the lure of the house outweighed the emotional comfort of shoes and allowed me to remove his sneakers.

We had a small contretemps in the kids' bedroom: Hannah didn't want Damian in her playhouse. Damian kept trying to go in. But it passed quickly and soon enough, she was being extremely sweet with him and showing him her toys. Both kids were sweet. When Damian fell and hurt himself in Cathy & Larry's bedroom, Isaiah went and fetched some books for him to read to feel better. And Damian warmed up to them too. Before long, he told me they were his friends. And when Hannah got a splinter and cried, Damian asked about the noise and then answered his own question -- Hannah was crying. He added, "Hannah is my friend." I suggested a kiss might make her feel better. Without any hesitation, he went over and gave her a kiss.

We ate outside on the deck. The kids sat at a smaller children's table. When I saw the table, I was sure Damian would balk at being separated from us, but he didn't. In fact, we have some adorable pictures of the three of them grinning into the camera. He truly did feel that they were his friends.

At night, they all trooped into the guest bedroom. While we were on the bed fooling with the laptop computers, Hannah and Isaiah pulled a comforter onto the floor and crawled under it. They were pretending they were dead and meeting each other at the Rainbow Bridge (heaven for pets -- they've recently had some pet losses in their extended family). Damian didn't understand the specifics of the game (no familiarity with the concepts) but loved the activity. He got a huge grin watching them and before long was burrowing under the comforter too. Later, he lay down on his little bed, pulled up the cover and said he was taking a nap. Hannah lay down beside him and copied him, declaring her intent to take a nap too. The two of them lay there happily until Isaiah joined in. That was a little crowded for Damian and he left.
Overall, it went extremely well. Not that much joint play but more than I usually see. And when they spoke to him, he responded. He was engaged with them and pretty comfortable, to boot. They liked him too. They told their mom today they hope he comes back soon.

Today: We drove into Manhattan. Damian was quiet; the city must have felt huge to him. He didn't particularly want to get out of the car to go into my father's loft building. Not sure why. Maybe it felt foreign or maybe he picked up my ambivalence. He did enjoy exploring the space, though. When my father showed up, Damian was reasonably open to him. He was mock-shooting me with a "spray gun" (a pen). I suggested he shoot his grandfather. He did, with the same exuberant sound effects. But when we were walking to the restaurant, my father tried to take his hand. Damian refused; he'd only hold my hand, not this stranger's. He did extremely well in the restaurant (service took forever) but toward the end he kept talking about how he was ready to go, it was time to go. I was impressed with his certainty. He had trouble walking slow enough to accomodate my father but when I walked ahead with him, he ran back to Dan and my father and circled around them. Once he was untethered, he was free to come back too.

We went to a playground on Riverside before dinner. Damian enjoyed the swings, was a little hesitant about the unfamiliar (metal and wood rather than plastic) jungle gyms, and got upset when a little boy splashed him with water. Afterwards, he rode in a tandem stroller with Coby (the son of a MayMom friend, he's the same age as Damian). The two boys peeked at each other and chatted, though none of us heard what they said.

Back at the hotel, we had dinner in the room with Dan's friend Mike. Damian took to him. At one point, he put Froggie in a tiny teapot and used it as a pretend spritzer (yes, this is the new fave game). He said when he spritzed me, I'd turn into Daddy. So when he did, Dan and I changed places. Then Damian spritzed each of us in turn, including Mike. And we all changed places. Damian was delighted with his power.

Tuesday 30 July

We met my cousin for brunch, then met friends in midtown. Damian loved riding the subway. I promised him we'd ride it again tomorrow. He had a hard time after that, though. We thought he was having trouble with the heat or the crowd. Turned out he was getting sick. When we got back to the hotel, he fell asleep on me. We cancelled dinner plans and spent the evening being very low key in front of the TV.

Wednesday 31 July

Back to Rockland County (Dan's parents). We took a detour through Brooklyn (if you know New York geography, you'll know that's pretty much the opposite direction when you're starting from the Upper West Side). We mostly stayed in the car, just drove through. Damian didn't complain even though it was hot and boring. But when he got back to Rockland, he ran upstairs, greeted his grandparents happily and told them "It was a very long drive."

Sick boy stayed home. More TV. Some low key (lying on the floor) playing. Poor miserable kid. We were very worried. He wasn't drinking much of anything. Kept refusing juice. Sometimes drank a little chocolate milk, but that's it.

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