First, let me tell you some wonderful things about Leelo.
He is doing some crazy verbal gymnastics lately. It's sort of scripting, sort of echolalic, but altogether unique Leelo-speak. It's pretty cool.
Leelo has always loved to have us sing or speak back the lines he feeds us. It's one of the ways he communicates and shows affection and gets reassurance. Lately he has been taking scripts from favorite books and verses from favorite songs, and making them completely his own. He has done this to Goodnight Moon, inserting his own real and nonsense words -- nonsense words when he needs something that rhymes with the first word he chose, but can't come up with a real word off the top of his head. So we have gems like, "Goodnight puppies, goodnight cuppies."
It's amazing to watch, amazing to hear.
He is also playing with the names of all the Thomas trains. Tonight, while all five of us were having quality postprandial trampoline time, he spent several minutes saying goodnight to all the engines he could think of. Then he went through the entire list again, changing the starting sound of each name. We all said goodnight to Seter Sam, Suncan, Dercy, etc., as ordered. Very amusing.
Probably the part I like best is his singing. Tonight I tried to have him watch some YouTube videos post-bath, pre-bedtime books, to help calm him down. He was not impressed by my choices, because he wanted to provide the evening's music himself, with "There's a Little Wheel Turnin' in My Heart." Which he has sung before.
EXCEPT he incorporated something different from his environment, into every verse.
Shia the cat walked by, and Leelo sang, "There's a one cat meowing in my heart, miaow miew, there's a one cat meowing in my horn." (Heart and horn are interchangeable for some reason.)
Then he looked around for something else to sing, locked onto my most prominent facial feature, and sang, "There's a big nose honking in my heart, honk honk, there's a big nose honking in my horn."
For his final verse, Leelo chose something from the next step in his bedtime routine, and sang, "There's a daddy reading in my book, book, book, there's a daddy reading in my book."
Leelo was very snuggly, very affectionate, very present during all the encounters above. Yay Leelo. I love our intense interactions. Verbally, you're going places. And I can see the big wheels turning, the ones that are going to take you wherever it is you're going.
For contrast, consider me thinking I could take all three kids to church by myself this morning. Because I have the power of optimism!
Note to Myself Past: YOU CAN BE A REAL DUMBASS.
Today was the first day of Iz's Religious Education class. Exposing her to our congregation's pan-theologic, non-judgmental approach is important to me, and I did not want her to miss anything. I also didn't want Seymour to miss the mountain bike trek to which he'd been invited, and which was scheduled for the same slot as church.
I calculated the risks, and decided they were acceptable:
- I've been having great luck with supplying engaging activities to keep Leelo calm in public, and thought perhaps my son would be able to tolerate the five minutes from the welcoming until the children were sung out to their classes.
- If Leelo found five minutes of service intolerable, then we could leave. Iz knows half the people in the congregation, so she wouldn't feel abandoned, and she also knows the routine for following the other children from the sanctuary to the classroom. Leelo and I could slip out and deposit Mali in the nursery. Then Leelo and I could find a nice quiet corner for his activities, or we could walk around the block.
- When the service finished, I could pluck Iz from her class lickety-split, and her siblings and I could all leave the building before its narrow hallways and small rooms became crowded with the ideologically sated.
- If something went wrong, then surely someone might help me, especially after I posted my essay on Being a Friend to Families of Children With Special Needs to the congregation's Yahoo Groups list and was sent many warm, supportive responses.
Thirty seconds into the service, Leelo was done. He had completed a lacing card, had no interest in anything else in my backpack, and announced his displeasure with blows and howls. Mali was also done, as evidenced by her proclaiming loudly, "I don't like this place."
Like fools, we flew. My heart, it sank.
Mali was happy to play in the nursery. When the children filed by the door as they were sung to their classes, she decided she'd like to try join the pre-K class. Off she went.
Meanwhile, Leelo and I wandered through the building, and found that it was entirely devoid of quiet corners. The Religious Education program had expanded over the summer, and needed every last chair for its participants. I felt happy for our growing congregation, and stressed that there seemed to be no physical space for us in their building.
It didn't feel right to leave and run errands, so Leelo and I trudged back to the nursery. We sat down at a table across from a couple of toddlers, and we all did our respective activities until Leelo was done. Which he indicated by thwacking me, hard, with an open hand to my chest.
There was still half an hour of service left, so we took a walk around the block. We ran across JP, which is always a treat.
When we returned to the nursery, Mali was there. She'd been bounced for reasons I could not ascertain, but which likely had to do with the defiance that has been getting her into trouble at her preschool. Or maybe they didn't realize that she qualifies for pre-K, that she'll be going to kindergarten in Fall '09. It didn't bother me that much, especially as her presence simplified my extract-and-escape logistics by one factor.
I didn't want any toilet issues to complicate our planned smooth exit, so I took Leelo to the potty. And realized that his last thwack combined with my scoop-neck tank top meant I had been parading around the neighborhood and building with a bright red handprint in the middle of my chest. Lovely.
Finally, service was over. I grabbed Mali's and Leelo's hands, and trotted to Iz's classroom.
She wasn't there.
I did three circuits of the warren-like building and classrooms, getting increasingly panicky as the number of people in the hallways and rooms increased, and as Leelo's unhappy noises escalated. As my eyes got wilder and my voice shakier, I asked several friends and acquaintances if they had seen Iz. None of them had. Even more surprisingly, none of them offered to help me find her.
Eventually -- and thankfully before Leelo's internal volcano erupted -- I remembered that Iz sometimes likes to climb the tree in front of the building. And that's where she was. And that's where I lost it.
I was so relieved to find her, had been bottling up so much stress from the beginning of the service until that point, that I started crying. Which was mortifying -- some UU's are pity vampires and I did not want to attract even more of their attention -- but got Iz down out of that tree immediately. A man that I didn't know approached and kindly asked if I was okay and if he could do anything. I told him that I was just having a bad morning. I hope I remembered to thank him.
Iz gave me her profuse apologies, which I accepted, and we all walked back to the car.
Although overall Leelo did fairly well during our botched church adventure, he won't be seeing the inside of that building again, not anytime soon. I'm not even sure I can show my face for a while.
In hindsight, I realize that I didn't ask anyone if they would help me find Iz. I really can't be disappointed in people for not doing what I would do, if I can't even point out what needs doing.
Leelo had a crappy day overall until the after-dinner magic time described above. If I had been home alone with him and the girls all day, I would have sunk very low indeed, and might not have been able to appreciate the wonder of Leelo's imaginative and clever verbal play. But thankfully Seymour sent me out for a few hours so I could work plus discuss things CISWY with the gracious yet also overwhelmed Jennyalice. I got a break. And because of that break -- only because of that break -- I was able to return home and resume the real work it takes to co-parent my three kids.
This time, I'll let you decide. Am I lucky?