Mama’s First Guest Post

Dear Diary,

Finn has graciously offered to let me make my first guest post here and I’ve decided to take him up on it. While I know we can both agree that Finn tells the truth, and only the unadulterated truth, about everything, I thought maybe you’d like to hear from somebody else.

Hard to believe it’s been only about six weeks since the Invaders first showed up to tell us Finn is Awesome. At the same time as they’ve rushed by me in a blur they have also dragged on as the longest weeks I can remember. Once the diagnosis was official the Invaders started showing up for two hours a day, five days a week. Sometimes they come alone, sometimes in pairs or even packs. In addition to Meow and Kerplunk, who serve as Finn’s go-to Invaders, he also sees a behavior analyst, a speech pathologist, and an occupational therapist. The Invaders provide all of their services in-home, since the littles learn best in their own environment.

I’ll start with this disclaimer: this post is me unloading my thoughts. Some of it may seem a little bit self-indulgent, but I want to keep it as honest as possible. I’m not big into feelings, and definitely not into touchy-feelings, but this is an incredibly emotional ride and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me. What I’m writing is an attempt to open the door a little into the head of a parent working through all of this stuff for the first time, not a request for sympathy – there’s no tragedy in what’s happening with Finn. Just an uphill climb with an amazing kid.

It’s hard to feel in your gut that your kid is different. Not just unique or quirky, but capital D Different. It changes the way you see your child even though you don’t want it to. It gives you a feeling of shame and guilt (which your head knows is ridiculous, but your heart says is justified), and the constant impulse to apologize for everything they do that’s a little off in public (and let’s be real – toddlers are weird little people, whether they’re Different or just toddlers). You wonder if you’re making it up in your head; you second guess yourself, your child, and the people around you who give you side-eye when your two year old plays with the same toy for an hour while every other two year old is knocking around the room like they’ve been given an intravenous Red Bull drip. You know that the people around you, close to you, have seen something different in your child, but nobody wants to be the person to say “Hey, I think something’s up with your kid…. he’s…. Different.” You feel them pull away in case it’s catching. In case it’s too much for them to deal with.

You feel isolated, whether you really are or you’re not. Sometimes you isolate yourself because it’s easier than explaining for the hundredth time that YES MY KID IS NOT LIKE YOURS, and nervously laughing off yet another remark that was probably just made in jest but feels like a needle being driven under your fingernail.

Once the professionals come and you have an answer there are so many roiling emotions that it’s hard to pinpoint how you really feel. There’s relief, from knowing you weren’t crazy; there’s fear, because what the hell happens now? There’s a period of mixed anger and mourning because no matter how well your child responds to their therapies they’re now always going to be Different, and your life is always going to be Different, and you realize that relating to other people in your surrounding circles just got a lot harder. And, more lasting, there’s a huge cloud of uncertainty that hangs above you like the rain clouds that hover over Eeyore.

So now here we are a month into this intensive program with all of these people in our lives and home making all of these changes, additions, and subtractions to how we live our lives. In some ways it’s more settled – I more or less know what to expect from sessions, and I know what to do to support the work they’re doing with him. In other ways it’s harder than it was – there are these cloudy, out of focus goals that are somewhere in the future and the path to reach them is partly laid, but how long it takes and whether we can pave the rest of it or not is just all rolled into the Great Unknown that hangs above us.

I’ll end this guest post, Diary, by giving you the abbreviated grownup version of Finn’s progress to this point. I hope to write to you more often, but that involves wrestling the iPad away from a surprisingly strong two year old.

The team that’s been assembled for Finn meshes well with his personality. In the last month he’s learned to trust them and that makes him more willing to work with them. When they first started coming Finn had no way to communicate specifics with us. He knew how to get his message across in general, but how frustrating must it be to be hungry and not be able to say “I want crackers, not a banana!” or even just “I’m hungry.”
In the weeks since the Invaders arrived Finn has begun to pick up functional sign language, use pointing effectively, and most importantly, how to use PECS. PECS is a system where the child chooses and exchanges a picture representation of what they want to receive the item or do the activity they want. The first stage typically takes several months for the child to master. Smartykins over here nailed it in under a week. He’s also using some initial consonants with purpose (/b/ for ball and /mo/ for more, for instance).

I could go on for pages about all this stuff, but I’ll spare you for now and save it for later.

The Importance of Squashing


Dear Diary,

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get upset. I get scared, or mad, or overwhelmed by any number of things. I’m never really sure what to do about it but I’ve discovered one thing that really helps me calm myself down: squashing.

It’s an art, really. Proper squashing can be accomplished in a number of different ways, and I like to innovate and seek out new and different methods. You’ve gotta keep it fresh, you know?

I’ll give you a few examples, including the one I’ve shown you above. That one is mama’s arm. She wanted me to take a nap today and I was really tired because not only did Meow come, she brought someone new with her and that always wears me out. It’s hard to have new people here and I had to leave the room several times. Plus then my cousins came over after and we played for a long time! Anyway, Diary, all that to say that I didn’t mind the idea of a nap. The thing was, I couldn’t get to sleep. I wanted to, but the wiggles got in me and I was flipping like an egg in a frying pan. I knew I needed some help to quit it so I could sleep! Sometimes I pull daddy’s really heavy pillow on top of me so that it squashed me, then I wriggle until I’m comfy and drift off to sleep. But today I didn’t want daddy’s pillow. My other go-to for falling asleep is grabbing mama’s arm and squashing myself with it. Usually I have to hold it in place by hugging it really hard against me. Mama seems to be worried I’m gonna choke myself but she’s silly. I always make sure her arm is on my cheek and not my neck. Duh. So today I used her arm and BAM, I was sleeping.

Some of my other favorite ways to get squashed are:

– getting super hard hugs from mama and daddy

– squashing myself between the screen door and the glass door (that one is really good when I have no one to help squash me)

– squeezing in behind mama on the couch or when she’s sitting on the big bed and pulling her back on top of me (bonus: this one is also a game since she says SQUASH every time!)

– pressing my face really hard against the couch or the ottoman

– having mama or daddy give me uppies and getting them to squash me against the back door.

I don’t know what it is, Diary, that makes me calm down so much when I get squashed. But I know that if I get upset all I need to do is grab my nearest parent and have them give me uppies and a few squashes really hard against them. Every time they do, whatever is bothering me seems less important and I can pull myself together. It’s such a relief to get smooshed and all the noise in my head and the THINGS around me get quiet.

Sleeping Squashily,


The Invaders Return


Dear Diary,

I don’t really know how to break this news. I’m still coming to grips with it myself. It’s life altering in ways I haven’t yet fully come to understand, but I just know things will never be the same.

Diary, I think the Invaders are staying. Remember how I told you they said I was awesome? I guess they must really believe that because almost every day at least one of them comes to visit me. Are they hoping that by playing with me some of my awesome will rub off on them? Are they studying me to see HOW I got so awesome and whether they can replicate it with other less awesome people? I don’t know.

Here’s what I know for sure: on what mama and daddy call “work days” when all the grownups get in their cars and drive away to be bored for a bunch of hours, the Invaders come. Mostly they come after breakfast, but sometimes mama pokes me awake from a perfectly good nap and then expects me to be a good host. On those days I mostly stare at mama and the Invaders, or play by myself. I don’t see why I should play with rude people.

Usually just one Invader comes, but sometimes they gang up on me. One day this week there were FOUR Invaders, Diary, and I didn’t like that very much at all. I kept leaving the room and hoping they’d get the point and scoot, but like most grownups they can’t take a hint so they just hung around. There seem to be two main Invaders, one whose name seems to be Meow, and the other one is Kerplunk. Both of them come with magical bags filled to the brim with toys I’ve never seen before. The first couple of days those bags made me nervous and I pushed away everything that came out of them, but it turns out that Meow and Kerplunk are actually pretty cool, and so I don’t mind playing with them. We play rolling stuff down the ramp, throwing balls into my ball pit, pouring sand in my sandbox, pouring water in my pool, and one day we even had a tickle fight. I think Meow won because I was gasping and hiccuping at the end. Every Invader comes with a different Magic Bag and now I like to inspect them to see if there’s good stuff. And, Diary, THIS IS SUPER SECRET – I’ve been squirreling away some of their toys in my ball pit. I’ve got a stash in there you wouldn’t believe; Mardi Gras beads and Connect 4 chips, balls from their games, even a block or two. I’m saving them for a rainy day.

The thing that’s weird about them being here, Diary, aside from the fact that I don’t understand why they don’t have anything better to do than harass a toddler full time, is that they keep asking me to do things. They love when I point to things they can’t find (how can they not see the giant duck on the book page? Or the ball they just buried in my rice? Getting old must suck), and they want me to use my pointy finger to show them EVERYTHING. Honestly, Diary, it’s exhausting. When the Invaders leave I usually push mama to sit down on the couch so I can climb onto her and rest for a few minutes. Entertaining grownups is hard work.

They’ve also been trying to get me to use words. Now, Diary, given how much everyone around me talks, I’m not sure why they’re in such a rush for me to join that cacophony, but I’ve been humoring them by using some of the sounds they use. Like when Meow plays “pretend sneeze with a cup on my head and fling it on the floor” – she likes when I say C C C C for cup. And she loves when I say B B B B for ball. I get the feeling they want me to say the whole thing but I’m not ready yet.

Lastly, and maybe the strangest thing, is they’re trying to get me to say words with my hands. They do it a lot, tapping their fingers together and saying “more.” I watched them for a couple of days, and Meow and Kerplunk would take my fingers and tap them together the same way. What I learned was that if I tap my fingers together like that when I want another ball, or another pancake, or more tickles, I get them! Once I understood what they were doing it was like I learned a new language. Suddenly, I CAN talk to them and to Mama and Daddy without using my voice. I think I could learn to like this. They’ve been showing me a few other things with their hands but I don’t really understand those yet. I’m feeling motivated to learn them though.

Phew, sorry Diary, I didn’t mean to make you tired writing so much at once. There’s just so much going on all at the same time and I had to write it down before it was all I could think about. I like having Meow and Kerplunk as friends, but I’m not sure how I feel about the other ones yet. I’ll have to tell you about them another day.


Law and Order

Dear Diary, It has come to my attention after my last entry that a lot of people are under the impression that all mama needs is a cape and she’d be declared a superhero. Diary – I do have a pretty cool mama, don’t get me wrong. But do you have any idea how hard … Continue reading

The Invaders

Dear Diary,

I bet you thought you’d never hear from me again, huh? Figured that like so many others I’d started writing to you with the best of intentions and then thrown you aside for something more interesting or less brain intensive.

Au contraire, Diary. Au contraire.

What had happened was that I discovered those things mama was calling thunder thighs had the power to take me places. Diary, I learned to walk. And soon after, I learned to RUN. As you can imagine, priority had to be given to intensive investigation of my surroundings and methods for raising mama’s blood pressure; things like climbing furniture and slides at the park and making a break for the outside world at Target. Oh, sure, sometimes gravity got in my way or a wall punched me in the face, but mostly it’s been smooth sailing.

So anyway, I really am sorry if you felt like I loved you less. I thought about writing to you often, but then there was a ball I needed to chase, or a kitty I’m sure needed my love, or a container I needed to fill with something.

Today I’m writing you to tell you about The Invaders. Diary, I’m concerned. Mama keeps letting them come into our house. The doggies think they’re ok, but they also think eating cat poop is pretty awesome so I’m not sure how much I trust their judgement anymore. The Invaders come in the morning, and they travel in pairs and groups. Diary – they make me do things.

The first time they came, it was no big deal. They wanted me to stack some blocks and show them where to put a circle in a puzzle and stuff like that. I don’t know when adults got so lazy that they figured toddlers should do their work for them, but there it is. I schooled them. But then they came back again after the snow was gone and when I SHOULD have been playing outside and Diary I won’t lie – I was mad. Really mad. They wanted me to do their work for them again and damn it Diary I didn’t want to. Put Cheerios in a water bottle and dump them out? Stack the same four stupid blocks? Show you the sun in a Baby Bop book? UGH. So I did the only reasonable thing: I threw all their toys on the floor and I yelled for mama to hug me so I could pet her hair to make me feel less mad. And after that I cooperated a bit but only because I was on mama’s lap. The Invaders always leave after a while, Diary, but this time they sent back different Invaders.

The Invaders that came last week seemed more ok. They arrived while I was playing outside and I pointed them out to mama to warn her. She seemed friendly with them so I thought it would be ok if they came inside. These Invaders came into the living room and one sat on the floor with me. I had to hide behind the couch for a few minutes and watch her like a hunter stalking prey, but Diary she had some pretty cool toys. In the end I came out and played with her. I guess she doesn’t have friends her own age. Some of her games were stupid, like putting a plastic baby in a bucket disguised as a fake bathtub. What that bucket really needed was balls, so I started gathering all of my balls and putting them in there. The Invader kept taking the balls out, and she even put HER balls away. She obviously didn’t understand the correct order of things. Diary, I gently corrected her by putting her balls back in the bucket six times until she gave up and put her fake bathtub away entirely.

Mama barely paid me any attention the whole time because she was talk-talk-talking with the other Invader. I went over a couple of times to pet her so she’d know I was still there. I didn’t want her to worry, you know?

When she finally finished talking, and the other Invader had packed up her toys, both of The Invaders put on their Serious Grownup Faces. Then I knew I’d get bored so I went and got the iPad to play some Mr. Potato Head – that guy is hilarious. I sort of listened to what The Invaders said to mama. Most of it was BLAH BLAH BLAH, but then I heard them tell her something really important:

Finn is awesome. Except they said it wrong (why do grownups get everything wrong?).

Finn has autism.

And then, Diary, something great happened – mama made me lunch, and we took a nap.

I Believe I Can Fly


Dear diary,

I have been remiss in writing to you, and for that I apologize. However, I have learned how to crawl, stand up, and cruise the furniture, and along with patrolling the perimeter of my house for wayward objects like carpet fibers and the dog water dish I am now responsible for checking where mama is fifty times. Per hour. It’s exhausting, really.

This week mama and I went to something she called a park. I’m confused by this since we park every time she puts me in my chair in the car, but mama assures me it’s two different things. She said something about an article of speech but I couldn’t listen because I was trying to eat some wood chips. Why are they called chips if I’m not supposed to eat them?

Anyway, while we were at these “parks” all week mama did the most amazing thing: she let me fly. Diary, she put me in this black thing that was kind of like jumpy and then she pushed it and let go and I FLEW. I was so excited I didn’t know where to look. First I tried looking at mama but she was dodging in and out of my view so that didn’t work. Then I tried looking up at the sky but my head kept flopping around. Eventually I decided to watch the shadow baby who was flying alongside me. He was in the delicious wood chips and we laughed while we flew. I hope that I can fly again soon.

Diary, I know I haven’t written enough lately, but there are lots of things I want to tell you that have happened, so maybe I can try to write them up soon,

Flying like a superhero,

P.S. Diary, mama says she wants to write something in you. While I feel this is wildly inappropriate and a gross invasion of my privacy, I’ve decided to let her do it just this once because she gave me a pizza crust to eat tonight and I feel like I owe her. You can find what she has to say below:

This will be my first year celebrating Mother’s Day as a mama. I consider myself incredibly lucky to get to parent a kid like Finn who makes me laugh every day and challenges me to challenge him. Even on the hardest days (and during the often harder nights) I remind myself what a miracle he is.

Words fail me a bit here, but I feel strongly that I want to write something about this so bear with me, if you will.

Motherhood is something many women take for granted. They were surprised to learn they were pregnant, or they knew it was just a matter of course to become so. They love their children, of course, but sometimes I think that women for whom motherhood comes easily take for granted the amazing confluence of events that makes that baby, grows it, and gives birth to it.

Some of us have to fight for motherhood. What seems like a basic part of a woman’s life can turn into an intensely personal, and often too private, struggle. It can last for months. It can last for years. For some it lasts forever. Many women feel shamed by the struggle. Feel like they have failed at such a simple task.

However you come to motherhood, whenever you do, if you ever do, try to step back for a moment on Mother’s Day. Amid the scattered toys and the Cheerio dust, and the to-do list that never gets shorter, and the baby that sometimes clings to your legs like lichen and shrieks if you try to extricate yourself for a moment, and the feeling that no matter what you do it’s not enough. And and and. Step back, if you can, and survey the landscape: you have made a miracle. You make miracles every day for the baby or babies in your life – no matter their age. It’s an extraordinary thing to grow yourself as you grow your baby. And today I am looking at my miracle, who in sleep is possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and I am thankful for a made-up holiday that serves to remind me how special this is.

Second Sleep


Dear diary,

Mama makes me sleep two times when the sun is up. I sleep lots when the sun sleeps, of course, but when sun is awake mama makes me sleep two more times.

The first time is ok. It’s exhausting to wake up and talk to mama so much, and then to eat breakfast (diary, sometimes she even makes me feed MYSELF – can you believe that?) and after that I have to inventory my toys to make sure they’re all still there (especially the table gramma gave me for Christmas. I check for him first every day). So when mama brings me upstairs to the sleepy chair I don’t mind. I usually just put my head down and sleep.

But diary, the second time mama makes me sleep I try to charm her out of it. I do the same routine every day and I’m just sure that if I persevere then someday I’ll convince her. When she brings me to the sleepy chair I have a particular order in which I do things. Allow me to elaborate:

1) Vigorously kick feet so she knows I’m not really tired. Then lay my head on her chest.

2) Brush mama’s hair with my fingers. For some reason it gets stuck so I just pull until my fingers are free again. Mama often bends her head toward me when I do this, so I know she really likes it. Sometimes I try to adjust her glasses for her too but she doesn’t seem to enjoy that as much.

3) Do my patented Comedy Gopher routine. Lift my head up, grin really big, stick my tongue out at her, then flop my head back down on her chest. I like to repeat this step at least a half dozen times because I’m sure that in the end this is the one that will convince her I don’t need to sleep. Most days I get her to laugh at least once by doing this. I like to spice it up by sometimes blowing raspberries at her, testing out my new syllables, squealing with joy, and zerberting her chest. Every now and again I try to throw myself off her lap to freedom, too, but she doesn’t seem to be a big fan of that one. I don’t know why.

4) This is my last resort. When all else fails I yell at her. I flail a bit, and rub my face on her. I thought I had another step after this, diary, but often the next thing I know I’m waking up in my bed. That mama sure is tricky.

I continue to perform these steps every day when second sleep time arrives. I feel really confident that if I just do them enough she’ll have to agree with me and stop taking me to sleepy chair for second sleep.

Wide awake,



Dear diary,

Remember when I told you how mama went away that one time and I was SURE she wasn’t coming back ever?

Diary, it happened again. Last time she was gone when I woke up in the morning and still gone when I went to sleep, but when I yelled for her from my bed she appeared like magic.

This time we spent our day like usual, me feeding the dogs the weird flat things mama gives me that she calls cookies (I’ve seen the cookies she eats and I don’t think they’re like mine, Diary), mama drinking that brown stuff she makes every morning that she says wakes her up even though she already looks awake to me, and then me cleaning the floors for her with my belly as I motor around the living room. It’s a service I perform free of charge, even though mama doesn’t appreciate me dusting under the furniture with my legs as much as I think she should.

After nap daddy was home and then mama left. No big deal. I showed daddy my army crawl and impressed him with my pushups.

But diary, when bedtime came mama still wasn’t home. I tried to be a good boy and go to sleep but I kept thinking that if I yelled like I did last time maybe mama would appear again. But she didn’t… After a couple of hours I gave up and subsided into sleep.

Saturday was fine. Daddy and I visited with Grandma and she had a balloon that I played with. We went in the car to the baby store (but you can’t buy babies there. Their marketing is pretty misleading, I think) because mama told daddy he had to get me diapers at the one day sale, and they had a ceiling fan I got to watch. So that was cool. I forgot about mama being gone.

But when nighttime came again and she still wasn’t home I started to get really scared. What if she never came back? What if I never got to chew on her again, or show her my tricks? What if she never ate my face or zerberted my belly? Diary this was just too much to take. So even though daddy did everything he could to soothe me, I yelled. A lot. For a long time. When daddy held me I didn’t yell quite as much, but I still whimpered. When he tried to put me down I told him the only way I could that it was NOT okay to do that. Diary, I thought if I yelled long enough mama would have to come back. But she didn’t. I waited until two in the morning but then I couldn’t stay awake anymore.

Mama did come home the next day but now I’m worried that if I turn my back for too long she’ll disappear again. Diary, why don’t they make a mama tracker? I hold onto her really tight when she tries to put me in baby jail, but she still gets away sometimes and leaves the room. I’ve started to yell when she does that sometimes, because I don’t think it’s right to leave me like that.

Diary, I think she needs retraining.

I am NOT the Maid


Dear diary,

Most nights I eat my dinner at 6:30. Mama and daddy trade who feeds me (why can’t I feed myself? I’m a big boy) and they each make their dinners. It’s part of our routine and I don’t mind it. Plus, most nights I get to see Vanna after Uncle Alex. It’s the only time I get to watch the teebee. And I LOVE the teebee.

Some nights, though, mama and daddy take me out somewhere and put me in one of those weird chairs with holes for my legs. I usually try to throw myself out of it a few times just to see if I can, but mama and daddy won’t let me get out. Disappointing.

Two nights ago mama and I went to the big red store with the circles and I rode around in a shopping cart. I was pretty bored, as you can see in the photo I’m sharing. I played “no bones” for most of the trip, which entertained me. Every time mama tried to help me sit back up I would melt into a baby puddle in my basket again. It turns out that if I play “no bones” well enough, mama thinks the basket is a safe place to put stuff so she started putting things in there with me. Perfect! Then when she wasn’t looking for a second I would try to eat whatever I could grab. So “no bones” turns out to be even MORE fun than I thought it was originally.

Anyway, after the big red store with the circles we got back in the car and when we got out the next time, daddy was there! He’s magic, I think. He’s nowhere, and then BAM, right in front of me. It’s amazing, really. Mama is pretty much always there.. I’m pretty sure she’s not magic at all.

Okay, so, we went in and they put me in one of the weird chairs and a very tall man came and petted my head while he asked mama and daddy what they wanted to drink. I tried to pick his pocket, I’m pretty sure I saw a wallet in there. But my arms aren’t quite long enough yet.

In the past when we were at one of the restaurants, as mama calls them, I didn’t have any responsibilities. All I had to do was stay in the chair with the holes and play with my toys. I actually really like going to restaurants because there are SO many people to watch and usually they look back at me and smile. I like to encourage that so I usually stick my tongue out at them.

But diary, I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older now or what – but mama tried to make me WORK while we were there. Usually the tall people with badges come and take stuff off the table when mama and daddy are done with it. But this time mama made ME clean the table off! Can you believe that? She kept putting little pieces of stuff in front of me, and like a responsible boy I kept clearing the table by picking the pieces up and throwing them on the floor. I didn’t want the table to be messy, so what else could I do? At first it was a little fun – I squooshed some of the things before I took them off the table – but that got old. Mama and daddy laughed when I did it, which I thought was rude. Mama even tried to put some of her garbage IN MY MOUTH. I yelled at her. I don’t eat trash. Well, I don’t eat trash that I’m allowed to eat. Only trash that makes mama squeak if she sees me eating it.

I was only able to stop her from giving me her trash when I started putting it in my chair instead of on the floor. Then she decided it wasn’t so fun to torture me. Lesson learned.

Not the maid,

Positive Reinforcement


Dear diary,

I have been training mama for a little more than eight months now and I’ve learned a lot about what is (and isn’t) effective.

Today I thought I’d tell you about the strategy that has been most effective on a longitudinal scale. It’s a type of positive reinforcement (I find the effects of positive reinforcement are generally more advantageous to me and more replicable).

Diary, this is a big secret I’m telling you. I trust you.

It’s my tongue. Really. All I have to do is stick it out and mama is putty in my hands. Even if I’ve been doing something that makes her make the Mad Face, if I stick my tongue out it’s all better. I started using this trick months ago and I’ve finally perfected it.

I try it on the doggies and the kitties too, but it’s far less effective.


I have other training exercise I use on mama and maybe someday I’ll tell you about then, but really – if you want things to go your way, all you have to do is stick out your tongue.