A Special Interest: The Number Wall

“Hey, girl. Let’s contemplate numbers while I read you some Seuss.

Liev loves numbers.

As a toddler, he organized his magnetic numbers on every available surface. Little sequences adorned the drier, dishwasher and sides of our cars.

For several months, number six was his favorite. Everywhere we went, he pointed out sixes with unlimited enthusiasm.

Mind you, Liev never said, “Six,” rather he pointed and verbalized, “Ah-dah-dah-dah!”

Close enough.

As he grew older, he became preoccupied with making his own number sixes. Naturally, he began to write much earlier than his peers. Page after page of smeary sixes stacked up in our art boxes.

Over long weekends and holidays, Liev and I built number walls in his room.

The walls evolved from globular number sequences to rigid cut and paste quilts. Over the years we have painted, collaged, taped, and stapled numbers to his walls. Velcroed dry-erase boards strain under the weight of burgeoning magnetic numbers. Like tiny footnotes, label-maker strips of digits dapple every wall.

I guess we are both obsessed.

This spring break, Liev wanted to redecorate his favorite number wall with a space theme. A huge bin of glow-in-the-dark celestial shapes caught his fancy. We prepared for their addition by removing one of his number walls.

Glow in the Dark

My mental image of Liev ‘s future wall was quite lovely.

I envisioned a symmetrical expanse of luminous galaxy bits. The soft glow would ignite Liev’s young mind with questions about physics and cosmology.

The reality was a smashed and misshapen mass of pasty plastic. Liev crammed all 50 pieces into three square feet. He hoped the light it generated would be enough to read by.

Despite “charging” the stars for most of the afternoon, the cluster glowed for only 30 seconds in the darkness.

Liev frowned and stared for a full 30 seconds.

He put his hands on his hips and said, “Mama, where’s the Sharpie?” I handed one to him.

He numbered every star and planet. After he finished, he stepped back and hopped. Continuing to bounce he exclaimed, “Wow! How cool! NUMBERS!”


Excitability, Autism, and Tadpoles

Sensory overload is my son’s biggest obstacle to staying calm and focused.  He objects to the quantity of “kids, voices, and touching” at school.  Overstressed at school, he acts out later at home.

Several weeks ago, Liev’s case manager and I improved his schedule. We reduced his five day a week double kindergarten to four days.  He stays home midweek, on Wednesdays.

A full day provides both Liev and me with structure and routine. By adding a restorative hump day, our week flows smoothly. Aggression, irritability, and mischief still arise, but the intensity is easier for us to control.

Now we need to conquer Liev’s second-biggest obstacle to staying calm and focused.


I view off-Wednesday s as a celebration, a splendid occasion for fun. We’ve surveyed the airport, explored forests, rode skyscraping elevators, performed multiplication gymnastics, and experimented endlessly with gooey household substances.

I am an inferno of excitability.  My zest infects Liev. If he is anxious, we tempt the Meltdown Gods.  Wrapped up in the excitement of an adventure, I lose sight of my little passenger. I don’t realize trouble is afoot until the point of no return looms.

I need an enthusiasm detector hardwired to my person. A device with an air horn to alert me when I am waaay too jazzed. At home, my husband gives me “take it down a notch” hand signals.  In fact, my collage stems from a scolding I received over a recent singing and finger-snapping extravaganza near Liev’s bedtime.

A two-part plan helps me modulate myself.

First, I take a big, deep breath when I see something thrilling.  I took Liev for a walk to the local pond earlier this week only to discover it brimmed with tadpoles. When I saw their fat bobbly bodies waggling in the water, I almost shrieked with joy.

No hyperbole. The wail was in my throat.

I love toads, frogs and tadpoles.  Witnessing a joggling throng of pre-toads was like losing thirty pounds overnight (for me, at least!). I caught myself, kept quiet and discretely toe-walked. I am proud of this because I yearned to holler “OMG! TADPOLES, TADPOLES!!!” and spin in circles.

I am building self-awareness.

I know I do this. This knowledge gives me extra braking power–a split second to silence myself.  This brings me to my next coping strategy—enlisting my son.

Future happy moments will catch me by surprise, so I’ve asked my son to alert me when I forget myself.  We have a hand signal and a phrase to help me reduce my volume.

Over the weekend, I burst out in song (yay, I’m cooking pork chops!). Liev asked me to “take it down a notch.” This was an improvement over him flushing a cup of Legos down the toilet.

I may still whoop, hoot, dance and startle the unsuspecting.  I am, however, working on curbing myself when Liev is anxious. Together,   I foresee much progress!

The Bruise

The bruise

Everyone gets at least one alarming bruise. I received mine four weeks ago.

As I opened my son’s stubborn but sturdy pushchair, a wheel popped off. This caused me to hurtle over the handles, jamming the un-wheeled post painfully into my thigh.

The impact hurt so much, I saw stars and had to sit for a moment. I assessed the damage—a tingly arm and a white and red impact zone on my thigh. Relief swept through me, I feared the stroller had gobbled a few ounces of flesh.

I shook it off and whisked Liev away for a neighborhood “walk and talk.” Strolling with his push chair is an excellent way to burn up an hour when he is too wild for a real neighborhood walk. I felt universally sore when we returned from our hour of storytelling.

In the evening, the bruise began to form. An apple-shaped halo of red -violet coalesced around a pale crimson streaked center. The next morning, the welt resembled a ring nebula. My mother would have recommended ice. I wanted to watch the bruise mature.

I resisted an impulse to photograph my injury and make a bruise diary. Instead, I inspected the bruise in detail twice daily.

On the third day, the bruise’s beauty peaked. To investigate, I perched on the edge of the bed. The reds had turned to deep purples and blacks. Individual capillaries twisted in injured tissue. My husband shuddered, “I have never seen such an awful bruise. You should see a doctor.”

I did not consider a doctor. It didn’t hurt much, it simply looked –fascinating. Noticing the subtle shifts of hue, I understood why people alter their bodies with tattoos.

You skin is you body’s billboard. You can spell out anything you choose and people will notice. If I marched around a public place, my bruise would take center stage. Some would offer sympathy, others disgust. I preferred to watch it unfold like a private chrysalis.

For two weeks, I monitored the fading bruise.

One night the bruise began to itch.

I rubbed the spot, being careful not to chafe myself. I am one of those people who approach skin irritations with irrational gusto. I would hack off an inch of flesh to remove a splinter and twist my skin into purple pulp to extract a pimple. I had to monitor my sneaky hands who crept down for hourly scratches.

Later that evening, my brain was distracted by an episode of The Mentalist. My hands broke free. They found two painful hard lumps inside the bruise. Alarm needled me as forty-two doom scenarios erupted in my head. I dashed off to consult Dr. Google.

Fortunately for me, others fret over their well-being. Information abounds. Bad bruises can form hard painful lumps, which the body reabsorbs in time.

My skin itched with sympathetic fury as I read thread after thread of mountain biker bruise stories. In particular they seem to suffer the most from deep, prickly bruises.

Over the next two days, the skin irritation formed an impressive crescent of red bumps. With vigilance and filed nails, I healed quickly.

I do not plan to turn my next injury into a science investigation. I will, however, marvel at the body’s remarkable capacity to heal.

What Holiday Decorating Means To Me

Yesterday, I unloaded a mountain of adorable holiday memorabilia from Liev’s backpack. Since he attends double kindergarten, his teachers take special care to make his holiday ornaments and treats unique.

I have a handprint bulb keepsake, a shakey-glitter plate and lots of goodies with Liev’s photos on them.

All of the photos have Liev’s “say cheese!” grimace on them.

Liev’s twin elves above captured the holiday mischief burgeoning around our house.

The Christmas tree is the center of attention. Many glittery red bulbs have been scooted across the carpet, tossed through hoops and rubbed together to make “Christmas dust.” The surviving bulbs are clustered at the top of the tree (out of reach!). The lower branches are festooned with clothespins, rubber bands, and socks. We also had some shoes, but I made Liev return them to the closet.

Do I have laissez-faire attitude towards our ornaments?

Sure. They are plastic, glue, and glitter. They are also shiny, different and inviting. I want to eat those big red bulbs like an apple.

So, ho ho ho.  Enjoy your Christmas in the way that makes you happiest!

Science and Invention

Yes, he built this all by himself and even labeled the parts (except for #6).

I am recovering from post-Mom ennui. I miss the burst of excitement and adventure her visits bring. Liev forges through his funk with mischief as a tool. As he grows older, he rationalizes his forays into naughtiness impressively.

A sampler of scientific devilry:

  1. Liev explained the toothpaste pie graph on the bathroom counter “it’s so I know if I use the bathroom more for pee or for poo.”
  2. When I asked about the chunky bites out of a toilet paper roll, he disclosed “it’s important to know the texture with your teeth–chewing tells more than feeling with your hands.”
  3. “I cut my hair with the scissors because I was testing the strength of the scissors. The orange (handled) ones cut the best.”
  4. “If you put glue into tea, the tea can still spill.” 
  5. “It’s an experiment to see if the bathroom will fill up with water.”
  6. “It’s an experiment to see if the kitty will still like me.”

Heh. Winter break is just around the corner…