Before I left for the conference, I had a mountain of shit to take care of that included such important things as:

Make Hair Not Look Like Joan Jett/Mullet


Secure Total World Domination.

That meant that such other, minor things like, Teach Amelia To Speak and Make Appointment for Alex to Have Tongue Tie Surgery went into a folder in my inbox marked TAKE CARE OF THIS SHIT NOW.

Of course, it’s Thursday and I haven’t really touched any of that stuff, so making that folder was really just a front to make me FEEL as though I was accomplishing things when, in fact, I wasn’t. That’s precisely why I don’t make lists, actually.

My kid, however, loves them:

The only thing in my Folder of Shit I Need To Take Care of that I’ve managed to actually start on is Amelia’s speech. Bolstered by a number of you, who have sworn up and down that Baby Sign Language, I’ve started down that road.

Back in Junior High, we had to take a class that was called some acronym like HELP or DARE or SUCKS or something, that was clearly not very useful because I cannot remember it. But in that class, we had to, for a week or something, have a disability. I assume this was to make us more compassionate people, but I also think that the people who designed this should have probably realized that Junior High Kids are asswads and picked another age group to minister this lesson upon.

Anyway, I’d been (for whatever reason), hoping for Deaf, because I thought learning the sign language alphabet was cool.

So I was given the task of being Blind. Which, hi, I peeked when I had to pretend to spend the day in a blindfold like an asshole. I’m thankful I didn’t have to carry around a Bag of Flour Baby or pretend to be a mime because mime’s are scarier than anything else.


I then learned the ASL alphabet anyway to spite the stupid program who made me Blind when I wanted to be Deaf and still remember it to this day (I can also, I should add, recite the Preamble to the Constitution, which I had to memorize in 5th grade)(but what’s my middle name? I DON’T KNOW).

So far, I’ve learned the words for “poop,” “drink,” “star,” “ball,” and “syrup.” I’ve also ordered a couple of those “Signing Time” DVD’s that ALL of my Pranksters swear by.

I’d been hoping that being proactive with the Helping Amelia Learn To Speak Project (and hopefully not regress further, which, let’s face it, she can’t go back much further) would make me feel better. Despite my whole “I don’t plan things” I am a do-er.

Normally taking care of business makes me feel all accomplished, like I should pin a jaunty medal on myself that says, “I TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS, PEOPLE!”

(note to self: Make That Medal and Wear It Often so that I feel more self-important than normal.)

This time, however, it’s just not helping me feel better about my daughter.

It’s odd, because I’ve had a mute kid. I have an autistic older son and he didn’t speak for years and I never worried about it. Now, of course, he never shuts up, proving that “talking paint off walls” is a genetic trait.

But with Amelia, who was born with her brain hanging merrily out of her head, knowing that her speech is regressing leaves me with this nebulous worry that I cannot quite put my finger on. It seems more serious this time, like it could be something real, in a space where I previously figured–and was correct–that Ben would just do things on his own timetable.

So while I am teaching the other people in my house the signs for various and sundry things in an effort to feel like we’re not just shrugging our shoulders and letting the Amelia Speaks project flounder, I am filled with a sadness I just can’t place.

Maybe there’s a sign for that.

Although, I’m pretty sure that Amelia is saying…

116 thoughts on “Signs of the Times

  1. Keep your chin up darling. Progress may be slow but there will be progress. I have been through it. You will grow to accept the little improvements and celebrate them. And you will love her more and more each day, just as I do my Danielle.



    1. I know you’ve been there and faced down what I have, so thank you for cheering us on. It’s hard to be positive all of the time, and as someone who IS positive most of the time, this is torturing me.

  2. My godson is actually being taught sign language by his parents since regardless of your kiddo’s speech abilities (he tends not to like to talk at all, so it helps with him), it is supposed to ease the terrible twos by giving them another avenue of communication. Or so I hear. My uterus has yet to be stretched out and beaten up by crotch parasites šŸ˜‰

  3. But you’re doing something. Something is better than nothing. Before you know it, that daughter of yours will be signing the paint off the walls, or, errr, some such thing.

  4. I’m all for your I Take Care of Business, People! medal. I have a little button I got from the mediation people in college that has a thumbs up sign on it, and it says, “I’m Helpful!”

    That takes care of my personal self-importance.

  5. It’s amazing how quickly kids can pick things up. I highly highly recommend checking out the Baby Signs program. It has a LOT of basic common signs in the starter kit and has lots of additional modules you can get.

    I applaud you for working towards being able to communicate more effectively with Amelia, especially for YOU to feel less scared and frustrated and worried.

    I suggest you pick ONE sign, and stick with that one, and repetition repetition repetition. It can take months for that one sign to “click”.

    If you have any questions feel free to contact me, I’ve had experience working with special needs kids, and also have a LOT of fellow sign language interpreters that have as well that I can tap into for advice if needed.

    Hang in there!



    1. I’ll have to bug you about this! I just bought a couple of the videos that had some of the signs that she would use more than others. I’m teaching Alex, who picked up all of the ones I taught him (he’s beyond verbal) and we’re getting speech therapy…eventually. Just waiting for Early Intervention to get back to us.

      But I’ll have to pick your brain.

  6. Fuck Balls! We are sisters. Evie had the tongue tie surgery. It was simple as far as letting a stranger cut you child’s mouth open while she is under anesthesia.

  7. While I am always a fan of working with little ones and I have heard nothing but good things about teaching kids sign language……. I still believe that Amelia is just doing things on Amelia time as well. My daughter is 26 months old (and normal by all accounts unless you consider hemangiomas and GERD as abnormal)…. she has frustrated me to no end regarding language (saying her first few words early and then MONTHS went by before we ever heard those words again)…..she is just now starting to put more words together and seems to be taking the whole language thing a bit more seriously….

    Now I will say that she has never had a hard time letting us know what she has wanted…. she has always been a child who can take you by the hand and point out the very thing she wants… my son on the other hand apparently thought we ought to read his mind and had some serious meltdowns until he was about 2 1/2…. then magically he started talking more and the tantrums subsided.

    hugs to you all!

    1. And this is precisely what The Daver thinks is going on with her. She’s certainly smart as hell. I mean, the kid works my iPad and the computer and the television, so…COME ON, MILI, JUST TALK!

      Okay, that’s my rant for the morning šŸ™‚

  8. My daughter was speech-delayed because my son does not speak (which is a different, complicated issue) but she picked up sign language like crazy. She even used to yell at me in sign by slamming her little hands together over and over. It was immensely helpful in reducing frustrations on both our parts. Amelia will likely be chattering nonstop with her hands before you know it.

      1. I used the signing times videos, but I also bought a book on basic signing. I went through it looking for the words I thought would be most helpful, and I consistently signed those each time I said the word -like “more”, “bath”, “sleepy”.

        Pretty soon she started picking up on it. She had a vocabulary of about 75 words before she really started talking, and there are some signs she STILL uses either because she can’t say the word well (banana) or I tell her to speak up because I didn’t hear her.


  9. Sign language! Of course. What a great idea. Try not to teach her the middle finger if you can possibly help it. Seriously, it’s a fabulous idea. I wish you and Amelia great success with this, my friend.

  10. Aww. (hug)

    I can’t sympathize, cause I don’t have any similar experiences to share, but I can certainly empathize. You’re a strong person, and this, as all things, will pass

    1. Yes. Exactly. All things DO eventually pass and some day I’ll look back on this and remember when. I don’t think I’ll laugh, but I’ll look back and remember how scared I was and send a big hug to my former self.

  11. When my Matthew was 2 and not talking, having speech therapy etc – and I was so out of my fricking mind frustrated with him – my Mom said “be careful what you wish for” – the little big guy is now going to be 8 – and NEVER shuts up unless he is sleeping! His vocabulary is outstanding!

    At 2 he said “da” and that was it – he never did say Momma until about 3 years old – he’s entering 2nd grade this fall – his issues were minor – Gerd, food allergies etc – he’s outgrown all of it – motor mouth he is!

    Don’t beat yourself up – slow and steady wins the race! She’s going to do it on her time!

  12. You are the MOM, you know these things. I think the sign language is a good idea whether speach delayed or not. My sister couldnt do it because she has the arthritis, but my cousin did well with it with her 2 boys.

    And holy shit with the tongue tie surgery thing THAT was what you were talking about re: fainting. I didnt even know there was such a thing.

    ((hugs)) It will all be well. I know it in my heart.

  13. I’ve worked in quite a few special ed classes and have found those signs come in quite handy. The kids also have a paper that has velcro on it- and they have pictures like “snack” “potty” “sad” etc… that they can stick on the paper. You can make sentences with a few pictures- like one onf “mommy” and then one of “awesome”- so the child is freer to communicate what they need or want.

    1. That’s a really good idea. She’s very clear about pointing to pictures and indicating what she wants. Girlpants has a CLEAR agenda (she’s mah kid). I’ll investigate this avenue once speech therapy begins.

  14. 1. I have given up on lists… I just lose them anyhow.

    2. My daughter learned a little sign language at her first daycare and it was AMAZING how many tantrums were avoided by even that small communication tool (I think they learned about 10 signs) The only one I remember now (some 13 years later) is “more” but that was probably the most-used one! Your cinnamon girl will be rocking the hand gestures in no time I am sure!

    3. Holy Fuckballs… you really DID put the cock soup in your china cabinet!!

  15. You know, if you’d just done what all GOOD moms do and taught her baby sign language when she was 2 days old, there would be no need for an Amelia Speaks project now (you do know I’m kidding, right??)

    I hate to even say this, but could part of your discomfort stem from wondering if this is the beginning of a series of challenges rather than just a single challenge?

    You do know what they say about worry, right?? It’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but you don’t get anywhere.

    Hang in there!!

    1. That’s exactly it, Dana. It’s the beginning of a journey that I’m tired of already and I wish that I had some reassurance that things were going to be okay. But you know as well as I do that reassurances are fucking bullshit, so instead, I’m just trying to brace myself.

      And find a neuropsychologist to test her. Turns out, they’re kinda elusive.

    1. Then, I will pimp her ass out to America’s Top…I dunno, one of those shows that can make me a kajillion million dollars.

      Basically, I want a phone made of diamonds and expect Mili to buy it for me šŸ˜‰

  16. Sign language – brilliant!! My mom signs with her preschoolers. You need to teach Amelia “now,” “more,” “cookie” and “want.” Any particular order will do. I sign that stuff all the time to my husband, who lovingly responds with the internationally recognized sign for “get it your goddamn self.”

  17. Rachel is awesome! Baby Signing Time RULES in our house! As the mommy of a half-deaf (severe unilateral hearing loss on the right side) nearly 2 yr old we watch a lot of “Ms. Rachel.”

    Here’s hoping Amelia picks up some of the signs before you get too many of the songs stuck in your head. Wait for the crazy pizza song…youtube it if you want to be scared forever…trust me.

    1. Bwahahaha! I’ll remember that. I just ordered two of the DVD’s and am anxiously awaiting their arrival. We’ll see what Amelia thinks. Alex has picked up the signs I taught him, but Amelia is ignoring me. Which is par for the course šŸ˜‰

    1. I swear, kids have cooler clothes than adults do. If I could shop in the girl’s department, I would. Without looking like a FREAK, that is. Heh. I should make sure I CLARIFY that stuff.

  18. Oh sweetie…I am so sorry you are feeling sad and a bit lost about this. Your daughter is like her mother…she kicks serious ass. One way or another Amelia will rule the world (which is, btw, the reason you haven’t achieved world domination).

  19. To me it looks like she’s saying, “Whassup, bitch?”

    Don’t worry. It only borrows energy from tomorrow. And you need all your energy for the different projects you create for yourself, like the Amelia Speaks project.

  20. My son didn’t have any words for a long time. Signing made things so much easier for both of us and cut down on the frustration and tantrums bigga-time. I also believe the signing helped him on the path to speech. I’m certainly not going to make assumptions about what you’re going through, but signing can only help.

    1. I think you’re 100% right about the signing. I’m really hoping that it helps us both. And, at the very least, if I ever get stuck in a deaf community, I’ll be able to ask for the bathroom.

  21. I think it will be great, and I’ve heard that toddlers do really well with sign language. Totally off topic, you two are so pretty!! šŸ™‚

  22. Aunt Becky- I concur with everyone that sign language is the way to go. It will go very far in reducing frustration until Mimi finds her words. And she WILL find them. Don’t doubt her. But bracing yourself for the ride is probably not a bad idea either. Mama, I can’t believe how much shit you’ve lived through and ass-kicked. You are truly amazing. You should wear lots and lots of medals. Seriously.

  23. We started with drink,eat,potty and I think ‘want that’ as well as please & thank you, cuz we’re all polite & shit and 5 years later they still use them. Good luck!

  24. Ooooooh sister I am walking beside you on this one cuz that’s all I can do. And shedding some tears With you (even if you aren’t) cuz I know that feeling.

      1. I know that feeling. I have had that feeling. In a (much) lesser way, I can compare it to when I lose things (and I am losing EVERYTHING these days, remind me to tell you WHERE I found MY missing PANTS …)

        I have lost countless pieces of jewelry, bank cards, husband’s bank cards, wallets, blah blah blah. I always know when things are not coming back to me and when they are by the feeling in my stomach. I don’t give up on looking (actually I probably look LESS for the things I know haven’t truly left me).

        My mom has been really sick this summer (in and extubated in a critical care unit). My sisters were certain she would die, or things would be super dire, but my gut told me it was going to be much harder than that. She’s okay for now, which means we are all likely on a horrible emo rollercoaster for at least another 10 years. Whilst I am grateful that she’ll be around for my kids to know as they grow (the oldest is 7), and kind of for me, she’s a handful and doesn’t take responsibility for herself and has addiction issues which will ultimately leave her to demise.

        Why am I telling you this? Because I am waiting for the “It’ll be okay” thing to arrive in my gut too, and my gut is telling me, like my lost-forever favourite snake head in tail silver bracelet, the next 10 years are gonna be tough. I guess I am just trying to say that I know the feeling. And if it were one of my kids, it would be a gazillion-fold more scary, even if I choose to side with optimism.

        And so, I stand with you. Sad, scared and hopeful for you and your beautiful girl. Hang in there and if you need a vacation in lotusland (Vancouver, BC), our house is yours.

        1. Okay, you made me cry. I wish I could tell you that it would be okay and you’d believe me. But I can’t and even if I did, you’d know I was full of shit.

          I’m sorry it’s hard. I really am. I wish it didn’t have to be so hard sometimes.

  25. Sign language is awesome with kids. I still use the sign for poop. It is helpful to stress the importance of needing to find a potty. That Ben sounds like a smart cookie. Of course, let us know if you need ANYthing.

  26. I have no good advice for you, just virtual hugs.

    but maybe, just maybe, Amelia heard you say “shut your whole mouth” so many times, she took it to heart. that must be it. šŸ˜€


  27. wouldn’t it be a hoot if she blurts out “shut your whore mouth” one day. And then she will go on like her brother to never ever stop talking?
    seriously– from one parent to another–I am sorry. I have been in a similar place with my son and those shoes suck to walk in. They are shoes that never ever come off your feet until things progress for the better. It blows and I’m sorry.

    1. I think there will always be that worry in the back of my head. When you have a kid that has such a serious problem, there’s always going to be that “waiting for the other shoe to drop” thing. I don’t know that it goes away. I wish it would, but I don’t know that it can.

  28. Hey cutie (and I say that, not because I’m drunk, but because that’s an adorable expression you’re wearing in the last photo):

    Mimi’s only like a year and a half, right? What do you mean, “not speaking”? ‘Cause my 21-month-old only last week started making coherent words besides “dada” and “baba”, should I be concerned that he’s a late bloomer?

    1. I don’t think you need to worry about your kid unless your kid was born with his brain hanging out of his head. I wouldn’t worry unless that was the case, at least. Never worried about my other kids, you know?

  29. One of my nephews was a pro with baby signs and it made everyone’s lives so much easier! Then his baby brother came along, and when anyone tried to teach him a sign, he looked at them like, “What the fuck are you playing at?” He was not having it. It is definitely worth trying, but requires lots of repetition and the whole family needs to be on board. Good luck!

  30. My youngest went through a year where he barely spoke at all. Since the older two have special needs, I was starting to think that maybe he didn’t escape unscathed. It was from like age 2.5 to almost 4. It just turns out the little shit was watching and absorbing everything he could… and when he started talking… it was like talking to a little grown person.

    Now he’s realized that people give him more stuff if he talks like a baby so he’s back in that mumblewhinefeedmeloveme stage but at least I know he’s play-acting a role.

    No matter what happens, I’m sure one day Amelia will walk up to you and yell “SURPRISE, BITCH!” It’s just part of her plan for world domination.

  31. Of COURSE you’re feeling nothing but sad. If you have to start using sign language, you can’t pretend nothing’s changed. And it IS scary and worrisome, even if it may turn out that Amelia’s just ornery enough to do the following from Cyndi’s comment above:

    “It was from like age 2.5 to almost 4. It just turns out the little shit was watching and absorbing everything…” “…No matter what happens, Iā€™m sure one day Amelia will walk up to you and yell ‘SURPRISE, BITCH!'”

    1. You pegged it, Dot. You pegged it. That’s precisely it. I’m finally having to admit that there’s a problem. Facing up to your problems, well, it’s not always easy. Especially when they’re not easily fixed.

  32. While I do applaud the idea of the TCB medal, you may want to skip the TCB tattoo. In the biker world earning a TCB tattoo means you shanked a bitch.

  33. I understand worry like nobody’s business. If you want to come down here, I can see if Dr. Man can help you with the neuropsych business. At the very least, we have a department of neuropsychology. I only offer because I want to help like crazy. (Even though, I know there’s not much I can do.) So, yeah, if there’s anything I can do, let me know. At the very least I’ll keep you all in my prayers (or thoughts, if prayers are offensive– goodness knows I don’t want to add any more stress!).

  34. I’m sure it’s hard to feel hope when you’re in the midst of it all. Because there is no clear end in sight. And that sucks.

    But somehow and some way you and Amelia WILL get through this. You’re one hell of a mama. And Amelia is one hell of a kid.

  35. I taught my daughter sign language- well a little sign language. I don’t know much But I’ve heard great things about teaching kids sign language and I started teaching her things like MILK, EAT, BATH, and MORE …. that pretty much covers it all right? šŸ˜‰

    Anyway- it took her a few months to learn it– but repetition does work! She will get it! My daughter signs those things all the time. So hang in there Mama! xo

  36. I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘The Brain that Changes itself’, and although I’m not all the way through, I’m going to recommend it regardless. 1) It’s full of geeky-medical facts that will probably make you all happy in the brain-pants and 2) it’s all about brain plasticity and that the commonly held ideal of ‘each part of the brain is only able to do one thing’ is actually not entirely true. The brain rewires itself, not just when you’re a wee thing like Amelia (though now is an awesome time to start), but throughout your entire life. Based on what I’ve already read, you might find that the baby sign language actually helps Amelia speak, as a ‘side effect’ to strengthing that area of her brain.

    Science and Medicine spent years ignoring even the possibility of brain plasticity, so you might be thinking that if something is damaged in your child’s head, she’s damaged for good. But there’s increasing evidence that this isn’t the case at all. I think this book might give you hope that yes, Amelia might have been born with her brain outside of her head, but that brain WANTS to work properly, and it DOES have the tools and the means to fix itself.

    And even if it doesn’t help with Mimi… awesome anatomical details! Strange and slightly disturbing experiments on monkeys! People regaining their balance with weird hats!

    Hang in there, Aunt Becky.

  37. Hang in there Becky!! I am so sorry, and I feel for you, and the sadness. But I do think signing is the way to go. Like ‘science geek’ said above, it can help with strengthening the right part of the brain. And we are just learning how amazingly the brain can rewire itself…..Amelia will conquer and kick ass….you can see the determination in her eyes.

  38. Aww, hang in there!!! My little cousin didn’t say a word until she was like, three. Her parents dragged her in for hearing tests and mental apititude tests and everything but she just wanted to trip everyone out. She’s around 7 now and a smart little talking cookie. Even when she wouldn’t talk she would look at everyone like “I know exactly what you’re saying but I’m not going to give you the SATISFACTION!” Haha!

    Good luck with your little firecracker. Baby sign is awesome and Signing Time is the BEST! šŸ™‚

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