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Monday, April 02, 2007

Quest, animal spirit guides, the mystery of it all

When I was younger I was always looking for answers about my life. I was trying to figure out who I was, my mission here for this lifetime, the why of it all. It was fun and led me to all kinds of interesting discoveries in mysticism, history, psychology, and more. My mother used to say to me, “You are going to live your whole life before you are 10!” And then it would be 12, 14, and so on. I think she was half proud and half annoyed because all my different interests must of presented some degree of hassle on her part to help me explore them.

Now that I am Ellie’s mother, I have this same perspective about her experience of the mystery of her life. I think everyone can immerse himself or herself in a bit of mystery now and again and be better for it. I think all of us are wonderful sparks of god here to do something good if we would only let ourselves. Ellie is certainly doing tons of good each day by being this amazing beacon of love for me and her dada and everyone she meets. Everyone who meets her literally falls in love with her. That is just that and it’s a wonderful thing.

My gentle readers will remember that I am on The Quest to get my family more engaged in life as we have been in hibernation for the last four years. Also, Dave and I have always had the perspective that we must bring life to Ellie because she can’t go to it like other children who can walk to whatever catches their interest. Ellie spent so much time in her first couple of years here in hospitals and very sick from her brain injury that she missed out on a lot of experiences. So this weekend on Saturday we took Ellie to the local zoo. It was her first trip ever to the zoo and we had been preparing all this cold winter via Signing Time Zoo Train. It’s a great video that goes over all the zoo animals complete with excellent tunes. It’s been Ellie’s current favorite for months. She knows all the animals and their signs, which was really handy for her first trip to the zoo.

Though it was a little on the chilly side (the green poncho came in handy) and the ground was a little bumpy in places for her chair we had a great time. She recognized zebra, gorilla, crocodile, and many more. She was delighted to look around and would get very excited when she spotted any animals, birds, or reptiles she recognized. There were some problems with rails and bars being at eye level so Dave took her up in his arms to get a better look, which is Ellie’s preferred mode of travel.

A funny thing happened when we got to the lion’s lair. We took Ellie up to the enclosure to view him. He was amazing. Dark burnt umber/black mane and burnt sienna brown coat. Just amazing and paying no heed to anyone as he soaked up the warm sun like any good cat. Ellie was delighted and just staring at him for several minutes. When she had her fill we turned around and began making our way down the curving path around his area. As we were about 100 feet on our way, Ellie in full on vocalizations because she had a lot to discuss with us about lion, all of the sudden we hear the most tremendous ROARRRRR! I have never heard a lion roar in person before. It sounded like he had an amplifier in his throat. It was the most resonant, deep, loud, amazing sound that stopped us in our tracks. When we turned to look at him, he was standing up looking directly at Ellie. The mama bear in me said a silent word of thanks for the 30-foot deep and wide chasm between lion and us. He then, continuing to look right at Ellie, ROARED his amazing deep, echoing, amplified roar in five short bursts. He was all business like. ROAR, ROAR, ROAR, ROAR, ROAR. And then he just stood there looking towards her and not moving. She was looking straight back at him staring intently. It was so strange that others there were looking at us wondering what we did to catch his attention.

Even lion is taken with my warrior princess. Needless to say it was a very cool experience. After several long moments he turned away and we went to the cafĂ© to give Ellie her elevensees (her meal schedule is somewhat hobbit-like in nature in that it’s constant eating). We sat down and got snacks for ourselves and I fed Ellie through her g-tube. As I was doing this, she was on my lap, she asked for her magnadoodle. I pulled it out and she put her thumb on it, looked at me and said “uh!”. I looked at her and after a second realized what she wanted. So I asked her, “Do you want to spell the animals you saw at the zoo?” At this she threw out her arms and squealed. That is her emphatic “Yes!”. So I wrote down L.I.O.N. And then she put her thumb on each letter and as she did so I said the letter. At the end she wanted to do it again. She was very serious with minimal celebration in between. It was clear she wanted to spell all the animals she saw and remember them. She did this with each animal, spelling their name twice and then she would erase her magnadoodle and say “uh!” looking at me to go on to the next one. I was so proud of her. She was internalizing her day at the zoo. It was another great day out. I think Ellie really enjoyed the zoo and we will go back when it is a little warmer. Did we discover another one of Ellie’s animal spirit guides? So far we have leaping rabbit, lion, and Irish Guy. I think it is going to be a good year after all despite the fact that it has been a rough start with all the hospitalizations.

Next week the aquarium.


Anonymous said...

I just started reading Ellie's story and it's wonderful. Ellie is blessed to have loving, caring parents.
Enjoyed her trip to the zoo. Since she is so interested in reading have you ever thought of putting a language/experience book together for her? You could use your digital pictures of the zoo and write simple sentences underneath that talk about what she saw at each animals area. Not only is this a nice way to remember her experience but it also give you an opportunity to expand her vocabulary, and exposes her to the printed symbol on a regular. Also by writing sentences under each picture, anyone who reads the "story" is saying the same thing to Ellie for consistency in auditory input. Cheap full size photo albums or plastic sleeves work well because they allow the children to "read" their book over and over again.
Just a thought!
PS I've taught language impaired children for over 30 years, so I do make my suggestion based on experience.
PSS Has anyone ever tried the PECS program with Ellie? She seems like a wonderful canidate.

Danielle said...

What a wonderful day! And great pictures, as always.

Kathryn said...

Dean Anonymous,

Those are great ideas. I am going to put a book together for her as you suggested for the aquarium visit. We are using PECS but had a hard time with them at first because Ellie was very uninterested. It turned out that they were too small and the black and white was not working for her in terms of her visual issues. We now print the symbols and words on a yellow background in the squares and put those squares on a field of red. She totally responds to them - we also made them bigger like 3X3 and that is working very well too. They are also using them with her at school. Today she made her first sentences with them. I have four "books" so far in those very same photo albums. They do work great! And cvs sells them pretty cheaply for anyone wondering where we get them. I will have to put them in a post. We were using three ring binders at first and Ellie loved flipping through them but they were heavy and she could only do it with our help. She loves the small size and ease of the little photo albums because she can do it herself at her own speed. She is getting to a point where doing it herself is very important to her!

I love your idea of the book for the aquarium. That will be fun as we are going round it to point to the pictures and words of the wildlife she spots there.

Her cp does not allow her to write at this time. It's more picking and grabbing my hand to make me write. She and I do get a little telepathic this way and there is a lot of trial and error on my part to understand what she wants. I hope to get her expressing more and using a key board/light writer some day soon.

Thanks for your very thoughtful suggestions! Much appreciated.

kate said...

maybe that lion recognized ellie as soul. or maybe she wanted to remind her to roar her own roar despite her limitations. whatever the case---how cool! the zoo can really be an amazing place.

Kathryn said...

Kate- I think Lion definitely did recognize Ellie soul to soul. Maybe that's it about the roar your own roar. Either way, it was one of those moment!

Hope you and BB and J and little belly baby are doing well.

msiagirl said...

Beautiful pictures of all of you darlings. Loved the story about the lion and how Ellie was so intent on spelling out her day. love, p