Life in progress


One-Liner Wednesday – Reason #27 Why Sign Language is Our Friend

When you’re walking down the sidewalk with your son and a somewhat scary man singing repetitively at the top of his lungs approaches you from behind and passes you, you can continue your conversation and pretend you didn’t even hear him.

If you would like to participate in this prompt, feel free to use the “One-Liner Wednesday” title in your post, and if you do, you can ping back here to help your blog get more exposure. To execute a pingback, just copy the URL in the address bar on this post, and paste it somewhere in the body of your post. Your link will show up in the comments below. Please ensure that the One-Liner Wednesday you’re pinging back to is this week’s! Otherwise, no one will likely see it but me.

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As with Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS), if you see a pingback from someone else in my comment section, click and have a read. It’s bound to be short and sweet.

Unlike SoCS, this is not a prompt so there’s no need to stick to the same “theme.”

The rules that I’ve made for myself (but don’t always follow) for “One-Liner Wednesday” are:

1. Make it one sentence.

2. Try to make it either funny or inspirational.

3. Use our unique tag #1linerWeds.

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5. Have fun!

#1linerWeds badge by Cheryl, at


Obscenities – #AtoZ Challenge

As the parent of two hearing children I’m cognizant of the need to quell my verbal outbursts when I am not best pleased. I’ve been known, when they were younger, to come out with words such as “schnozzle” after having stubbed a toe, or “fruitcake” having noticed that the thing I wanted to wear hadn’t made it into the laundry. But now that they’re older, and the one child I have left too young to hear the more expressive me can’t hear, I have fewer qualms.

However, (and there’s always a however, isn’t there?) flipping someone the bird after they cut me off in the car remains out of the question. But, (yes, there’s a but as well as a however) there are also accidental signs. Take, for instance, the sign for “very,” which is close to the sign for “fuck.” For “very,” you make a letter “v” (just like a peace sign) with both hands, put the tips of the four extended fingers together and move your two hands away from each other. For a visual, click here: The sign for “fuck” is the same handshape (the “v”) with both hands, except the movement is different. For this sign, the knuckles knock together… the same as the word “meet,” only with that only the index finger is up. A visual for “meet me”:

It’s easy to see why you wouldn’t want to mix either “very,” I had a very good time at the fair, or “meet,” There’a a playdate at the park. I’m going to meet my best friend’s husband there, with the word “fuck.” No matter who you’re talking to. Especially your best friend’s mother.

Saying the right thing around Alex can be complicated. The struggle is real.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.


Language Learning – #AtoZ Challenge

As I’ve mentioned before, it wasn’t long (30 seconds?) after I found out that my baby, Alex, was deaf before I decided I’d need to learn American Sign Language, though I didn’t start taking classes until he reached the age of about two, if memory serves me right. I knew the alphabet and could count to twenty before I started, so I was ahead of the class in these things. The beginner’s class was basic – learn to spell our names, talk about our families, say where we lived, worked, and how we got there and back. Great stuff if you’re an adult. However, that wasn’t why I was going.

During the second level we learned, among other things, relationships, a few different objects, counting to one-hundred and beyond, and professions. So I was learning the sign for “secretary,” while what I really needed was the sign for “squirrel.” There is nothing on earth quite as frustrating as not being able to explain to your toddler what the simplest, most common things are. For instance:

“What’s that?”

“It’s a bird. Wait, let me look it up.”

(Three minutes later) “It was a bird.”

“What was?”

Obviously neither of us had that much of a vocabulary if we didn’t know what, or how to sign what, a bird was, but you get the idea.

Had I known about Baby Sign, I might have taken the classes. But I didn’t. If it was a “thing” in Ottawa in 2002, I didn’t know it. By the time I finally made it to a Baby Sign class, I was at Level 4 in ASL, and Alex knew all the signs they were teaching the parents. It was interesting though. I’ve heard it’s a wonderful tool for parents–if they’re able to teach it to their kids–to understand their baby’s needs before the child is able to form spoken words. I’d be interested to know if anyone out there used Baby Sign, and if so, how it worked out for you.

Why, if I wasn’t learning anything obviously useful, did I go all the way up to Level 4? Because they were teaching me to see. For three hours a week I had to communicate without using my voice. We sometimes played games where we had to get up in front of the class and fingerspell something, and then another of us had to write it on the board. Tests were signed to us and we had to write down our answers. It was crazy difficult, but it was fun. And it gave an appreciation of how focused a Deaf person must be to understand his or her own language. The Canadian Hearing Society had one program I would have liked to have tried, in which they deafened hearing people. Participants would go in first thing in the morning and have silicone put in their ears. Then they would go out into the community–coffee shops, restaurants, stores, services–with someone from CHS to help, and just survive for the day. The rules were no speaking, and no note writing. It was apparently a real eye-opener, so to speak.

Alex and I muddled through those early years of communicating. I felt lucky to have someone to ask questions of once a week if I was really stuck. Youtube wasn’t around until 2005, (yes, believe it or not we survived without Youtube once upon a time!) and typically, computers couldn’t handle the bandwidth of a video anyway, so I was stuck with books with awkward drawings if I had no human to help. There’s really nothing better than having a native speaker in any language to guide a new learner. I’ve watched hearing people who knew no sign try it for the first time – most will do it wrong when shown. As easy as it looks, it’s not.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.


Hearing world – #AtoZ Challenge

Deaf people have to survive in a hearing world. This is a fact. If there are such things as Deaf stores, and Deaf hospitals, I don’t know of them. There are, of course, Deaf people working in public service positions–my bank has a Deaf teller–but it’s uncommon.

As the parent of a Deaf child who is growing up and will one day, hopefully, be independent, the fact that my son will out alone in a society that views him as different, is a concern for me. Alex is at a disadvantage, having not grown up exposed to his first language as most children are. Immersion into American Sign Language didn’t happen, and so by the time he reached the Deaf school that he now attends, he was years behind many of his peers. But at the same time he has an advantage. He’s already learned how to communicate, somewhat, with the hearing. He has an innate understanding that he needs to demonstrate what he wants without being able to verbalize. He has adapted.

On the flip side, I remember a story that my ASL teacher told us when I was in my third year of classes. He was the only Deaf member of his family. He told us of family gatherings and dinners when he was a child and through his teenage years when he would sit and eat, and no one would talk to him. They were all busy yammering away; he said he felt completely isolated. Consequently, he moved away–right out of the province–and had stayed away since. I can’t say he hated his family, but he seemed extremely bitter.

I fear this happening to Alex. I try my best to translate for him during dinners, but it’s difficult. First, keeping up with the conversation in ASL when my vocabulary isn’t up to par, and second, signing with a knife and fork in my hands. Despite this, he seems well-adjusted. I do what I can to make sure he’s included, at least in discussions that concern him. It’s more difficult when I’m talking with someone about something that doesn’t – with hearing kids, boring adult talk is naturally tuned out. Again, he’s at a disadvantage – if he was part of a Deaf family, he’d know to ignore it without having to be told it doesn’t concern him. On my end, I’m constantly saying to him, “It’s nothing.” I can only hope that he can tell by my body language and facial expression that I’m being sincere, and not just dismissing him as unimportant.

Alex, 2009. His usual charming self.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.


Facts of Life – #AtoZ Challenge

When learning any language, we start with the basics, introducing ourselves, explaining where we live, etc. Then we begin to learn the names of things so we can ask for them. All of this is fairly straightforward. But when we learn a new language, we’re normally doing it for ourselves, for travel or to communicate with a native speaker. We’re not usually learning it in order to teach a child his or her first language.

While pointing and naming is all well and good, children ask why things are the way they are. It’s practical. How do we know the difference between the consequences of stealing a cookie versus running out into the middle of a busy intersection? Hopefully not by experience. Obviously, the consequences of getting hit by a car was something I learned to communicate to Alex early on. But what about the more innocent stuff?

Why is the sky blue? How do wireless electronics work? Why is this Russian/Korean/Indian show on my laptop but it’s not on TV, like The Price is Right is? (He watches shows from all over the world; spoken language is of no consequence to him.) I have no way to answer many of his questions, short of becoming completely fluent in Sign Language. The closest place to receive such an education is in Toronto (Ontario, Canada), which is too far to commute to, to take classes I have neither the time nor the money for at the moment.

I might have advanced my education more after Alex was born, but the courses in Ottawa only went to a certain level. On top of that, we lived in the Province of Quebec – a province that has its own Sign Language (Langue des signes du Québec). Finding a professional to teach Alex American Sign Language in Quebec was next to impossible, and the only Deaf school for children in Ottawa teaches LSQ. So we packed up and moved to Ontario, to a city with a school whose primary language is ASL.

I do hope to learn more Sign someday. For now, I’m doing the best I can with help from his teachers.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.


Deaf vs deaf – #AtoZ Challenge

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex.

By now, if you’ve been following my A to Z posts, you might have noticed that sometimes I capitalize the word, “deaf,” and sometimes I don’t. It’s not as random as it might at first seem.

Being “deaf” with a small “d” refers to a physical condition. People who go deaf as they age will probably always be “deaf” as opposed to “Deaf.” “Deaf” with a capital “D” refers to someone who is part of the Deaf community. Those born into families who are already part of the community are considered “Deaf” from birth. Think of it like being born English, or African, and you’ll get the picture. Alex was born (or became shortly after birth) deaf. It wasn’t until he learned American Sign Language as his first language that he could be considered Deaf.

As his mother, again I was faced with a huge decision in regards to his deafness. He had an MRI to assess the extent and cause of his hearing loss, and it was determined that he would qualify for a cochlear implant*, which would allow him to hear, somewhat. It wouldn’t have cost me anything – he was deaf enough. I hadn’t realized that there was a chance I would have to pay for it. But that wasn’t my main concern anyway.

By the time he had his MRI, I had started taking formal American Sign Language classes at the Canadian Hearing Society in Ottawa, and he’d already started learning ASL. The Deaf community is tight-knit, with a culture that is unique to them. They tend to protect their culture with a fierceness that equals that of any other culture worldwide, and with reason. It is often misunderstood, as are the Deaf. I’ll get into that discussion on another day, however. My own focus was, of course, on my son, and I needed to decide whether or not he would be Deaf, or remain deaf.

It may seem like an obvious decision at first. I could have had my little hard-of-hearing child to myself, with his cochlear implant, and his tiny fingers that we still weren’t sure would ever be able to sign properly because of his low muscle tone. This last was related to both his Noonan Syndrome and the fact that he had spent eight months in a hospital bed instead of learning to play. Excellent reasoning to have a hearing child.

However, he’d been tube-fed from birth (and still is). On the surface this was completely unrelated, until an occupational therapist explained to me that, because he never learned to suck as an infant, the muscles in his mouth hadn’t developed properly. He would never learn to speak. His dad and I were still undecided when we went to see the surgeon who would perform the operation for the cochlear implant. We felt that it was important to know all the details involved in the procedure, so we could make an informed decision. The moment I heard the words, “five-hour operation,” and “drill a hole in his skull,” I threw up my hands and accepted that I would have a Deaf son. He’d been through enough.

To learn more about Alex’s beginnings in life, click here to go to my letter “A” post.

To learn more about cochlear implants, click here.


Distraction and Randomness

Am I the only one who is incredibly distracted by all the articles on Robin Williams? I think it’s the vast contradiction between the man who made us laugh and the exceptionally sad circumstances of his death that have me reeling so much over the news. I’ve tried to write more on the subject, but no matter what I write, it just makes no sense.

In other news, I went upstairs to go to bed the other night (it must have been more than a week ago by now) and Alex was talking in his sleep. Keep in mind that he doesn’t speak – he only signs. I actually walked to my room to the sound of applause. I’ve seen him do it before though. It’s quite funny to watch him have a conversation with someone in his dream. He giggles a lot as well.

When I was at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa I saw a Splitfin Flashlight fish. Try saying that three times fast.

Don’t forget to get your entries in for the badge design contest tomorrow!

That’s really all I can come up with at the moment. (See first paragraph.)



At a Loss for Words

Where’s your communication book? I’ll ask your teacher to tell you.

It’s the most common phrase that is signed in my household, aside from, I love you, and Go to sleep already.

The problem is, of course, that my son Alex doesn’t ‘speak’ the same language as I do, and sometimes I’m the one at a huge disadvantage. I, whose life consists of putting words together to make meanings clear, am unable to communicate with my own offspring. What kind of sick force in the universe came up with this irony?

Tonight I had to try to explain to Alex why he wasn’t able to eat from my plate. It’s something that I allow him to do on occasion–not something I allowed my other two sons to do–since he doesn’t eat much more than one piece of anything, being that he’s tube fed. But now, since I’m not sure I’m completely over this bug, it’s a no-no. Germs are not something I often talk about, and so once again I’m faced with my lack of knowledge, and my incompetence in being fluent in American Sign Language.

Can you fathom the frustration at not being able to say the simplest of things? With a hearing child, the conversation would be over in four or five sentences. “I’m sick, and if you eat from my plate you might get sick. Why? Because there are these things called germs – tiny things like bugs crawling around in my food. You still want some? I thought not.”

Instead? It’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful that I have the resource of the Deaf school to back me up when I need it, and especially that they are teaching my son to communicate with his peers. What scares me are the stories I was told by a few different Deaf people of their hearing families – that they grew apart. The Deaf have their own community. In fact “Deaf” is capitalized when the word is used to describe a person in the same way American is – because it denotes that very community.  It’s only by virtue of the fact that Alex has a global intellectual delay that I might have to care for him well into adulthood.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to learn his language. Because once he’s twenty-one and has to leave school, I won’t have a communication book to write in. And I’ll be at a complete loss for words.


Is It Just Me?

Is it just me or does it seem like this is the worst time of year for colds? Every year at Christmas time, someone in my family gets sick. It’s awful when it’s me, because I’m the one everyone counts on to do all the shopping, the wrapping, and the cooking, on top of everything else. This year (knock on wood) it’s not me though. It’s Alex, my little guy.

If it’s just a cold, I’ll be able to keep him home. It’ll be rough, with sleepless nights and plenty of whining, but we’ll make it. If it’s the flu, off to the hospital we’ll go for a nice leisurely stay (for him, he loves the hospital) and for me it’ll be running back and forth for this and that, because they don’t have the equipment to feed him, they can’t get the formula he drinks, and they can’t make up his medicine without the recipe. They also don’t have his size in diapers. Oh, and of course they don’t have sign language interpreters, and none of the nurses, nor any of the doctors (so far) know American Sign Language. It’s loads of fun for Alex – he laughs at them when they try to sign to him – unless he’s very sick, and then I receive phone calls in the middle of the night asking for translations.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? I certainly hope so. Wish us luck!