learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Month: September 2014

A Gentle Sweetness

There are times I stand in awe of my son. I imagine most parents do this, especially as they see their tiny child develop into this independent person that surprises them in ways they’d never quite anticipated.

You see, my clumsy and boorish boy happens to be one of the gentlest people I know.

Oh, there’s tiny children playing with him in a play area? They’re scared of the slide? He walks up the slide from the bottom, meets them at the top, sits down and shows them how to slide down. I do not make this up. He repeats the process several times until the very little ones are following him. It is all done in pantomime: Not a word is spoken, yet every message is perfectly conveyed. He does not bowl them over, harass them or get frustrated with however long it takes to see every child ushered down the slide. He repeats, again and again, and leaves me blown away.

His big thing right now is babies. He loves babies. Baby people, baby animals… He loves tiny little new creatures of all sorts. Our friends have a beautiful baby girl and when he sees her in her mother’s arms, he lights up like it’s Christmas morning. His favorite thing to do? Run over and gently tap her nose. He knows not to be rough, or quick, or harsh.

I would be lying if I said he has not had a few run ins being just a little bit too exuberant around animals, specifically cats. He learned, through Loki’s very vocal manner, that one does not grab tails abruptly. Loki was not harmed, nor was J. A very important lesson was carried away and he has been much gentler in his approach of both Loki, his aunt’s cat, and Lenny, his grandparent’s cat. That’s the key thing: He learned, and quickly at that. This bodes well for Dog to be Named Later.

Maybe I am odd, and it would not be the first time, but this all seems so amazing to me. My experience with both male children and adults has not been positive. They have always been brash and harsh and hard for me to be around with rare exceptions. My son’s family tree has a few very bad apples on it and yet here he is, a shining example of all that is good. He is a rough, freshly mined stone right now, slowly being worked into the magnificent gem he’s meant to be. If this is how he at the start of the process, I am that much more eager to see the grown man he becomes. If he manages to retain even just a sliver of this natural compassion and concern towards the world around him he is going to do great things in his life, even if the ripples never extend far beyond a small area. The lives he will be touch will be changed for the better, and I can think of nothing more noble or wonderful for my son to leave his mark with.

Just think, in less than a month, he’ll have a sidekick to help him on his way to doing that too. We can’t wait.

Congratulations, Janice!

We have a winner for our iPad Mini Giveaway!

So cooperation wasn’t our strong suit, though I can confidently say that J did a fabulous job making sure the drawing was really and truly random. He is actually still playing with the entries! A huge congratulations to Janice Vincent on winning the iPad Mini, which I will ship out this week to you!

Thank you to everyone who shared the giveaway, entered, and supported us on this journey. We have raised $2600 towards our travel expenses, which is a pretty big deal! The donation links will remain up if anyone is still interested but we will have no further fabulous prizes beyond the satisfaction of knowing you helped an awesome boy to meet his awesome dog.

Thank you again, everyone. This process has brought us so many new friends. It’s like we’ve gained a whole village we never would have had otherwise and words will never be enough to express that gratitude.

Getting There

Thirty days from right this moment as I write this we will be packed up and on the road to meet J’s dog.

It is absolutely surreal to write that or say that right now. It is exciting and terrifying and overwhelming and that much emotion is hard to sort out and cope with, let me tell you.

J is excited. We talk about dogs every day and he asks for his friend’s dog Leno frequently. We look at a lot of pictures and using his stuffed animals, we talk about things he might be able to ask his dog to do or things he can do with his dog. He is incredibly amused when the stuffed animal gives him kisses but I am curious to see if that will translate into being okay with dog kisses. Stuffed animal kisses are silly and dry. Dog kisses are silly and, well, slobbery… That’s what makes them so unique! We will see how that turns out.

Next week, we meet with the school to talk about the dog. I don’t want to say much right now as the situation feels very tense but let’s just all pray it goes well and everyone can be on board with doing what is in J’s best interest.

We have the crate. We have toys, treats, bowls, waste bags, and all kinds of other goodies. Now we just wait for the knowledge of who J’s new best friend will be.

The match process at 4 Paws is very, very thorough. It starts when you apply to the program and starts to come into focus after you finish your fundraising. You fill out thorough forms describing where you live, your child’s needs, your child and family’s quirks, and what it is precisely you need this dog to do. You complete a video letting the trainers into your life. They are shown the good, the bad and the ugly as much as you are able to capture it. The trainers make their matches from there and I am so, so eager to see who it is from their amazing program they will choose to be paired with J.

Yep. So much to think about, to the point I can’t even ramble coherently! We have our giveaway running until tomorrow evening when we will draw the winner! Check out The Great Mini Giveaway if you still want a chance to win an iPad Mini that you can use with the heartwarming knowledge that you helped a little boy meet his fur-ever friend. We’ve raised $2400 so far out of our $3500 goal. Thank you to everyone who has helped us so far!

4 More Days

That’s right. 4 more days until the Great Mini Giveaway!

4 more days to help us get J to Dog.

4 more days until the 30 days til Ohio mark is crossed.

4 more days to spread the word!

It is sinking in more and more how real Dog to Be Named Later is. The September class will be graduating on Friday as well, preparing to return home to their completely changed lives now that their own dogs have come to join their families. We then settle in for the wait to learn who J’s match is.

Will it be a boy or a girl? Will it be a lab, a golden, a golden lab, a goldendoodle, or some wildcard we had not even considered? Will J fall in love with their photo or will it be love at first sight when they are in person beside each other?

So many questions that YOU can be part of the answer to! If you have not done so yet, please consider sharing the Great Mini Giveaway (linked above) on social media. J and I will do the drawing on Friday and post it both here and on Facebook for everyone to cheer for the winner!

Thank you to everyone who has so generously donated, shared and supported us in this effort so far. This next month is going to be one of the most exciting times in our lives and I cannot wait to share it with all of you!

The Great Mini Update

The Great Mini Giveaway has thus far raised $2100 of our $3500 goal!

There’s 11 days left to enter, so share this around as much as you want. We are super excited to have done this well so far!

The link to the giveaway page is: https://www.jbearandme.com/the-great-mini-giveway

In other news, J has himself his first cold of the new school year. Nothing horrifying but certainly upsetting enough to him. He is at home today since he had a fever last night but we’re hoping school resumes as normal tomorrow. He loves school, and his routine, and he’ll be happiest returning to it as quickly as possible.

Here’s how he spent half his day… The half he wasn’t napping anyway:


Preschool 2014-2015

Today was J’s first day of his second year of preschool. We had a visit to his classroom yesterday as he is with his same friends and same staff, but in a different building this year and initially he resisted. Full scale yelling “no”, threatening to melt down but he calmed upon approach of the building. I think realizing it was not the awful summer program he was returning to helped.

Fur seal pups playing in an enclosure while a little boy looks on

Watching the fur seal babies play.

We celebrated yesterday with a trip to the New England Aquarium as mentioned before. It was a fail overall, which still bugs me. I did reach out to them and hope to be able to talk to senior staff there soon about potential things to be done to make the aquarium more accessible to people with special needs like J’s.

Anyway back to the story at hand. Ximena, J’s runner through the I Run 4 group, sent him a fantastic Superman t-shirt and I realized when we opened it that this had to be J’s first day of school shirt. We got dressed, washed up, even brushed teeth this morning and marched off to school without a single struggle this morning. He celebrated the new year with munchkins for breakfast, of course. He had no issue going into his classroom, setting his things in his cubby and getting to work. This is such a departure from last year at this time!

This year he will do two days a week, one hour each time, in the general preschool classroom. I am nervous about this but also excited. I think he has grown so many skills in the past year and it will be interesting to see how he responds when this becomes a part of his routine. Last year, a visit to that classroom would immediately shut him down and send him seeking a place to burrow away. I do not think he would do the same now but as ever, he always surprises me. The dog will also help to boost his confidence, which will help in ways I bet we cannot even yet measure.

Here is Mr. Preschool 2014-2015:

little boy in a backpack

Before school. Pardon the weird haze at the top, my phone case is a jerk.


Little boy after school with his buds! He made that hat. It has apple cut outs that the kids glued on them. Adorable!


Before I get into this post, a giveaway/fundraising update: We’ve reached $1900! That’s just about enough to cover our hotel! Our goal is $3500 and we’d love to get as close as possible so our drive to and from training plus food costs might be defrayed. Thank you for those who have donated and look for the drawing for the great iPad Mini giveaway on 9/26!


We are blessed with many days that J’s limitations do not phase us much. We have worked out routines that make our necessary tasks flow smoothly more often than not and even  have some flexibility with him. It’s been a lot of work to get there, both on his part and on ours due to our learning curve (remember, we’re not native speakers of his language!) … But then there are days and events where it all fails.

Today we attempted the New England Aquarium. Now, I love the Aquarium. I even worked there for a while, though I worked in the Simons IMAX Theatre rather than the aquarium proper. We made this journey last year and had success, so why not try it again, right?


Now, J loves animals. Aquatic animals, land animals, avian animals… He’s an animal guy! We talked about aquatic animals the whole way in and of course talked Octonauts, his under sea Disney Jr friends. He was excited to go inside until he actually got inside.

You see, the aquarium’s interior, where most of the exhibits are, is very dark. It facilitates better seeing into the various tanks and exhibits but when you’re a child with sensory issues, it can be unexpectedly overwhelming. The moment we entered the main exhibit areas I knew this was not going to end well.

The areas lit with natural light or close to natural light he did fine. There was a rays and sharks touch tank he actually did far better with this time than last time.* He enjoyed the large area out back where the sea lions and fur seals live. All the fur seals were out and about so he got to enjoy their antics. There were two very young ones wrestling and jumping around which was delightful to see.

That’s where the good ended. Anything to do with the bulk of the aquarium had him terrified. This wasn’t a child being fussy, this was full out fear and that is what breaks my heart. I know he loves fish and fish tanks. He loves seeing them at the pet store along with seeing the reptiles and other creatures. He would have dearly loved seeing Myrtle the sea turtle but it was not meant to be.

We barely made it 45 minutes and had to leave because he could not cope.

That breaks my heart. This place that could have been such great joy was utterly inaccessible to my son and I have no idea what I could even do about it. There were so many things I could not control tearing at him and forcing him to dive for emergency exits and scream. It’s brutal to watch your child that upset and that scared, especially over something that should be peaceful and even loved.

These are the things I get sad about: the struggles and the times where things that should be accessible aren’t, and I don’t know how to make them so.

In slightly related news: Anyone know an aquarium in the New England area that does accessible times for special needs kids? Let me know.


*= Last time J attempted to throw himself bodily into the touch tank more than once. That ended our visit, but thankfully it was well after enjoying everything else for a while.

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