Our therapy trip to California

I'm happy to report the feeling of providence continued on our trip to the Anat Baniel Method Center in San Rafael, California. Everything went as well as could be expected, the weather was beautiful and Malachi made some important gains.

The trip even started with a pretty amazing coincidence. 
At the Portland airport.

I've never flown Southwest before so I didn't know that they don't have assigned seating. I showed up a little late to board and was dreading finding an aisle seat next to people who would roll their eyes at the sight of a baby. But the first aisle seat I found was next to none other than a woman flying alone with a baby and a little girl. 

This is perfect! We'll be the baby row and we won't care that the other baby is crying because we're moms and we got over that a long time ago.

So I settled in, trying to find Malachi's bottle for take-off and chatting with the other mom. But then a stewardess showed up and said I had to move because we couldn't have five people (two lap babies) in a row.

Drat. I guess I have to ruin somebody's day. 

The stewardess found an empty middle seat, asked the people there if they would mind if I sat there. They didn't. I sat down and as I was still trying to find that damn bottle, the woman sitting next to me said: "Oh, hi, Shasta."


Turns out the stewardess sat me next to a family friend! A very warm person and a retired pediatric physical therapist to boot! We had a wonderful time chatting about our trip and ABM while Malachi drank his bottle and then promptly fell asleep for the entire plane ride!

Exactly the expression one should have
getting into a shiny black Town Car with
a private driver (remarkably,
the cheapest option available).
When we got to the airport, baggage claim was a breeze with my friend helping me and my driver found me before I even had a chance to look for him. He led us to a very posh Lincoln Town Car with chilled bottled water. Malachi was in a very cheerful mood and the trip to Vacaville passed uneventfully. 

Once we got settled, we headed to the grocery store where I found a very cool shopping cart fitted with a bucket seat that was perfect for Malachi. (Maybe other places have these, but I haven't needed to look for them before since I'm always carting around a double stroller.)

Malachi had an incredibly fun time pointing out the aisle numbers every time we passed under a sign. He and Jaden know several numbers and letters already — I know, right? they're freaking geniuses — including 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, A, E, O and S. Eight was Malachi's particular favorite this time around and he got very good at saying it — "aaaait!"

We also had a great time on our various adventures in between lessons at the center. Either while Malachi was napping or before bed we visited: 

Golden Gate State Park

Jelly Belly Factory


Bumper-to-bumper traffic in the middle of NOWHERE.
Really, California, really?

The only consistent downside — aside from traffic, see above — was that I had to do without a feeding chair on this trip. Instead, I brought in his carseat and propped him up with towels, but with his newfound mobility he would often try to launch himself out of the chair in pursuit of wayward Cheerios. Which brings me to...

...what can he do now???

First off, he's babbling a lot more and can say about a million new words. I should have been writing them down, but honestly it's probably too many to count. He tends to say just the end of a word and over-emphasize the vowel sound — in fact sometimes it seems like he will start with a vowel sound instead of a consonant, such as "ama" for "mama." I can tell that it's not quite the same as how Jaden speaks, but I would say he's caught up in the number of words he can say. The other night while reading a book with lots of pictures of various objects, he pointed to several and spontaneously said their names.

As far as his body, the primary difference I see in Malachi is that his body is waaaay looser. I didn't even realize he was spastic until now when I can feel a dramatic difference in how much floppier he is. I can pick up his leg and move it any which way or place it under his bum in a pretzel and it can stay there instead of springing back. The change in his muscle tone alone seems like a research study waiting to happen. Any doctor would be able to feel the difference from last week to today.

Not the most illuminating picture, I know.
It was hard to take pictures and videos of the sessions because Malachi would stop paying attention to the lesson and immediately start whining for my phone if he saw it.
The other changes are less dramatic, but, as they say, any change means change is possible and can be built upon, so it's exciting nonetheless. In fact, I think I'm going through a similar process that Malachi is — learning how to make finer and finer distinctions about what he can do. Instead of only noticing and being happy with the giant milestones — rolling over, etc. — I can distinguish how much more fluidly he moves and how the quality of his coordination is more graceful.

I think of it like looking at a person who is riding a horse. If you're like most people, you can't tell by looking at someone sitting on a horse if they are an experienced rider or not, but since I loved horseback riding in my youth and paid an extreme amount of attention to it, I very definitely can. On the other hand, I certainly couldn't tell by looking at a golfer whether they have a good golf stance or not because I know nothing about golf. Seeing the efficacy of ABM is therefore as much about my ability to notice as it is about Malachi's ability to change. 

Sitting much straighter but look at those legs!!
Completely bent to the side and laying on the
table as if it were no big deal!
That said, I feel like I can see a lot more changes in him than when we went in October. For one, Malachi seems to have much more fine motor control in his left hand. He can sign the word for "different" with both pointer fingers instead of just one beating against his other fist. It also seems like he is able to put his knees out to the side in crawling a bit more and once in a lesson he even pushed with his knees in crawling and lifted his butt. In (supported) sitting, he has a noticeable lumbar curve — his back was flat as a board before. Also, his belly is rounder, (consequently his breathing is deeper and his voice louder) and he doesn't need to contract his tummy as much when he lifts his legs, sometimes not at all, and consequently he is kicking more while sitting. He can also use his arms without contracting his legs and feet nearly as much as before. During the last day of lessons, he also started spontaneously putting his hand down on the table when he felt he was losing his balance instead of tightening up and pulling his arms in.

These are all fabulous changes and I'm really excited about them. Are they miraculous? Is Malachi able to move radically differently? Is he going to crawl and sit up by himself tomorrow? No, no, and no. But they are enough that I think this trip has been a resounding success and we have decided to scour every rock, tree and bush for money to continue. They recommend we throw everything we can at it for the next three months. I have a lot of worries about how we're going to afford that and I dislike (to put it lightly) being put in the position of having to sacrifice so much, but I've decided it's worth it to put this method to the test for us once and for all.

A tired Mr. Crazy Hair McGee on the flight home.

BTW, a blogging buddy recently posted an explanation of ABM on her blog and I recommend you check it out if you'd like to learn more about it from a parent's perspective. I'm planning on doing another post about it soon — an expanded and more refined version of the one I did before or this other one I did before — but it's so nice when someone does some heavy lifting for you once in a while! :)


  1. Shasta, I am so glad the trip was successful. I am excited to get down there with Parker! Thank you for sharing your journey.

    1. I think you'll be pleased too!

  2. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Didn't know you were going! So glad you went and that it was such a great experience. Malachi is going to benefit so much being so little.

    1. Yes, I have to be grateful that he is young, but I do kick myself for not doing it earlier or more intensely! Ah well, there are many reasons why I don't think that would have worked. We ALL do things on our own time, don't we?

  3. Anonymous5:50 AM

    This is so exciting and you're right, every little success counts! Sure sounds like a lot of work, the travel and therapy, and I'm so glad you're seeing the benefits to quickly. I continue to be amazed at how much the brain can learn. Thanks for sharing this celebration.


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