Going the distance

It looks like we are finally passing by some milestones on this long, long road.

Our latest trip to the Anat Baniel Method Center in San Rafael, CA., was during the last two weeks of August. We decided to drive down this time, taking two days each direction. Fortunately, I have family in various spots along the way, including a pretty good midway point, so we didn't have to pay for a hotel.

In fact, thanks to some really generous people who opened their doors to almost perfect strangers, we didn't have to pay for a hotel at all on this trip. For the first week we stayed at a blog reader's house in Oakland and for the second week we stayed in a distant relation's house just outside of Vallejo. Both places meant 45-minute commutes to the ABM Center in San Rafael, but it's not like we had anything else to do!

We did manage to stay busy anyway, of course, and even got in a little sight-seeing at the Golden Gate Bridge, the California Academy of Sciences and various other spots around the beautiful Bay Area.

In fact, my very favorite few hours of the entire trip was spent just off the freeway outside of San Francisco. We'd gone into the city to see a friend but the traffic to get back to the North Bay was absolutely atrocious. Instead of fighting it, I decided to take the road less traveled. The exit I got off at had this new American mall designed to look like an old European town square. I splurged on a gourmet pizza in an outdoor cafe and a glass... OK, maybe two... of wine to drink along with the fudge I had picked up earlier in Sonoma. With Malachi strapped to my chest in his sling, we walked over to watch the sun go down over the water, dancing around and giggling and not caring who saw. I called my husband and he said it was the most "like myself" I had sounded since I got there. I guess I needed the stress relief.

By the second week I was really dragging and getting a little tired of Malachi. I don't think I could be around anyone that constantly for that long, least of all a very needy 2-year-old. Unfortunately, though, I hadn't thought about this eventuality and didn't set up any sort of respite care plan for while I was down there. By the time I had a few names and numbers, it was too late. Something to remember for next time.

The lessons themselves went well. I managed to show up on time with a fed, bright-eyed and eager-to-learn Malachi to every single one of those 20 appointments.

Well... almost every single one.

For one afternoon session, Malachi didn't fall asleep for his nap until late, so I crept into the lobby with him in my arms, thinking the new environment would slowly wake him up. It did, but he was very groggy and soon fell back asleep. When our practitioner, Neil, showed up and began very gently working on his spine, Malachi lazily watched for a little while and then seemed to decide that that was just fine but he was going to continue his nap, thankyouverymuch.

(Man, I wish someone would give me a massage while I napped!)

Because Malachi was in my arms for the entire 45-minute session and because he was asleep, I got to be much more "in" on the action than usual. It was a truly remarkable experience. The movements were so slow and controlled. It looked like this beautiful, extremely slow-motion dance with a sleeping infant. So fascinating.

The next day, I ran into Anat Baniel in the parking lot and told her about the sleeping lesson and she said that indeed, they can do a lot of fine, subtle work while their clients are asleep, even things they can't do when they are awake. I'm guessing this is because their clients' conscious mind isn't around telling them what they can and can't do. Instead, the practitioners get to talk directly to their subconscious. It makes me infinitely curious what Malachi dreamt about during that time.

While I was down there, I kept a coarse list of notes on things Malachi was doing that seemed different to me than before. This is what it looked like by the end of the trip:

• Crossed legs (wide, relaxed hips)
• Reaching for toys
• Rolling onto tummy easier
• Able to play alone for a while
• Two- and three-word phrases (Malachi said "Apple juice, please," his first more-than-one-word utterance a few days before we left.)
• Lifting head when pull on arm. (This is something the practitioners do, and I'm sure there is a more graceful way to describe it. Basically, they pull on his outside arm to get him to come up through his side from laying down, and this was the first time he started to realize his head and neck needed to come along for the ride instead of lolling to the side or straining backwards.)

• Leaning forward in high chair (At right is the high chair. It has two triangles, labeled 1 and 2, on the very front when the tray is removed and it became a mealtime tradition for Malachi to sit forward and point out each of the triangles. He was definitely not able to lean forward in that chair like that during our last trip and I was amazed at how capable he was at preventing himself from toppling forward out of the chair.)
• Leaning on his arms more
• Able to prop sit for a few minutes (video here)
• Leaning on one hand and pointing or grabbing with the other
• Spine is very twisty, pelvis can rotate almost completely
• Butt comes up an inch in crawling at times
• Hands more open, especially flat on table
• Lifting head with arm and shoulders instead of lolling back, especially when get out of car seat
• Can drink water from straw (messily)
• Tugging on knees with feet flat (laying down), wiggles entire body through spine and weight through soles
• Sylvia (practitioner) says when she moves the upper back it "goes totally into the pelvis"
• Constipation improved (Believe me, this was not due to diet. It was pretty hard to get him to eat much besides PediaSure and cereal while traveling.)
• M attempts to close mouth or suck bottom lip to prevent drooling
• Chris (pracitioner) says hands and fingers are much "clearer"

Wow. That's the first time I've looked at the list in its entirety! Such great stuff! One thing I forgot to mention was that he can sit in a grocery cart seat now in what my husband half-jokingly calls a "pretty good impression of someone with trunk control."

And I can't believe I forgot the most exciting of all of Malachi's new developments! Behold:

Malachi can crawl now! And does so with greater and greater speed around our house! Though I often wallow in self-doubt about whether, how and how much ABM is helping, this is one thing I'm certain he would NOT be doing by now if it weren't for this method.

But as exciting and validating as our trip was, by the time August 31 arrived, we were ready to go home. And, indeed, that seemed to be in our fortunes as well.

Malachi's reads: "A new challenge is near."
Mine: "The road before you is long. Drive safely."

Farewell, San Francisco area. We'll see you again, soon, I hope.

This was our fourth trip to the Anat Baniel Method Center in San Rafael, CA. Click these links to read about the first ("On Our Way" and "Did it Work?"), the second ("On Our Way: The Sequel" and "Our Therapy Trip to California"), and third ("More Answers and More Questions After Our Third Therapy Trip to California".)


  1. That is awesome! My little man is getting evaluated for Conductive Education this Thursday and I'm anxious to see what we find out from this appointment. If it's something we decide to pursue, he will be going in twice weekly for 3 hour sessions for three months. I'm hoping it's a fit for Matt and that I'm not overloading him with therapies and school. Love your pics, Malachi has gorgeous eyes!!

    1. Good luck with CE! I've been meaning to look into that around here in Portland, but it seems like a midwest/east coast sort of thing so far. Let me know how it goes!

  2. nice next time we have to get together I know a bus that i can take to get to SF

    1. Yes! We need to make that happen!

    2. when is the next one?

  3. Wonderful!! What great strides he is making :-). And he is just so darn handsome.

  4. Love the list - what great accomplishments!

    1. Thanks! It's funny how quickly they become "normal" as if he's always been able to sit in a grocery cart, etc.

  5. Anonymous5:27 AM

    Wow - this is simply amazing! We're cheering for Malachi way over here on the east coast!

    1. Hooray! Thank you! And sorry to hear about your east coast struggles. You have every right to feel disappointed about those surgeries and the recovery time. I hope everything works out well for you guys! We'll be cheering you along when it's your turn!

  6. This is awesome! Your video gave me a lot of hope for my little boy. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Cool! I'm glad to do it! It's hard to find hope on this path, but it's there!

  7. Joanna9:45 AM

    Absolutely fantastic list, Shasta!

    1. Thanks Joanna! You can notice even more, I'm sure!


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