Beethoven’s Wig (It’s Very Big!)

Beethoven is REAL?!

We were listening to one of the Beethoven’s Wig CDs and I mentioned that Beethoven had lived a long time ago and made a great deal of beautiful music. Emily stopped in her tracks, “Wait a minute Mama…Beethoven is REAL?!”

We’ve been going through a “is it real” stage for a while now.

E: “Is Peter Pan real?”

Me: “Well it was a real man who wrote a real story, but no, the boy Peter Pan is not real.”

E: “Are fairies real?”

Me: “Depends on who you ask, I suppose.”

E: “Well, I believe in Peter Pan and fairies.”

Me: “Okay, that sounds fine with me.”

I explained again that Beethoven had lived a long time ago. I also explained that Beethoven’s Wig was actually a group of musicians interpreting his work.

She looked even more amazed, “So, Beethoven’s Wig is real too?!”

While watching Up, a movie I refuse to watch due to the sad beginning (I cry buckets, get congested and can’t breathe and get then get a sinus headache, plus it depresses me – what’s to like about it?), Emily cried out, “They’re playing a song from Beethoven’s Wig!”

I explained to her that music can not only predict what will happen next (think Jaws for a good example on this), but it also can convey emotion. “Listen to the music during a sad moment,” I suggested to her, “or when the action is at its most frantic. What do you hear?”

She has watched several movies since, listening carefully to the musical score. At one point, during the sad part of Up, she turned to me, tears glistening in her eyes, “Oh Mama, even the music is sad right now.” Later, during a scene full of adventure she pulled me from my book, “Listen Mama! The music is having an adventure!”

Gotta love that kid.

All of this had me thinking about how we learn, which led to the following book review…

Dani’s Story

I mentioned on Monday that Emily and I had a conversation on wild or feral children. One of the stories that particularly stuck with me was a case of severe neglect discovered in 2006 – Danielle Ann Crockett. Nearly seven years old, nonverbal, clad only in a diaper, and assessed at having the cognitive ability of a four month old infant, Danielle’s prognosis was grim.

I read a special article written about her, found a website her adoptive family had put together, and ordered a copy of the book, Dani’s Story: A Journey from Neglect to Love.

It was absolutely compelling. Diane and Bernie Lierow never intended to adopt a child with such profound needs. Their hope had been to find a little girl who could be a playmate and sibling to their ten year old son. But they made one ‘mistake’ – they saw her picture and fell in love.

Against everyone’s advice, including most of the social workers they encountered, and even some of their own family members and neighbors, the Lierows fought to foster and eventually adopt Danielle into their lives. With love and patience and their reassuring presence, day in and day out, Dani has slowly begun to improve – she is now toilet trained, can eat with a spoon and fork and does not steal food from others or try to hoard it. She speaks, occasionally, and is currently in occupational and speech therapy and surrounded by those determined to provide her with love and structure.

What struck me most was the way that Diane sought to teach Dani the basics, just as she had her sons (albeit far later in age), and how these methods worked. I was particularly compelled by the concept of how we learn what we learn. I remain filled with curiosity as to how much Dani will be able to grow and learn in the years ahead.

What we know of brain development suggests that every human being is born with the maximum number of neurons he or she will ever have. The first five years of life are crucial to the development of those neurons – and it becomes a ‘use it or lose it’ scenario. Children who have suffered profound neglect often have far less neurons to work with – and this may be the case with Dani.

Dani is now 13 years old – she is an incredibly attractive young woman, yet she may never be capable of full speech or be completely able to care for herself. And yet, despite this, she has the love of a family who knew the score long before they ever signed on to a lifetime commitment.

Read the book…it is truly amazing…



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