voicing dora


Have I told you about Julie yet?   

We knew we’d hit the babysitting mother lode when we first interviewed her nearly two years ago. After talking with her for a while, we mentioned that Brooke had some challenges that we needed to make her aware of. I held my breath, waiting to see what her reaction would be. She didn’t so much as flinch.  

She had a full time job, so we asked why she was looking to babysit. “Oh, that’s easy,” she explained. “At my last job I got to work with kids all the time and I really miss that.”

“Oh, what was your last job?” we asked.

“I worked in an in-patient psychiatric facility. I organized crafts and activities for the kids. Many had significant behavioral challenges. Some were non-verbal. It was really rewarding.”

The skies opened and the Seraphim sang. No way we were letting this one go. Once she had told us about her uncle with autism and their annual pilgrimage to Disney World, I was ready to ask this girl to move in. (OK, not literally, but close.)

For the past two years now, Julie has sat for our girls for a couple of hours almost every week. The ease of walking out of the house knowing that she can handle anything thrown her way is invaluable. We don’t need to explain anything, prepare anything, DO anything. She knows the drill. She even knows what to do when the drill falls apart.

I thought it couldn’t get any better than knowing that my kids are safe and well cared for when Luau and I go out (which we HAVE to do for our sanity, our relationship – hell, just so we can introduce ourselves to each other once a week).

And then came this.

On Friday, Katie and I were still out of town. Luau had an invitation from a friend whose movie, Trouble the Water was premiering in our city. Julie came to the rescue and sat with Brooke for a few hours so that Luau could attend the premiere. Incidentally, if you didn’t know any better, you might actually think that Luau and I were pretty cool last week. What with movie premieres and fashion shoots, well, you know how it is. Just another week. Or, um, NOT.

It’s rare that Julie has time with Brooke alone. Little Miss Katie has decidedly cemented her status as Julie’s pet and she doesn’t leave a lot of room for attention to be diverted. That’s not to say that Julie isn’t great with Brooke, but she doesn’t get much of a chance to really focus on her with big sister forcefully stealing the spotlight.

But Julie relished her time alone with little Boo. And after reading this, she took it upon herself to write the following, excerpted from a much longer, incredibly detailed e-mail.

I still marvel at how blessed we are to have such caring people in our lives. Thanks, Jules.

Hey Jess, I know you miss Brooke, so I figured I’d give you a play-by-play on the evening. She’s always a trip, but somehow, even more so when it’s just the two of us.  


She asked me if we could “play the purple game before bedtime”.  Like I told you on the phone, she went and got one of her Dora dolls, sat down next to me and said “Dora would play too”. She proceeded as if it were routine (I’m used to Katie telling me several of her stuffed animals are on my “team” in Monopoly Jr., but I was floored that Dora chose to join us for a game of memory).  Brooke took a turn, then Dora went, and then me.  She made Dora pick up each card with her little Dora hands, turn it over and in a really high pitched Dora voice, read the card aloud.  If it wasn’t a match, Dora sounded disappointed.

When she knew where cards were on her turn, she would wait to let Dora find the matches (princess, star catcher, apple picker) excitedly flipping them over with her little Dora hands. You’ll never guess who won, by the way, with 5 pairs…I had 2, Brooke had 3.  We congratulated Dora on her victory and Brooke seemed thrilled.  I asked if she wanted to play again, to which she replied “I am putting them to bed”. Pretty sure that was a no. 

Holy Moly! This is HUGE! I mean HUGE! Dora has a voice! Brooke has perspective! The Theory of Mind that we saw emerging here is expanding and taking new shape. “If it wasn’t a match, Dora sounded disappointed!!!”

I was so excited when I got Julie’s e-mail that I foolishly tried to share the news with one of the moms on the Ralph Lauren adventure. You know that look that a golden retriever gives you when you have a ball in your hand and they expect you to throw it, but you hang onto it for a while? Their little doggy head tilts to the side and they pant expectantly. Yeah, that was about it. She was obviously trying to follow the story. But she was waiting for me to throw the ball. Sorry, lady, that’s all I got. Ball’s been thrown. “Aw, hell, forget it,” I thought. “I’ll just wait til I can post it and my bloggy Mama buddies will totally get it.”

Have I told you lately that I adore you? Because you GET IT.

In the mean time, Julie sure got it.

And as for Miss Brooke well I don’t have to tell you, do I?

13 thoughts on “voicing dora

  1. Very, very awesome!

    In honor of such amazing progress, I think all of you – Jess, Luau, Katie, Brooke and Julie should start twisting and singing along with Dora, “We did it! We did it! Yeah!”

  2. After catching up on all the posts all I have to say is that your ENTIRE family is amazing! I read these and truly appreciate all the little things in life…thank you!

  3. This is just great; first Katie beats me in “UNO” and then Brooke wins “Tea Party” on my last visit. Now I have to worry about Dora next time I come to the house. Can’t an uncle catch a break on these board games 😉

  4. Wow. WOW! Theory of mind, pretend play… Wow! Sounds like Brooke not only held her own while you and Katie were gone, she ROCKED IT!

    And – I love Julie! If she ever wants to relocate to the middle of freaking nowhere, I could sure use her here! (I am right now visualizing the perfect babysitter walking in the door, and J and I walking out SMILING. Mmm. Yes, that’s nice.

  5. How amazing!!!!!! Those are the moments that sustain us, and push us forward. I’m sure you needed it, and I’m so glad you got it!

  6. Go Brooke! Go Brooke! Imagination! In a child on the spectrum? Who’d a thunk it? Why I think you did!!!!! Oh btw so jealous of Julie! but happy for you!

  7. Julie,
    Somewhere in heaven, a troupe of angels is waiting to put a crown of stars on your sainted head.

    Jess needed to read this; to hear and smell it. For this, I thank you.

    And Brooke…

    I never had any doubt.

    Jess…I love you right back because YOU get it every single time.


  8. Jess,
    Just thought I would finally tell you I so love your blog….as a Mommy of 2 little guys on the spectrum. What I most love is your inspiration, your hope, your determination. What a great story about little Miss Brooke. Every time one of my little ones “scadooes into a picture” “just like on Blues Clues Mommy”, my heart does a little victory dance. True, not everyone will experience the “highs” we do because of the challenges our little ones face, but we can celebrate together. Just know that a Mom in NJ just did a little victory dance for your daughter.

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