Sunday, July 25, 2010


I have a quiet house. Charles is out having some "Me" time, which I hope he spends wisely and yet not wisely at all...he needs some time to decompress. Christian is taking a nap today- actually sleeping instead of just playing in his room during the time which we loosely call quiet/nap time. Elijah has just conked out for a nap and although I could easily sleep, I think the time has come for me to refuel and rejuvenate in the form of writing. There is just something about the stream of consciousness through writing that keeps the feelings & thoughts in my head from hovering too long. Unless they are good that case, I invite them to pull up a chair and stay as long as possible. And I have a few of those good thoughts these days. I have huge concerns, and I will get to those in a moment, but what is really remarkable to me is that I find myself feeling so...contented. Frequently. Grateful, contented, blessed and happy. Maybe it's still residual hormones, but I think it has more to do with one little angel baby, my little Elijah. I love the way his little body slumps on mine when he's so comfy and tired that he just drops right off to sleep. How when I first walk into the room, or when he first wakes up to see me, he breaks into a smile. And even though, Christian is at the age that fights for control and power and challenges me at every turn, he loves to help and to play and to dance and all of those things that I dreamt about doing when I dreamt of having a family. More than all of those wonderful little things, I am learning to appreciate and even be swept up in the uncertainty...the adventure of life. That one day you think you'll be single forever, but then poof! You're not. That one day you'll decide to have a baby and your whole world changes in ways you never imagined and couldn't have predicted, where you'd never, ever, not for one real second trade back. Not even when your baby ends up with an extra chromosome. Nope, I'd never trade back...because that would mean no Elijah and I really, really, really love Elijah.

I haven't had much time to write in the last week and maybe I'm even feeling a bit of a writer's block because so much has happened that I sometimes don't know where to start and what to say. I find myself starting on one task, then midstream switching to something else, then switching again, then thinking, "What was I supposed to be doing??" One thing that has been taking up my mind space is about Christian's speech. I mentioned in a previous post about how the social worker who came to evaluate Elijah, mentioned that Christian should be more articulate by his age. After he left, I immediately got on the phone with a good friend who is a teacher, but more importantly, knows Christian and sees him frequently. Her opinion was that there is nothing wrong. So I started feeling better...but then, I mentioned it to my Mom (who taught preschool for 14 years- even though she has been "retired" about 12 years) and she said that she thought his speech should be clearer too. Great! I said, "Why didn't you say anything??!!" And she replied that she thought I had enough on my plate already and didn't want me worrying about something that would most likely work itself out. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that exact statement recently, we would have no financial problems at all. I finally looked a friend in the eye yesterday and said, "Promise me one thing: that no matter what, you do not skip telling me something because you think I have too much going on". But I digress...I also happened to speak to Christian's preschool teacher, who we've been with in a Mommy and Me program with for the last 2 years. I told her what the social worker said, and she admitted that she had been concerned that there was something up with Christian's speech (But didn't want to tell me because she thought I had too much going on! See the pattern here?) After that conversation, I got really freaked out because she seemed concerned about possible speech processing problems more so than articulation. That sounds way scarier to me than mispronouncing Yittel (Little). That sounds "Grey's Anatomy" scary: Patient wakes up from brain surgery saying, "Cat done tunnel frog over the ant hill." Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong in the surgery and that is why we tune in every week... So. All of these opinions started the freaked out and obsessive phase. I find myself testing Christian in different ways now. Can he identify colors when asked or only when I tell him to point to "pink"? Can he physically pronounce an "L" or his he just being lazy? Can he look at a picture and tell me what's happening in the picture or will he just point out what the pictures are of? It's mind boggling...and it's been too much. I can tell that it's getting to Christian. I was drilling him so much on a P word the other day, that at one point in the car he pointed and said "Look Mommy! A Cat!" When I said, "What Christian? (Because I just didn't hear him) He said, "A Cat. Pa-Pa-Pa (The P sound) Pa-Cat." And there are other things too- I can tell he senses my frustration and concern and it's making him feel pressured. I don't want that for him. I really don't want him to be feeling pressure from me, even if there really is something to be concerned about. We don't even really know if there is any cause for concern yet. We are going to meet with a Speech Therapist on August 6th, so I'm hoping that will shed a little more light on the situation. Now I need to be done with this topic. I'm driving myself crazy and I think my friends are done with this topic also...or at least done with hearing me obsess about it...

On the Elijah home front, things are moving along. As I like to say, "He's just doin' his baby thang." ...Although tonight when I got creative with a Bobby Flay recipe that came out way too spicy (and ate it anyway) I think I may have given Eli a bad case of gas...:( Poor guy has been fussing all night and he never fusses unless there is a specific reason (Hungry. Tired. Wet.) But, he's been doing great otherwise. He has rolled over from belly to back about 4 times. I pointed this out to our Pediatrician who immediately said, "Well, that was an accident." Yes. He's right. It was. But, that's how it starts, right? Elijah is definitely focusing more and tracking objects with his eyes, which I was really worried about because it seemed to take especially long for him to do that. He has also let out a few laughs recently! They are so precious and I can't wait to hear more. So far, bouncing seems to be the biggest precursor to a laugh, but I'm enjoying the exploration to see what causes them. He has also found his hands and I think he's taken an interest in something he suspects might be there...his feet! He sort of throws them up over his head, like...There they are!....Nope....yup- there they are! This morning, he actually found his thumb. He does the classic thumb-suck-with-index-finger-wrap-on-the-top-of-the-nose. Even though I was partly horrified because I come from a family with a history of notoriously late thumb suckers (and you can't take a thumb away), it was also just about the cutest thing I've ever seen. We also saw the Pediatrician last week and he is growing as he should. He is now 10 and a half pounds and 23 inches long. He is dropping lower and lower on the growth percentiles chart, but my Pediatrician isn't concerned. The conversation went something like this: Dr Keer: "Keep doing what you're doing, Jen." Me: "So, I shouldn't worry even though his percentiles are dropping?" Dr. Keer: (Eye Roll) Me: "Okay." ...........I LOVE that Dr. Keer is just going to give it to me straight (and he probably has more license to do so since we used to be neighbors.) I'll admit that even though I know Elijah is growing and gaining in a healthy fashion, it still might be part of my process to adjust to the fact that he may be shorter...maybe even short. Maybe not. But maybe he will be. I know it is NOT important in the big scheme of things, and yet it's something that I get a little twinge about. Eli is in the 15th% for height right now, having dropped down from the 50th% at birth. There is actually an entirely different growth chart for children with Down Syndrome. I know this, and yet I secretly hope that he'll beat the odds and end up tall. Then, again, if I'm only allowed a few "secret hopes" I don't really think I want to waste it on something as inconsequential as height... Still. Maybe it's "Karma" from having refused to date anyone shorter than me...

I had an incredible conversation with an acquaintance who is becoming more and more of a friend. She is also "Mom" to a child with special needs (not DS) and it's amazing how much we have in common. The way I met her was truly one of my most embarrassing moments ever. Embarrassing because I acted like a complete Prima Dona. I'll just say that I was having a moment. I said to her today, "Could you imagine if someone had whispered in our ears that "15 years from now you will both become friends and have more in common than you could begin to imagine"? It is amazing. I'm glad there is no fortune teller of life for me, because I am sure that the summary of what's to come could never capture the glory, adventure and growth that actually accompanies the life experience. And I am going to say this, because it is on my mind: You cannot escape the roller coaster of life by planning or perfecting or maintaining order. So, go with it. Don't stop trying for that new career because you're scared. Don't avoid that health test because it could be bad news. Don't give up on having another child because you're older and there are odds. Life is never going to turn out exactly the way you planned it. And if it did, how bored would you be?...

Okay. Stepping off my soap box now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On Aging

I have been thinking a lot about my age lately. Well, not my age per se, but that I am getting older...and looking older. Obviously it is inevitable that we all get older, but luckily I don't feel "older". I think that is a tribute to the fact that I have a lot of love in my life. I love what I do for work, even though when I have demanding clients it can be stressful. I love, love, love my family even though each of them (Except Elijah, so far) test my limits and occassionally leave me wondering if the job of Mothering comes with a paid Mental Health Day? HA! We ALL wish! And I love my friends, who rejuvenate me no matter what. However, I'll occassionally see my laugh lines in a photo or notice that my roots don't seem to be growing in as dark anymore (gray anyone??) and I'm reminded that aging is day, one week, one year, one child at a time...

I've always hoped that I could be one of those women who embrace growing older and do it gracefully. And I'll admit that I've been a little judgemental in my life. Seeing an older woman in a too short skirt or pig tails or, let's face it- waaay too much plastic surgery (I do live in LA LA land after all,) leaves me thinking, "I hope I never lose perspective that way." And while I do hope that I can be reasonable about the fashions that are too young looking for me, or the make-ups that are too harsh, or the jeans too tight, I want to measure my age in another way. I want to measure my life in a well-lived way. A life spent making mistakes and learning beautiful lessons as a result. A life filled with imperfections, that turn out to be just right anyway. So instead of thinking about what all I don't have anymore (cue: 6 pack abs, shiny, wrinkle free skin, and the adoration of every man I pass...well, okay... that's partially a list of what I wish I had...but I digress...) I'd like to put together a "what got me here" list. Like a general who had to earn his stripes, I've earned my own aging "stripes" and this is how:

My life so far, as seen by a very partial, random list:

Had my first job at a greasy chinese restaurant with a chef who "lost it", ran around with a meat cleaver trying to kill the other chef and ended up in a mental facility. (The restaurant has since closed.)

Learned to drive & passed my driver's test on my 16th birthday (Phew!)

Bought my first brand new car at the age of 29. Traded it in 6 years later for a minivan.

Went to community college while balancing a dance career and sending in final term papers from gigs in Japan.

Toured a slice of the world while working on cruise ships. Slept until 2:30pm regularly.

Stayed up so late talking to a friend that we decided to just start drinking coffee and start our day.

Married the wrong man. Got divorced. Figured out what was important and then married the right man. (And wore a better dress.)

Picked out an 8 week old puppy and brought him home, trained him, loved him, and said goodbye to him as he left this world almost 13 years later.

Gave birth to Christian. Tough recovery from the birth, tough baby.

Gave birth to Elijah. Easy recovery from the birth, easy baby. Hmmmm I sense a pattern.

Decided to give birth to Elijah without an epidural. Did it and felt like a rockstar.

Achieved my dream to be a dancer and did it until it didn't mean the same to me anymore.

Hid in a closet to scare a friend, waited 45 minutes to jump out, and scared him so badly that I STILL laugh out loud just thinking about the expression on his face. And that was 20 years ago.

I can make a list about myself and say that something happened 20 years ago. ....Wow.

When I look at this little list of random things from my life, I feel like I've earned my "stripes" in the best possible way. It reminds me that although it will occassionally be hard to watch my face and body grow older, I am trading in the youth for the experience, the wisdom and the appreciation.

In the words of one of the world's great choreographers:
"Age is the acceptance of a term of years, but maturity is the glory of the years." -Martha Graham

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Have you ever seen a movie where someone is focused on something while crossing a street- maybe waving to a friend or rushing to catch up to a lover and then....a bus mows them down in the middle of the street? The audience gasps. Audibly. Because it's shocking, and horrible, but mainly shocking, because like the character in the movie, you were focused on the waving friend or retreating lover. You weren't focused on the bus, and so you don't expect the character to be hit. It would be overly dramatic for me to say that I feel like I got hit by a bus when I wasn't looking, but I do feel a little side-swiped. This is why: On Thursday we had Elijah's first evaluation by a social worker from our local Regional Center to start assessing what therapies would be necessary for him. The appointment, overall, went really well. The social worker seemed thorough, nice and very informative. At this point it looks like he is starting off with a recommendation of Occupational therapy once a week. We set some goals for Elijah to achieve and I feel a little better that the ball is rolling and that we have clear, solid goals to achieve. However, in the middle of our evaluation, Christian (who had been playing in the backyard with my sister-in-law) came in and interrupted us with some chit chat about playing with the water outside. He said about 2 sentences and then went back outside for more water play. The social worker turned to me and said, "Have you ever had your son evaluated by a speech therapist? His clarity should be a lot better by this age." I sort of felt the blood drain from my face. Because there can't be anything wrong with Christian. There just can't. Even worse was the feeling of How did I miss this? Is there even something to miss? This is coming from left field. Was I focusing so much on Elijah, because of the Down syndrome that I missed the fact that my precious firstborn might need some help too? The social worker said, "Many parents miss speech delays because they are around their child all of the time and can understand them." So, now I'm thinking and re-thinking about every last syllable that Christian mutters. He's 3 years and 2 months and his L's do sound like Y's. Is that normal? My brain has been going a mile a minute since Thursday. I hadn't noticed him being much further down the chain of development from his other friends his age. Everyone I have talked to about it has tried to assure me Christian is fine and will be fine. If he has any type of speech delay, we can get him a little help and then he'll move past it. That's all. I know they're right. I know that I shouldn't worry, but I simply can't help it. He is my baby and will always be my baby and my job is to help him grown and thrive, feel loved, feel safe. I'm in a bit of a mental cul-de-sac. It's been 2 days since the social worker was here and I'm starting to relax a little bit but it is still occupying much of my mind. More than anything, I just feel a little thrown. I didn't see this coming at all. I have decided that nothing drastic needs to be done right away. I will mention it to our Pediatrician and see what he says. Next week there will be a speech therapist at our Friday play group and I may send an email to see if it would be appropriate to get her assessment on it. Other than that, we have a lot of summer to get to.

Since I lasted blogged, I had a great girls night out in honor of a good friend's birthday (complete with margaritas and the new Twilight series movie. Don't judge.), we celebrated the 4th of July (BBQ with friends in the am and then fireworks with family at night) and welcomed Charles' sister from the East Coast (Yay! Marilyn!). It has been a very full week, culminating to today, our 6 year wedding anniversary. I can't believe that it has been 6 years already...and we've actually been together for close to 10 years. Where did the time go? I guess time really does fly when you're having fun. This year has been tough on us- a true rollercoaster ride- a challenging year for Charles' work in the entertainment industry, a pregnancy, a back yard makeover by HGTV, shocking news that our baby Elijah has Down syndrome, Elijah's birth, a short NICU stay, the end of transitional Mommy and Me preschool for Christian..Phew! The most amazing part about my hubby is that through it all, I've never had to doubt him. I never worry that things will get rough and he'll threaten or doom the relationship. If we have a fight, we get over it. And we find the funny laugh-until-you-cry things too. I can truly trust that Charles is in this for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and because of that, I get to be ME. I feel safe to really feel in life. I don't have to pretend or hide my true feelings about anything. This, to me, is the definition of True Love. True Love accepts, as-is, with all of the warts and wrinkles that life throws our way... We celebrated our anniversary with a great Sushi dinner, foot massages and a frozen yogurt treat- all sans kids (thanks to my rockin' SIL.) It was just a little cherry on top of what makes me happiest: that Charles loves me, I love him, we have two beautiful boys and I don't have to worry that that won't be enough. It's more than enough. It's everything.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Bonds of Motherhood

When I was 10 years old, I had a little yellow diary adorned with white flowers and a little gold lock with it's own tiny little key. I rarely ever wrote in it, because despite the cute gold lock, I was convinced that my parents or siblings would break into it (I mean, it wasn't exactly a dead bolt or anything...) and read my innermost thoughts. The few times I did write in it, the entries read something like this: "Jenny Birmingham broke up with me today. She's so mean." When I found this little diary as an adult and read that entry and entries like that, I was a little embarassed. I made my friendships sound as serious as some long term love affair. It is only now, years later, that I realize- without embarassment- that that is exactly what they are. At about the age of 24 or 25 I started making friends that I knew were going to last a lifetime, or close to it. Becoming a Mother took that to a whole new level. I never realized that when you have a baby, not only do you get the baby, but it comes with a lifetime membership to the club of Mom and the sympathy/ support of millions of other women who are mothers themselves. When my hubby was offered a job in Australia for an extended period of time, I knew that even with an infant in tow, I could move to another country. If nothing else, I'd be able to meet other standing in line at a market, or walking in a park, or witnessing a complete meltdown tantrum and acknowledging it with a knowing look...all were recipes for an instant bond. Now, there's a new element thrown into the mix. Even though I am not defined by it, part of my new definition is: Mom to a child with special needs. With this, comes a new type of bonding. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I spent a lot of time thinking about what he would be when he grew up, how we would raise him, what my hopes and dreams for him were. Of course I would say that I just wanted a healthy and happy baby, but secretly I wanted that plus more...maybe even rocket scientist more, or uber successful artist more. Today, I met a Mom of two, her youngest also with Down syndrome. I was telling her that one of the weird things I was thrown by when I got Elijah's diagnosis, was that he might not be tall like Charles and I. This was one of those weird things for me- it never occured to me when having children that they wouldn't take after some of these basic hereditary aspects. It was all a part of my process. But, today, this Mom leaned over to my sweet Elijah, gave him a loving stroke on his head and said to him, "None of that matters anymore, does it? We just want you to be happy and healthy and that really is all that matters." And it's true. You aren't challenged with the basic acceptance of things until there really is some quantum shift in life. I am forever changed by both of my kids, but especially so by Elijah. At only 10 weeks old, he is teaching me to slow down, to re-prioritize, to appreciate, and I mean really appreciate every day, and every new milestone in ways that I took for granted with Christian. I feel like I listen to people with new ears. And even see with new eyes.

I got to celebrate the bonds of Motherhood tonight with a new book club that I am part of. The night wasn't about being a Mom, and even though we did talk about our kids, it wasn't all about our kids. It was about a book, and food, and travel, and bonding over really, really, REALLY good cheese... And not once did I mention Down syndrome. The Down syndrome is a part of our lives, but it doesn't change as much as one might doesn't change as much as I once thought. Elijah is just my baby boy, and he's healthy, which is all I could ask for. I'm just struck by how very grateful I am- for my babies, for my hubby, for my girlfriends...both old and new, Mommies and non-Mommies alike and for the unbelievable outpouring of love and support that I have been receiving lately. And I feel lucky...for it all...even for every last chromosome of it all...

I can't resist sharing some pictures from today, when Christian insisted on holding Elijah. Elijah wasn't exactly thrilled with Christian's holding technique, but Christian couldn't have been prouder (and neither could I).

And since I could never be so cruel as to mention really, really, REALLY good cheese and then not share...