Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring Cleaning

It's beginning to feel a lot like Spring these days, and inevitably a Spring stirring begins inside of me: The desire to "Spring Clean" the house, press the sheets, buy new throw pillows in fabulous patterns or colors for inside and out, the desire to refinish some piece of furniture or rearrange the layouts, to clear the clutter out of the bedroom, throw the drapes open and wake up to the sun shining and the smell of a freshly cleaned and feng shuied space. Today, I was home all day.  As in, "my brakes gave out and no mechanics were open on Sunday to fix them," home. I was pretty bummed to be stranded because I had plans to try a new church and then take the boys over to a friend's house for some Oscar watching (while they slept peacefully in her back room, was the plan).  Once I realized that the real plan was No Plan, I settled in and decided to begin a little of that "Spring Cleaning" I have been daydreaming about.  Mind you, technically I daydream about the house ALREADY being clean...not the actual act of doing it.  So "Spring Cleaning"? (Insert sarcastic laugh here.) I cleaned all day long- around feeding kids (then cleaning up those dishes again), a brief friend's visit (where we ate and drank, guessed it: I had to clean up from that), entertaining a preschooler and a baby (P.S. It's not especially effective cleaning per se, but at 3 years old, I got an enthusiasm for cleaning that I've never seen before. Especially when I told him he could vacuum all by himself. Mm-hm. Child labor at it's best.) and lastly, I cleaned while keeping a watchful eye on the Oscars.  This is what I accomplished: Pruney fingers from doing dishes all day long but a clean, maybe even slightly cleaner than normal kitchen; a non cluttered living room/dining room with a vacuumed rug (but no actual dusting, sweeping or mopping got done in there);  a few clean clothes put away; and new sheets on the bed.  (Okay...okay...the sheets are not yet on the bed because I'm procrastinating to write a blog post, but they will get put on the bed before I get into it tonight!)  There was a little progress made in my house today, but it was far from anything I would consider "Spring Cleaning".  I think an actual Spring Cleaning would require one full week of no job, no husband, no kids, and no need to ingest anything that requires the use of any dish or utensil.  THEN, I could get some spring cleaning done.  I could reorganize my "junk" drawer(s), launder every article of clothing that is piling up in the corners, clear out all of the stuff that I don't know what to do with by boxing it up for Goodwill (then actually depositing it at said Goodwill), and reconfigure the furniture with some new Spring-y throw pillows.   I've read all of the book about tackling all of the household chores. I buy all of the magazines- especially the ones with names like Real Simple, that are simply designed to make you feel bad about yourself-and I know that the only way this Spring Cleaning thing is going to get done in my house is to take it 15 minutes at a time, here and there.  "Tackle one problem spot in your home each day", I hear in the back of my mind from all of these books and magazines... So, I will tackle.  Spring might actually be over before I have a chance to finish, but I will tackle.

I am regularly left wondering how I am supposed to get it all done.  For instance: I look forward to my book clubs each month and enjoy the creativity that is sparked by the meetings we create.  However, I find myself over-promising at times.  Last night was a book club meeting where we all volunteered to bring an international dish of our choosing, as it related to the book we read.  I chose India and decided to bring Samosas with mint chutney and Raita sauce.  I love Indian food, and we have some great Indian markets in our neighborhood to draw inspiration from.  I intended to plan well in advance.  I intended to start early.  Yet, with all of the best intentions, two kids, a stressed out husband, a job and a business, I found myself Samosa ingredients-free and no time to try to make it work. So, I stopped off at a local market with a rockin' restaurant at the back of the shop, and loaded up with samosas, chutneys and raita.  On my way home, my brakes started grinding and I didn't know if I was going to even make it home, much less to the book club!  Luckily, a friend from the book club came to my rescue and picked me and my store-bought samosas up.  When we got to the book club, we all dug in to the goods: homemade empanadas, a family recipe for Hungarian cabbage pasta, homemade Russian blinis, crepes, home baked cupcakes, cookies and biscotti even!  I want to think that every time I have the desire to contribute some heart felt cooking creation, that I can do it.  This week offered up a lot of obstacles. It was going to be the choice between a crazy amount of stress to fit in some samosa baking or just a little less stress in my overly scheduled week. I chose less stress.  Did I have a twinge of "Man! I should've

This coming week is going to put my getting-it-all-done skills to the test again.  Tomorrow looms over me with the challenge of getting the car (which is embarrassingly filthy and I'm just going to have to get over it) to the mechanics upon first opening, so that Charles is still home to get me from the mechanic and then drop Christian at preschool.  Next, I have to hope that it takes 3 hours or less to fix the brakes, so I can go and do a presentation on what it's like to be a ballet teacher to Christian's class.  I'm shaking my head and wondering how that is all going to work...I don't like appearing like a hot mess, but that's kind of how I feel I'm starting this week off.  Ugh.  The best news, though? Girls weekend is coming up.  I can't believe it is actually working out, and just 3 months into the year I can tick off a box on my New Year's resolution list.  I haven't had a Girls Weekend since I was single. 

And really?  I'm glad I'm checking off the Girls Weekend, before I'm checking off the Spring Cleaned house.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let it Be.

Wednesday nights are harried, but I do my best to get to yoga class. I made it tonight and as the class ended and I released all of the muscles that had been strong and focused only minutes before, I lay in Shavasana as a song played in the background. It said, Let it be. Let it be. I couldn't help but think of last week's post, where I racked my brain for answers to why my baby boy, Elijah was waking up throughout the night. Today, however, I had new perspective.

I had new perspective because THIS happened this week:


He did it!!! He sat, unassisted, long enough for me to get a picture.  I got a few, actually. 

Happy 10 months baby boy- you are doing it and I am SO proud of you!! 

I realized today, that I had skipped over one very possible, simple "plausible theory" while trying to trouble shoot the reason for his wakeful nights recently: That he was simply working on a new milestone.  Hello?!  Sometimes I'm so quick to jump to all the complicated possibilities that I miss the ones that are plainly and simply straight in front of me.  I suddenly remembered how when Christian was a baby, I was often reminded that wakeful nights were many times just a sign of a new milestone to come.  Interestingly enough, since Elijah sat up on Sunday, he has slept peacefully.  Hmmm...there might be something to this "working on a new milestone thing". 

We took another trip up to Santa Barbara last weekend.  This time, the whole family was in tow and we met up with not only our friend who hosted us, but two other sets of friends.  It was heavenly.  The weather was atrocious, with a heavy downfall of rain, but we snuggled in to the cozy Montecito house and cooked, talked, laughed, drank, snuggled pajama'd babies and enjoyed every minute. 

Our friend, Amber, brought her dog and cat with her from Chicago to enjoy the Santa Barbara weather, and we enjoyed their company too.  Christian was fully entertained with the pets- I have a feeling that they slept as well as he did after we left! It was especially fun to see Elijah take such an interest in Ella the dog, and Ella... well, she was equally smitten. 


I had to include just a small snippet of our silliness with our friends.  The following picture is of my girlfriends and I in a classic, yet cheesy "Charlie's Angels" pose.  It would be a partial eye roll if not for the added model in the next photo.  Personally, I think it's hilarious...especially because we did not even realize he was there...


I've been in full time "Mommy mode" lately.  Work is a little bit slower than normal and many days recently have just been focused on my boys.  The weekends away, even with the full family in tow, and my weekly yoga classes add up to a little bit of refueling. I always need that time to not just be in "Mommy mode" where I am worrying about the variety of parental concerns that rummage through my brain.  Most of the time, it's just the simple stuff. Like interrupted sleep patterns due to new milestones (yay!)  I have to remind myself to just Let it be. Sometimes it's something and sometimes it's nothing and most of the time I don't have control over it anyway.  It took some Shavasana to come to that full realization.  (For those of you who know Yoga, know that you are NOT SUPPOSED to be contemplating life's complications during the restful time of Shavasana.  I know.  I'm working on it.  ...Promise.)

I'm leaving you with a photo of my oldest that just makes me smile.  Look at him.  He is so in the moment.  He knows how to Let it be, as all kids seem to.  It's easy to forget that we are not the only teachers in a parent-child relationship...


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Laundry List

I might need to complain a little today.  I'm tired. So, so tired.  Elijah was up for brief wakings so many times last night that I lost count.  It could be a number of things.  Plausible reason #1: It could be the fact that when I went to nurse him at 11:30pm last night, my body decided there was not going to be any milk.  Great.   I started supplementing with formula about a month and a half ago, because he just wasn't gaining much weight.  My pediatrician and I thought it was worth a try to supplement the nursing with formula.  While Elijah was well hydrated, we wondered if my milk was "fatty" enough for him.  Sure enough, by substituting 2 bottles of formula for nursing feeds, he gained 14oz in a month (compared to 3 oz the previous month, and no greater gain than 6oz in the 4 months before that.)  When he refused to nurse last night, and seemed darn pissed about it, I put him back to bed and thought that we would give it a go without the late night feeding and see how he did.  Well, he did not do well.  He never woke up crying from hunger it seemed, but he woke briefly on and off throughout the night and early morning.  This isn't the first night this has happened, otherwise, I would put a check mark next to Plausible reason #1.

Plausible reason #2: Teething.  I see no teeth. I feel no teeth.  It seems that many kids with Down syndrome don't even get their first tooth until after their first birthday.  Many get them before that.  He's not fussy.  He's not cranky.  He's just up a lot.

Plausible reason #3: A VERY common issue amongst children with Down syndrome are sleep problems.  Sleep Apnea rating high on this list.  Elijah has been a perfect sleeper since almost day 1.  He was sleeping through the night so early on that I almost lied about it to other Moms, so I wouldn't get the evil eye.  Last summer we attended the "New Families BBQ" held by the Down syndrome association of Los Angeles (DSALA).  I met a really cool family there, and they mentioned that their son with Ds, has been having a lot of sleep problems and they are having trouble getting it figured out.  The boy's Mother asked me how Elijah was sleeping and I told her really well.  She casually mentioned that it doesn't seem to show up as a problem for many of our kids until they are a little bit older and are more aware of their world.  That little tidbit has been filed away in my brain, waiting to haunt me the moment Elijah has an interrupted sleep pattern.

All of this formula supplementing has not been good for my milk production, and once again I'm feeling conflicted.  It's not just all of the things that go through a woman's mind when she is considering the end of the nursing period: the bonding time, the helpful antibodies that breast milk contains, etc.  I also have the added weights of: "Nursing is especially good for babies with Ds, because it helps work the muscle tone in their faces." and "Children with Ds are considered immuno-compromised, so the antibodies in breast milk are especially important."  So, my breast milk is tapering off, because I'm nursing less and I don't have the energy (or frankly, the time) to start pumping 12 times a day to get my supply back up.  And all for what?  Milk that seems to not be "fatty" enough for him anyway? I'm gonna hang in until the bitter, milkless end, but I'm not loving this transition.  I'm trying to keep my eye on the prize: I usually lose the last 5 lbs after I stop nursing.  And yet...

I'll admit that I am a bit of a "heady" person, but there is specifically one reason that I get so easily thrown for a loop with Elijah: The Laundry List.  "The Laundry List" (as I call it) is the list that pops up, via Google, of everything that could potentially go wrong with a child who has Down syndrome.  Parents of children with Ds talk about these issues as though they are talking about what's for dinner and how best to prepare it.  I guess as things come up, you just deal with it. Like everyone else.  Only I get scared at the slightest indication of a problem, that it could be some looming bigger problem.  The Laundry List, is probably the number one reason I was so terrified when I received the news of Elijah's diagnosis.  I considered writing out the "list" to let people know what all are risk factors, but I decided against it.  I decided against it, because what is important to know is that none of our kids get ALL of these things.  So, just like in any situation, you take it as it comes, and deal accordingly.  However, it's a bit of a mind trip to know that because Elijah's "odds" are higher, that we should be looking at preventative measures whenever possible and keeping up with frequent, thorough medical check-ups. 

I'm also personally complaining, because in addition to being tired, I hurt.  I've had a corn in my right foot for 2 years and when a new corn (a very painful, excruciating corn) popped up on my left, I knew I had to get in to a Podiatrist to have them removed.  I did this on Monday afternoon.  The last time I had the corn removed, I had immediate relief.  This time, the right foot still hurts.  The doctor assured me it is just tender from having the corns taken out (they literally slice it out. No drugs, just a sharp razor tool.  Although because of the thick callouses on the bottom of the feet, it really didn't hurt.)  I hope so.  I'm not feeling the relief yet and am hoping that I get to feel some relief before those corns grow right back where they started from.  Add to that, my super-sore body from all of the yoga and dancing and Stroller Striding I have been doing and...well, that is why I am complaining.

I have complaints.  Actually, when I think about it, they add up to a little bit of a "Laundry List" don't they?  Come to think of it...I should add the fact that my laundry is piling up to my laundry list of complaints...
Not happy.
Hoping for sleep tonight

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love is...

Do you wanna know what made my week? These flowers. Sent by my hubby. To the dance studio while I was teaching. For no reason at all.


It is amazing how such a seemingly small gesture could mean so much to me. Charles and I spend so much time "passing the baton" with the kids, the  He comes home from work, I leave. He leaves for work, I stay. It leaves very little time for us. The us portion seems to have gone quite "out the window" at times. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm noticed.  Like I could come in wearing a purple boa and cat face paint, and he would still say, Ok. So, Elijah had 7 oz. at 1pm.  I'll see you at 11pm! without a moments notice to the boa and face paint.  So, it felt extra special to be noticed, and sent flowers.  There is planning in having flowers sent.  That little bit of extra time that really says, I am thinking about you right now. I think that's why women, and particularly myself, enjoy receiving flowers so much.  Yes, it's the beautiful and fragrant arrangement of nature that sits on our coffee tables, but really it is the constant reminder that You were thinking of me.

This week we participated in Christian's first school field trip. It was so simple, but so adorable.  Christian's preschool class made valentines for their families, then sealed them up and for the field trip, we walked to the local post office to mail the valentines.  The kids were so excited to have so many of the Moms & Dads present for the walk, and of course there was the highlight of getting to place their envelope into the mailbox.   (Christian has been very opinionated lately over the fact that we have a mail slot at our house, instead of a mail box. Now I know why. He insists we need the "other kind of mail box" despite my persuasive arguments about the merits of a mail slot.)

Christian preparing his valentine for the mail, passing through the post office to say hi to the postal workers, and finally placing the valentine in the mail box to be mailed.

Christian's class and one of his teachers; Christian and one of his classmates playing with a friend's sibling; and Christian and his friend Wendy. (For awhile, when I would ask him who his friends at school were, he would say, "Wendy. Just Wendy.")  

When I was growing up, my Mom would occasionally cut out a comic clip called "Love is", and stick it on the refrigerator. These comics always had some sort of saying like, "Love is letting her take over the bathroom" (with a drawing of all of "her" laundry strung across the bathroom.) In the name of Valentine's day, I think it is fitting to take a little time for me to reflect on what Love is.

Love IS...

...watching my baby boy grabbing and loving on his Daddy.



...this face.

...watching my boys having fun with each other.

...knowing that even when he doesn't send flowers, he is the perfect mate for me.

...brand new 1200 thread count sheets that will one day actually make it onto the bed.

...a revitalized front flower bed- because me and my boy did it together.

...being able to just sit with your loved ones, so they know you are "there for them".

...scheming, dreaming and planning 2 and a half months in advance for special birthday parties for my little guys.

...being inspired by really good, loving people and vowing to Keep up with THAT and not the "Joneses".

The week was far from ideal. Both my Grandmother and my Best friend were in a hospital for surgeries (Both are recovering well...) Part of my Valentine's day will be spent in the Podiatrist's office getting a corn removed from my foot. Yep. I said it. A corn. I feel so old right now...but, I'm in agony, so it's got to go. There were moments of meltdowns and messes and not listening and not sleeping and not eating (not on my part, of course. My appetite is strong, as usual.) I'm beginning to believe that the tougher day to day challenges make those sweet moments, that much sweeter. Elijah did something simple in his physical therapy appointment this week: he sat up tall and reached up with both hands to grab a toy. I yelped out of excitement and started clapping. I startled Elijah so much, that he nearly fell over. But, I "got" it. The challenges do make it all a little sweeter. Elijah has to work harder and longer to achieve milestones that I never even bothered to jot down in Christian's baby book, but when he gets them? It's thrilling. Lord only knows what will happen when he actually walks. Love is...Love is appreciating the smallest milestone, the smallest moment, the smallest miracle.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today I am Strong.

The yoga is starting to work.  Well...physically, anyway.  I took my usual, overly-challenging yoga class on Saturday morning where the instructor says things like "Wrap this, grab that, shift to one side, then lift, ever so easily, like this..." as he begins to lift into some pose that looks as though strings must be holding him up. Yeah, right.  But on Saturday, I decided to start my intention with, I am strong.  I decided I would try not to tell myself, Yeah, right.  A few amazing things happened: I wasn't as fatigued as normal by the time we got to back bends.  The back bends were really throwing me, because I used to do them easily and never thought of them as one of the more challenging yoga poses.  However, perhaps age, lack of practice and being an hour into an overly challenging yoga class was stealing my ability to prop myself up into that lousy back bend. For the past month, no matter how hard I tried, I could not will my arms the strength to prop me up. On Saturday, I took a moment...told myself, I am strong...and boop...up I went into the back bend pose, as if it was nothing. As if I had been doing it for years.  I was so excited that I nearly fell over. (Turns out, trying to do a fist pump while being in a back bend is not the wisest of ideas...)  Then there was one of the Wrap this, grab that, shift here, and lift...then if you're feeling good, you can extend the leg moves. I was feeling strong, so I did extend the leg and even though I couldn't smile for fear of losing my balance, it felt SO good.  At the end of the class, the instructor said We are so lucky.  I'm not sure if he meant it the way I took it, but I do, indeed feel so lucky.  I have full range of motion. I am strong.  My body allows me to dance and to try out new, crazy yoga poses.  Although there are many times I've stopped to be grateful for this simple thing, I have also taken it for granted many, many times.  By contrast, I work with my baby boy daily (and twice a week with the help of our therapists) to help him get strong enough to do the simple things.  He tires sometimes just seconds into trying something.  What comes as a no-brainer to me, my husband and our first born son, Elijah has to work hard for.  I would say that it seems so unfair, and perhaps it is, however, Elijah always manages to do all of the work followed immediately by an ear to ear grin.  As long as we are loving him and smiling at him and cheering him on, he is content to do the work (most days!).  So, today, I am cherishing that I am strong.  When I DO have to work hard for something, I will also smile (perhaps the fist pump won't always work, but I digress...) because it is worth it and it feels good to achieve something.  If everything was always easy, it wouldn't be easy to appreciate life the same way.  The struggles make our accomplishments that much sweeter.

Just after that yoga class on Saturday, I packed up my boys (littlest ones only) and drove up to Santa Barbara to see a good friend for the weekend.  She has rented the most charming, garden surrounded house in Montecito for the months of Jan, Feb and March to avoid some of the cold, gray Chicago winter.  It was great to get away from it all, catch up with an old friend and wake up snuggled in the same room as my boys, cherishing the way the sunlight settled into our room.  As strong in body as I have been feeling, I was feeling equally low in strength of mind reserves last week. I have spent so much of my life trying to be strong and independent- never wanting to have to fully rely on anyone else.  Last week, I had a couple of instances where I didn't feel like anyone "had my back".  (And when some kind friends did, I cried like a baby.) I feel like 95% of that is my own fault.  I always act as though I don't need anyone to "have my back", but then when I'm feeling vulnerable, the support may not be there.  Am I being cryptic?  I don't really want to get into details on my blog, but I simply brought this up to say that sometimes the answer is to "let it go", sometimes the answer is to stand up for someone who can't stand up for themselves, and sometimes the answer is just to silently sit by someones side so they know you "have their back".  I am also reminding myself that sometimes you just have to ASK for support, and that there is nothing wrong with that. And very lastly, that sometimes playing "Devil's Advocate" is just playing Devil.  I'm gathering up my reserves of strength of mind to be kinder to myself, to be more sensitive to others' needs, and then sometimes to just remind myself that, Today, I am strong.

Christian snuggling into a cozy chair in our sunlight touched room...

Elijah getting some attention..even sweet Ella, the dog, wanted to say hello...

A few views of our friend's Montecito retreat- the fact that she brought her puppy and cat (sadly, not pictured) with her, really made it seem like a home...