Sunday, January 29, 2012

Let them Eat Cake

Cake at a Birthday party is a right of passage. You don't think much about it.  When Christian turned one, my biggest decision was "Do I really want to give him a full-of-sugar piece of cake, or should I go with something healthier while I still can?" We opted for a homemade carrot cake cupcake as a first, and boy did he love it!

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On the other hand, when Elijah turned one, I chose with a semi-heavy heart, not to try for a "First Cake" experience.  Elijah just wasn't self feeding at that point and it seemed as though it would be an exercise in disappointment to try to make a big deal out of something he just wasn't ready for.  Since then, we have realized that Elijah's self-feeding issues are mostly a result of Tactile Defensiveness issues.  Basically, he doesn't like to touch certain things.  He especially doesn't like to touch wet or sticky or slimy textures.  Turns out, that if you've never had to consider it before, most food falls into a wet, sticky or slimy category.  So, Elijah has been resistant to most foods that he has to touch.  Luckily, he is a champion eater as long as he's being fed and doesn't have to touch anything himself.  For about the last 6 months, Elijah has been able to self feed with very dry items: at first, just baby puffs, but more recently the list of dry ingredients has expanded to include crackers, veggie chips, rice cakes and more.

This week we had a major breakthrough.  Probably due to my own hunger, I sat down for dinner with my boys and put a few pieces of a burger and fries on Elijah's tray.  I was too hungry to wait and thought that he could sit in front of it for awhile, try it, or else he'd get something fed to him as soon as I was done. I fed him a little piece of the burger and could tell immediately that he loved it.  I continued to eat my own meal.  I watched Elijah out of the corner of my eye as he studied his food.  His hands began opening and closing, fingers wiggling, and eyes wide, as if to say, I really want it....but I don't wanna touch it...but I do want it..  A minute or so passed, when all of a sudden Elijah picked up a piece of the burger, looked at it closely and then popped it into his mouth. It took every ounce of self-discipline I have not to jump up like a wild woman doing the Hallelujah dance.  I played it cool.  He picked up more food. Ate it. Looked up at me and when I gave him the choice of "All Done?" or "More?", he signed, "More".

He. ate. the. entire. meal. ALL. BY. HIMSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tonight, I thought a lot about what else I could try giving him.  I thought that beans might be a good try, since they can be soft, but aren't too wet and slimy if you dry them off.  I decided to make chili.  (I know...I know...how is chili not slimy??)  I spooned a serving of chili onto a plate to cool off and then patted the ingredients with a napkin so that they weren't too wet...however, it was CHILI, so I wasn't able to get all of the "wet" off.  I put some things down on Elijah's tray and then fed him a piece to prove to him that it was yummy.  He looked at for a few seconds, then reached down, grabbed a piece, and started eating.  As I replenished his tray, I got less and less careful about the pieces being dry and soon enough, Elijah was picking up and eating messy pieces of chili ingredients that had just come out of a wet and slimy pot.  That's when I broke out the camera....

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Just about a month ago, I was realizing that Elijah's second birthday isn't too far away (End of April), and I asked his Occupational Therapist, "Elijah is going to be able to eat cake by his second birthday, won't he?? He needs to be able to eat cake by his second birthday!" (Probably said with something of a whimper.) I think we've turned a corner...and I think cake is in it!!

Looks like we'll have some cake testing around here...good thing I'm going to the Los Angeles Cupcake Challenge next week.  I'll be able to bring back a few goodies...you know...just for "Practice".
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

I love you, so what else matters?

Frankly, I'm a little weepy today. It's been one of those weeks where I felt like I took hit after seemingly-not-that-big-of-a-deal hit. Debit card fraud. Babysitter with Strep throat. Replacement babysitters who had to pass the baton with my kids, where one had to pick up her own daughter by a certain time, while the other sprained her ankle and was running late- all was while I was working and could nothing about it. Client was frauded out of 10 Grand...and then lost another $500 to a completely unsympethetic corporate establishment. I had to tell the news to said client. Mama Drama. And more...Yup. Pretty much been a weepy mess today.

I saw some friends today for a much needed hike. Upon meeting them, I told one friend with tears in my eyes that it had just been a really tough week.  She asked me later, What was something good that happened this week? And I told her something good. Because it wasn't all bad.  Tonight, as I was putting my boys to bed, I had this revelation...They rely on me. They need me. Even more importantly, they WANT me. That is good.  As I tried to tiptoe out of their room after "extra hugs", Christian stammered to tell me one last thing.  "But Mom, wait Mom....I need to tell you something...Ummm...Mom....."  And I just stood there. Patiently waiting. Because I realized, even though he is "stalling", he wants me. So I just stood patiently and waited for him to tell me whatever nonsensical thing he could think up so he wouldn't officially have to go to sleep.  Usually these Stall Tactics drive me crazy, but tonight I just looked at my beautiful son and stayed put while he stammered out his excuse for needing to desperately tell me something. And I smiled. He wants me.  It won't always be like that.

Christian is at such a sweet age.  The things he knows now. The things he notices.  We walked by a trophy shop the other day and he says, "I've never had a trophy, Mom." Frankly, I didn't even know that he knew what a trophy was...  Today's conversation in the car was pretty awesome, but made me weep even more.  I'll insert here that I have really been missing my dog, Buddy, lately.  When Buddy was around and I had a hard week, I could just wrap my arms around him and weep to my hearts content.  Then, he'd look at me with that knowing look...that look that said, Well.....I love you, so what else matters? Today I found myself choked up about Buddy, because I used to always hike the trail I did this morning, with him.  Later this afternoon, as if Christian could read my mind, he said this:
C: Mom. Am I getting my doggie yet?
Me: ...You mean, are you getting a dog?
C: Yeah.
Me: Well, not yet, Sweetie.  We will get a dog someday, but not yet.
C: Is God making it right now?
Me: (Trying not to laugh/cry) Well.....God is making dogs and one day we will get one of them.
C: Aww....but it's taking a really, really long time!!!
It is an amazing age. It's conversations like that that make me want to run out and get a dog. Even though I don't feel ready, and even though we said we'd wait until Elijah is walking and even though...even though...
Even though... It would feel really good to bury my face into a dog's mass of fur and weep my eyes out, just so I can get that look.
I love you, so what else matters?

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Elijah is going through separation anxiety. It's specific to me leaving the house: He sees a babysitter, he starts to cry. He wants me. And yet, it makes leaving so, so hard.  One of our therapists is a say-what-she's-thinking, perhaps a-little-bit-cynical personality type. I told her that we were having a tough time with the separation anxiety and she said, "Well, he's finally seeing the object-permanence connection."  I sort of just nodded, but thought:  No.  He figured that out quite awhile ago, but now he sees the babysitter to Mom leaving connection.  Next, I shared that Elijah had his very first Speech therapy session last week.  I was so proud of him!  He did great!  He was very focused and engaged.  He watched the therapist's mouth with interest. He even mimicked her a few times throughout the session.  Plus, she used a lot of sign language.  It was the very first time I'd seen an example of someone using it within daily life.  For the very first time, I thought: I can do this.  I get it now! So, I shared the experience with this therapist.  When I told her how focused and engaged Elijah was, she said, "Oh yeah, probably because it's new.  A new environment." This time, I actually said, "No.  I really didn't get that it was because it was new.  He was really engaged and it was great."  I don't want my child to be underestimated.  As much as I LOVE our therapists (and I do!!!), they are not with Elijah like I am with Elijah.  They don't get to see him 90% of the time. It's easy to think that they see so much, and even though we are scheduled to have  therapy 7 times a week (!!!*) that is still only 7 hours out of week that has about 63 hours of awake time.
(*Between therapists schedules and ours, we have yet to make all 7 in one week so far.  But, Speech just started. So, we'll see...)

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The readers digest of it all is that I'm really overwhelmed. Things are busy and I'm responsible for a lot right now. My kids, my business, my clients, my dance students, my home, myself...I was having a little pity party moment, which I am giving myself complete freedom to have, but I saw the light tonight. My boys want me. And as much as I miss my dog, my boys give me that "look" all of the time: I love you, so what else matters? Yes, I can't escape my responsibilities right now.  Yes, I have a lot on my plate right now. Yes, I might need to weep a little and have my pity party from time to time.  My boys bring me back to what is important and keep me going. Sometimes it's these little souls that stop you mid-weep to remind you...

I love you. So, what else matters?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back to Business

Has it only been a week?  This has been one of those action packed weeks that left my head spinning a little- especially after coming off of the slower paced, holiday weeks where I found myself wondering what to do with myself.  The recap:
I put in 3 applications for charter schools for Christian as possibilities for Kindergarten in September.  The panic continues.
We were finally approved for Medi-Cal for Elijah- this is a huge sigh of relief, as even though he can be covered (Thank you Obama!! His plan is far from perfect, but we are one of the families that his initiatives are actually helping!), his rates can be increased up to 100% and increase every year after that. Sigh.  We got the official letter on Friday and I'm calling to make some appointments tomorrow!!
Elijah was cleared for Speech therapy and we start with in-clinic visits a week from Thursday (all of our other therapies are in our home and work around Elijah's schedule, but Speech is one of those areas in high demand and there were no therapists available for in home visits.)  We were lucky enough to find a center very close to our home and the therapist was the one who evaluated Elijah, so I'm thrilled because I was very impressed with her!!!
We got a new washer and dryer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me say again:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have been doing laundromat visits for about 6 months now (maybe longer???) and I couldn't be more thrilled about my opportunities to multi-task. Doing dishes while the laundry is going? Be still my heart.  I haven't talked a lot about this added strain, because there was no point.  I could complain about it, but I couldn't do anything to solve it other than to pack up the car full of laundry, take it to the laundromat and get it done.  The upside is that everything was done at one time, but I'm happily trading in the everything-is-done-at-once card for the get-it-all-done-at-home-without-having-to-lug-it to-and from-the car-card. I never thought I'd be so excited about doing laundry in my life.  Charles and I had a little bit of a power struggle tonight over who got to do the laundry.  Crazy, right?

My business partner and I even worked on our very first collection that we'll be making available for DIY party throwers very soon.  We designed the collection, took pictures, had a party to showcase it and now the work begins to get it listed and advertised.  We've got our work cut out for us, but I'm excited about the many opportunities that come with the new ideas.

Throw in a couple of playdates, a giant poop explosion and cleaning out half of my garage and you get one very full week.  Nothing deep or meaningful to say this week- just a lot of to do items checked off the list.  It's nice to start a new year feeling like you aren't burying your head in the sand, though.

One fun thing...and I'm not sure how I will document this...  I have resolved to Take More Pictures in 2012 and to learn more about my camera.  I really need a class.  And a good post editing program.  So, until then I'm learning with what I have.  There were just a few favorites this week that I thought I'd share and weekly, I'm committing to posting the photos I'm playing around with.   This week's are these:

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This series of Christian (as a surprisingly willing subject), were shot on my new telefoto lens. Stats: 400 ISO, 180mm, 1/200sec, f/5.0


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I just loved the way this shot came out of a sign my design business helped create for a Casino themed party. I liked that you can see the dealer inside leaning over the table...just one of those shots that makes me happy.. Stats: 6400 ISO, 30mm, f/4.5, 1/20sec

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The year of Settling

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I looked up the definition for "Settling" and confirmed that it probably best summed up my feelings about this year as a whole. Here are my favorites:
Settling- To restore calmness or comfort to.; To put into order; arrange or fix definitely as desired.; To put firmly into a desired position or place; establish.

Not to be confused with Settling for...which I have done in my past, but rarely becomes an issue for me now...

2011. It was a year of settling in. Settling in to the routine of a family of four.  Settling into my youngest's therapy schedule.  Settling into new goals and resolutions.  Settling into my roles, my body. Settling in to who I am.   I want to reflect on the year: What I learned this year, the highlights, old resolutions and the making of new resolutions.  Strap yourselves in folks, this could be a long one.

The beginning of 2011 was filled with lots of family and friends, and getting back to work on my event business:
Grandma came to visit in January:
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My Mom and Dad celebrated their 40th anniversay:
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Christian and Elijah work on their bond:
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I read more good books and enjoyed creative outings with my book club friends in the name of said good books...oh, what am I saying?  We just like to get out and have fun, even if it has nothing at all to do with the book...
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Self Lesson #1: I learned more than ever to Trust Your Instincts.  Whether someone says something that "doesn't fit" or you're feeling like a doctor has it all wrong- usually if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. I have questioned this about myself for so many years, but the reality is that my instinct hasn't steered me wrong, and when I listen...even when it's not what I want to hear, I avoid the big mistakes.

In February, we hung with friends in Santa Barbara. It was so much fun to just relax and cook and eat and catch up!:

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In March, I ticked a 2011 resolution off of my list, and went on a girls trip. Wine tasting, gambling, shopping- what could be better!  I picked the perfect roomie, went on my first wine tasting experience, and literally danced the night away (We won't talk about the knee injury I sustained as a result.  Just a short 6 months later, the knee was all better.  Good reminder to myself: Heels, uneven surfaces and Britney Spears moves do not mix.)

Self Lesson #2: Say I'm Sorry. And mean it. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes.  I make mistakes.  Those two little words can be some of the hardest to utter, especially when you're not sure how they will be received. However, think of how it feels when you're on the receiving end? Even if you're not ready to forgive and forget, it feels good. And when you don't get an "I'm sorry"? It's easy to feel invalidated, to feel like someone doesn't care, and that always feels bad. I am reminded to take responsibility for my actions and say I'm sorry when I've hurt someone or done something wrong.

In April, Elijah turned One! We threw him a Retro Superhero Party because he's our little superhero:
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He also got kissed by cows.  Maybe I'm just projecting more onto Elijah than there really is, but I think he has a gentleness that maybe animals can sense.  Whatever it was, it was kind of an awesome moment...moments (it was not just one interested cow...)
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In May my sweet Christian turned 4. We celebrated with a big bash- A Fancy, Pool, Costume Party (from one of Christian's favorite Mo Willems books):
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In June, I had to say goodbye to my long time friend, Keren.  Life is so fleetingly short.  Say I love you. Say how much you appreciate someone. Even though I hadn't seen Keren for awhile before her death, I know that she knew I loved her and vice versa.  It is a lot to say I knew that. (Keren is the dark haired beauty in this picture.):
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July saw beach trips and getaways to Palm Springs with friends:
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Self Lesson #3: Take Time For Yourself. This is mandatory- even if you have to be creative about how and when you take that time.  It is the reason that when you go on an airplane and they teach you that if the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, put on yours first and then help your children.  I find that it is truly THAT life saving.  Both for my sanity and for all of those around me.

In August, I turned 40. I had an amazing birthday party with the people I love and decided to grip 40 by the rails and go gracefully with it...of course a little hot pink dress never hurts anything:
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Christian started his second year of Preschool and a Boys Hip Hop class in September:
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Elijah started standing:
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I started a new business venture and took on a partner for my business.  My dear friend Karen and I are now on a mission together to make "La Soiree Chic" parties something special! :
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Halloween was a ton of fun! Christian was adamant about being a dragon for Halloween and thought Elijah should be a dragon too:
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In November, we raised money for and attended the Buddy Walk to benefit The Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles. Our team-"Elijah's Chariots" :
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Self Lesson #4: Find a Positive Outlook. I am, in general, a "glass-is-half-full" girl.  I've also found that sometimes you need to put on a smile on, even when you're not feeling it at first. However, I've also found over the past 2 years that when I'm just not feeling good or right or just downright negative, that it is best to lean on a friend's shoulder, cry my eyes out, or post a blog pity party- And then move on. Life isn't fair, and it isn't easy and it isn't predictable.  So, it's just going to be generally a better experience to try to see the positive in the journey.


December was all about Christmas, and all I can say is that the word that sums this year up was...Magical. Experiencing it all through Christian's eyes brought back all of the old childhood beliefs and re-enforced the importance of creating our own traditions to enjoy with our little family:
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I might never before been able to say that I was able to check all of my New Year's Resolutions off, but last year, I made these resolutions and this is how they worked out:

1. Continue to find a better balance between work and family. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.
*This is a work in progress, and will be even more so in this coming year as I work to expand my business. However, it has been something I have been taking seriously all year, and continue to have a pattern of succeeding and failing. :)

2. Get my pre-baby body back!!
*I worked harder than I ever have before, changed my diet and dropped back down to a size I'm happy with! It was really difficult and I feel good about the fact that I stuck to it and made it happen.

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3. Treat myself to a fabulous pair of heels...even if I have no place to wear them. Then, create a scenario where said pair of heels is worn!
*New fierce heels to wear at fabulous event (my 40th Bday):
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4. Girls Trip! I've been wanting to do some sort of a girls trip, and I think 2011 is the year to do it!
*Took TWO girls trips actually! (One was wine tasting & the other was a fabulous birthday present from my best friend to Carpinteria, where we got pedicures, ate and vegged out to movies :
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5. Listen to my instincts- particularly when I feel certain people or situations are too draining. Life is too short to waste the energy!
*This year confirmed how right on my instincts really are.  This might be one of those lessons that needs to occasionally be re-learned, but right now I feel more sure of my instincts than ever before!

I love the fresh page feeling of a New Year, and this year I'm aiming for some big resolutions.  My resolutions for 2012 are:

1. Live with less "stuff", by purging more, setting up better organization systems and sticking to them!  It's a challenge to live in a small space and becomes even more important to get rid of things as new ones come in.  My commitment in 2012 is to let go of at least 1 thing as something new comes in.
2. Make more money!! I know people who have no problem setting their worth, financially, but this has always been difficult for me. The reality is that I haven't been charging enough in my business for the amount of work and effort I put in.  I am worth more. My family deserves more.  And if I am going to do this crazy balance of working from home and parenting, then it should be paying our bills. We struggle a lot and I am ready for that to change this year.
3. Face the tasks that I usually run from.  These include overdue bills, getting our health insurances settled, dealing with car maintainance, and other black clouds that hang over my head.  They will never be easy, but running from them just means that I carry them as a weight on my shoulders.  Get rid of the black clouds in 2012!!
4. Stop taking things personally.  I spend WAY too much time second guessing people's comments.  Was that about me?  Are they trying to tell me something?  Am I guilty of doing that?  I have always tried to live my life by "keeping my side of the street clean" so that I feel good when I put my head on my pillow at night.  I might not always get it right, but it comes down to intention. Were my intentions pure in my actions?  If not, that's on me. If they were, but someone feels differently, then they are going to have to say it, outright.  No more second guessing myself and taking things personally. Period. I waste too much time on that.
5. Take more pictures.  It turns out that the love of photography does run in my family. My Dad has been a hobby photographer for most of my life.  I really love it too and I'd like to be able to get the kind of photos with my camera that I imagine in my brain.  No professional aspirations- just would love to know more about my camera and how to take beautiful pictures of my family and events!

2010 was a year of incredible change and growth and I had hopes for 2011 to be a little bit less of a stretch, and it was.  Although, I still learned some powerful lessons, this was a year of settling in to what is. I'm embracing the many wonderful memories from the year, but looking forward with anticipation to the newness and challenges that lay ahead in 2012- some of which may involve kindergarten, business expansion, new milestones for Elijah and I'm sure many unforeseen to come.  I'm ready to move from Settling to Stretching my wings a little more...

What goals and resolutions have you made for yourself in 2012?  I like the idea that most yoga classes begin with: Setting an Intention.
What's your Intention for 2012?
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