Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finding the "Me" in "Me and My Boys"

I've been re-prioritizing. I took that list of resolutions I had loftily set for myself this year and I crumpled it up and had a serious talk with myself: What is the reality, and what is the goal? Because amidst those goals- even the fully re-prioritized ones, there is LIFE. I don't even just mean the day to day "stuff"...although that is plenty in, and of, itself. I mean the LIFE that throws the curve balls. It could be the $2000 furnace that dies on the coldest day of the year or a car accident that stops you in your tracks and reminds you to say 'I love you' every. single. moment you can. I'm deep into what I need to be focusing on and riding the wave of LIFE all at the same time.

When I was 23, I was all about self reflection. I wanted to be a better person. I needed to be a better person. And I was hell bent on finding out who I am? and going from there. I can honestly say that I'm grateful and glad that those were my early years...because there sure isn't time to do that stuff as a Mom of two, with a business and a job and a kid (and sometimes even kidS) that need somewhere between a little and a lot of extra help.However, I'm back in a season of seeing myself and what I'm willing to live with and what I wouldn't be able to stand letting "be".

I'm a strong personality. I have "opinions" about almost everything, and even some that I've caught myself weighing in on, which I really have no knowledge or business weighing in on...I've become aware of it and have realized that I'm not okay with that status quo. So, I'm trying to take that breath, wait that moment, or not share "how I feel about it" each and every time. I'm a work in progress. It's humbling.

There is "stuff" going on right now, and I've put off writing a lot this last month because it was going to be the Mother-of-all-posts otherwise, and frankly, that goes against my instinct to talk less and listen more. So for now, I'm leaving it short and sweet: I want to be more than I am, for me- for my family- for my friends, but it's not an overnight process. In between my "me work", there is LIFE. Basically, I'm struggling with accepting my shortcomings and then defying them all at the same time.

I can't end this post without just a quick Halloween photo. My firstborn is and always has been the brain behind any family costume idea we have. This year, he wanted to be a Police Officer. This surprised me, but then I got the real scoop: "A Police Officer has a walkie talkie!" (Cue the relief that he didn't say "gun") When I asked what his younger brother should be, he replied without a beat. "Elijah should be the bad guy." So, here it is.

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I went as an FBI agent, which now seems especially appropriate. More life investigating to do.
To be continued...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rest and Reflection

I wrote a lot in August. There was a lot going on and I needed my space to vent it all out. Life has moved on, as it does and some of those past situations have had resolutions, and some are just... marinating. Quick update: My last post (Dear Teacher) felt necessary to write. We'd had a nightmare of a time at the first preschool that Elijah was placed in, and I was armed for Mama Bear protection at the new school. Let's just say that Elijah's teacher did not appreciate my letter as much as many of you did. She asked to have a word with me and started with, "Just so you know, I stress out easily." I said, "Oh....I'm sorry to hear that." (Wasn't really sure what to say to that one, but was actually kind of appreciative that she mentioned it. Good info to know.) The she said, "I need to ask you not to undermine my knowledge." (?) She continued, "I read your letter." I said, "Oh! Absolutely. I'm sorry that it seemed like that is what I was doing, because it certainly wasn't my intention. I assume you are in your position for a reason." She seemed to visibly relax and we moved on to new topics.  I thought long and hard about what she could mean by her statement. I suspect that my short sentence about what Down syndrome is could be taken as condescending. After all, she is a preschool teacher for a special needs class. She's been well educated in Down syndrome, right? Well...that's where I see a gray area. What a special ed teacher sees as ample education in a specific area seems downright lacking to a parent who lives it every single day of their life. Has large communities of people and friends who live it every single day of their lives. Then add a dash of super-ignorant comments by people in fields that are "supposed" to be knowledgeable about Down syndrome and it equals one cynical Momma, who feels it's necessary for a quick re-explanation. Just in case.

The teacher seems to have come around, and I have relaxed a little. Elijah is loving school! A friend of mine who is a teacher AND has a daughter with Down syndrome said (after I told her the teacher's response to my letter), "She'll never tell you, but I guarantee you taught her something." I do hope that is true, as my intentions were definitely not to attack her, but to have her understand my son a lot better. Charles and I laughed about the situation a little later, because I KNOW that I am intimidating. I don't try to be, but I have a strong personality that can be as much an asset as it is a defect. I can giggle about it because I know I'm a work in progress.

Christian is settling well into First Grade. The first week he lost his lunchbox every. single. day. of. the. week. However, come week 2 he was into the swing of things and hasn't lost it since. I hope I'm not "jinxing" myself by putting that out there!! His last words on the subject of first grade were, "I'm doing like WOW in first grade, Mom!!" It seems we don't have to worry about his self confidence much.

Recently, a close friend of mine called to tell me they are expecting a baby girl who has been diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome. I wrote about it here. I found myself on a rollercoaster of emotions in the few days following my talk with her. We were texting back and forth and she was going through the natural process of dealing with that kind of diagnosis- wondering if they should consider adoption, etc. My stomach was in a pit because I know that there are joys to come for my friends if they just settle into what is, but I also knew I had to let her get there on her own. I thought at first that if I could tell her everything I wish I would have heard, that she would be able to instantly turn it around and see it for the blessing in disguise that it is. But, I also know from personal experience that it just doesn't work that way. She and her husband ARE coming around, but they need the time to do that. It's a process. One of last messages I got from her was a Birthday greeting, "Happy Birthday from a Momma who is starting to feel excited again." Best Birthday present this year. Hands down.

On the subject of Birthdays, I did have yet another one this year. I am now officially Forty two. The number 42 gained some popularity as the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything" from the Comic Science Fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. My brother told me that "42" was the answer to that ultimate question in the first novel. So, I Wikipedia'd it. (Wikipedia'd- Jen Slang; verb; To check what Wikipedia says about the topic when accuracy isn't all that important and you just need the gist of it.) Wikipedia told me that, in fact, the author just made up the number at random, because he needed an ordinary, mundane number. Yes, 42 doesn't have the shiny, new-decade appeal that 40 did, or the youth and freshness that 22 did (Plus, 22 is my favorite random number. I often say things like, "I told him about 22 times!" Which is totally ridiculous. I would never, nor could ever say something 22 times...at least not in a row. That would drive me crazy before I got there. But, I digress...)

My birthday celebration this year was indeed just a little ordinary and mundane: a combination of feeling taxed out as Mother with little time to myself, a little birthday dinner ruined by a grumpy old man at a neighboring table, and a dash of family drama. I left the scene with the understanding that my kudos this year were going to be in the form of inner peace due to an additional year on the planet. I've learned more. Pushed myself harder. Plus, I have a new year to look forward to, and I plan to make 42 the year of my own, personal answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. Bring it on.

Then, there was THIS:

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We got away as a weekend together with my parents and about 200 other people. It was a weekend called "Our Own Family Camp" put together by and for Families who have a child with Down syndrome. The lodgings were cozy (cabins with electricity!), meals were served (3, full square meals a day!) and there were a ton of activities to choose from. I unplugged for the weekend and just breathed in the fresher, cooler air.

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We canoed...

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Managed mischief...

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Enjoyed bunk beds (Well... Christian enjoyed bunk beds, the rest of us had a hard time remembering what the appeal was...)

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Took in the views and cherished the wide, open spaces...

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Tried our hand at something new... (Not Charles. He enjoyed being "Not New" at this particular skill. :)

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Smiled from ear to ear watching our youngest take interest in just about everything camp had to offer...

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Had moments of solitude...

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And joy...

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And learned to kick everyone's butts at Foosball. Actually, just Christian. I am perfectly comfortable with being unable to kick anyone's butt at Foosball. Now, Scrabble on the other hand? At that, I am not shabby. My favorite memory from camp might have been those quiet nights after the boys were asleep. My parents and I sat out on our patio with a smuggled-in bottle of wine (Yes. We totally got caught. I ALWAYS do. This is why I usually don't do "bad" things...) and played Scrabble. As Charles likes to say, 'I have an uncanny knack for managing 56 point words out of 4 letters.' Listen- it's all about the points and less about the fancy words, babe.

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We completed the camp experience with traditional campfires, skits and smores. I participated in an audience participation skit, to rave reviews from my 6 year old. Apparently, Mom getting up and making a fool of herself goes over BIG with these kids...

It was rest with some reflection and exactly the kind of family get-away we needed. We came back and I finally had the feeling that I'd been chasing for the last few weeks: the feeling of being re-energized and ready to go for the new school year. Plus we haven't had any lost lunch boxes since our trip, so it looks like I wasn't the only one who needed a getaway to rest and reflect...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dear Teacher

Elijah started preschool today. We had a truly nightmare experience at the first school he was placed at, where I found myself constantly wondering if there was a hidden camera and I was being "Punked" somehow. So, Mama Bear roared to life and I got my baby bear a new school, with a better suited program. The school itself is a stark contrast to the school he was originally placed at. Here, the office staff is lovely, the Assistant Principal invited me into his office to discuss what would be best for Elijah, and the therapists who will be providing his services, actually called me to tell me when they will be seeing him!

However, today didn't feel great. The teacher that I met on the tour last year is gone, and along with her, the program I thought was so well suited for Elijah. The teacher who has taken her place is young and green, but full of energy and creativity. I'm not totally ready to write her off, but I am very disappointed in two things: 1) I don't agree with the program. It doesn't feel developmentally appropriate to me, and there is no time in the classroom to be working on his Imaginative play skills, which is something he is lacking and I know would improve with peer modeling. 2) She is already underestimating my child. Sigh.

I received a packet of information and most of it is about trying to get to know my child better. At the bottom of one of the sheets, it says, "Please tell me, in one million words or less, if there is anything else I should know about your child. Feel free to brag! Use the back (of this page) if you need to." So, I thought I'd take her up on it.

In well less than one million words, here's my version of "Dear Teacher":

My child is frequently under-estimated. Elijah doesn't yet have words to communicate what he knows, and because of this many people assume he does not understand. That is inaccurate- he knows much more than he lets onto at first. Today, after school, you asked if we had considered placing him in the Preschool Intense class environment (for moderate to severely disabled children). This shows me that already-on his very first day of school- you have underestimated his abilities.

My son, Elijah, has Down syndrome. I don't expect you to be an expert on every special need that exists in your classroom, but because of my son's diagnosis, I have become an expert on him. Let me tell you a little about what this means: Down syndrome is a mild to moderate cognitive delay brought on by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome in each of Elijah's cells. The extra genetic material causes a few other things that add challenges to his abilities- things like delayed speech and gross motor skills. Despite the extra challenges that Elijah faces, he is motivated to learn and explore, and he slowly, but surely, is conquering each of these hurdles. He needs some modifications for learning, but mostly, he just needs people who believe in him.

Elijah has a great sense of humor, seems intuitive to others' feelings, is affectionate, bright, and adores his older brother. He has an almost Superpower ability to make people fall madly in love with him. He also learns things a little more slowly, but this pace makes our family slow down and take a deep breath more often than we would have before. He's taught me not to ever take for granted what comes easily to me, and shown me that persistence and perseverance done with a smile, conquers almost all. I sometimes wonder if he will teach me more than I'll ever have the chance to teach him.

I look forward to partnering with you in Elijah's education. I realize that I can come across pretty tough at times, but I just want my son to be seen and accepted for who he is and not seen for just his diagnosis. I want him to have opportunities equal to other children his age, and I want him to learn the skills he needs to accomplish his future dreams. I want what every parent wants.

For now, I am his voice.


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Sunday, August 25, 2013

First Grade

First Grade. It sounds so...Big. Christian started first grade last Monday and so far, so good (Unlike last year when "Day Four" happened.) Here are some of Christian's statements from the first week of first grade:

Monday: The day is longer and there is no free choice. :( (Independent play in the classroom.) I got a stamp for good behavior! I lost my lunch box.

Tuesday: We had art today and we worked on drawing our faces. I'm not finished with mine yet. I got a stamp for good behavior! Mom, I'm so, so sorry, but I lost my lunch box.

Wednesday: We got to go to the library today and check out a book!!!! I got a Lego Star Wars book!! I got a stamp for good behavior and you are going to be so happy- I remembered my lunch box today! (Me: Where's your water bottle? Him: Oh.)

Thursday: Guess what?! We got to do some Free Choice today and I got another stamp! I lost my lunch box. Again. I'm really so sorry.

Friday: I lost my backpack. It's just GONE! (It wasn't gone.)

Sooooo....short of the fact that I'm going to have to staple his lunch box to his body next week, I think things went pretty well. And the good news is that when you lose your lunch box on the very first day of school, there is NOTHING ELSE at the Lost and Found. Nothing. Except your son's lunch box, placed lovingly in front the empty coat rack. With his name on the front. Yes, everyone: Only this Christian kid with the Flames Lunch Box has needed to use the Lost and Found this week.

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My handsome First Grader, who gets bigger everyday, but still wants his pet "Leo" in the picture.

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Christian and one of his friends from school- they were so happy to see each other, even though they aren't in the same class this year.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I Love You The Purplest

Well, NOW I can't sleep. I'm filled with a mixture of emotions, but strangely...excitement (?!?) is one of them. That doesn't sound crazy just yet because I haven't told you why.

Tonight, I got a private message from a friend I haven't seen in awhile asking if I could talk. My instinct flashers started going off. I think I know what she might say. Then it came, This might sound weird, but do you have a child with Down syndrome? Chills. Then the real news, We just found out our baby has Down syndrome. I insisted on talking on the phone. I wanted, no needed, her to hear my voice on this one. And I couldn't wait to say it:

It is going to be okay. I promise.

My friend and her husband are in the midst of the heartbreak of the loss of expectations. I know this heartbreak well, because I lived through it too. The lack of understanding of what it all really means- for the baby? For a sibling? For us as a couple? For us individually? It is completely overwhelming. No parent ever wants their child to have to face greater challenges. But, this is what I told my friend: Nothing in this world has taught me more or brought me more joy than having my whole world turned upside down by having Elijah. I'm not saying I love him more than Christian- because I don't. What I understand, and every Mother of more than one child understands, is that you love each child a little differently. Christian keeps me on my toes- I have to be super consistent with him or he will take advantage. He's strong willed, smart, creative, independent and active. Elijah keeps life in perspective for me- things don't come easily for him, but he manages to handle it with grace- sometimes with a smile and sometimes with a complete melt down. He's funny, intuitive to others' feelings, affectionate, bright, and has the superpower gift of making everyone around him fall in love with him.

I love each of my boys differently, yet equally. It reminds me of a beautiful children's book that a friend gave me. In the book, one boy asks his Mom if she loves him best? And she responds that she loves him like the crackle of a blazing fire, like a horse dashing through the tall grass, like a sunrise just breaking the horizon--Like the color red. To her other son, she says that she loves him like the calm of the low tide ocean, like a song as it softens before a swell, like the sunset as it fades from the sky--Like the color blue.
The author never says it, except for in the title, but the beauty is in the color that is made from her loving them both. The mixing of the red and the blue. The purple. I Love You the Purplest.

I know my friend is grieving a loss- because she is not getting the baby she expected, but I'm strangely feeling a little excited for them. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to put it into words perfectly, but to say that it's not the sum of the things that Doctors say it is, and it's not the sum of things Google says it is, it's the unexpected...and along with that comes a whole new world. Sure, there are times where I'd like to chuck "this whole new world" out the F'ing window. But, most of the time, I'm blessed by the people who came into my life as a result of having Elijah. I'm grateful for the times where I'm required to slow down, because he just doesn't go that fast...where in slowing down, I also smell the flowers and notice the birds and take an extra deep breath.

I talked to my friend on the phone for a long time, and I hope I gave her some comfort. I hope I gave her a sense of balance- because the medical profession, and the text books and the internet searches don't give the balance of the whole picture. To those of us who live this everyday, we know that the whole picture is still a Family- with ups and downs and wins and losses. It's not what the ignorant or uneducated ones think and it's not what the intellects and highly educated ones think. It's just different. Like purple.

At some point, there was just red, blue and yellow. But then someone found that when they mixed the colors together, they got something different- yet equally beautiful. Maybe that's why I'm excited for my friend. Because she's getting something equally beautiful, just different.

Different doesn't mean better or worse. It means unlike what you had before. So, to my sweet, but scared friend, I want to say again: Try not to worry too much. It is going to be okay. I promise.

You will love her the purplest.






Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Whoosh

I have a kid with Down syndrome. So what? Everyone who is in my life knows that by now, and by being around us they know what that really means. Which, frankly, isn't a whole lot. It means he's doing things more slowly, can't communicate as well as other kids his age, yada yada. This post isn't about that.

When I'm in adult social situations, around people I've never met before, having a kid with Down syndrome becomes more complicated. It's complicated because most people know nothing about Down syndrome and what they think they know is usually extremely outdated or just plain, wrong. So, I usually don't mention my youngest son's diagnosis when I'm out and about in these new people situations. Let me be clear, I am NOT embarrassed about it. I just can't stand the feeling of all of the air being sucked out of the room with a giant "Whoosh" when it does get mentioned. Then, I have to quickly assure them that I wasn't given a prison sentence with my child and that there are many things about it that are positive (being faced with my own ego, taking life a little slower, celebrating the milestones more, gaining perspective, etc.) But, it's really annoying to have to do this and most of the time I just want to have a cocktail and enjoy the adult conversation.

I was recently out with a group of Moms for a Girls Night Out at a restaurant. These Moms and I all have one thing in common: We all have a child with Down syndrome. The waiter was coming back and forth bringing us things and engaging in flirty, clever quips with us. Once we all arrived, he asked if we were celebrating something special. A few responded that No, we were just out to get away from the kids. Then one friend says, "Well, actually"... and I tensed up. Here it comes. "We all have a child with Down syndrome!" Whoosh!! And there goes the air. He covered well, but he didn't respond with the same jovial nature he had responded on all previous exchanges.

There are times when I'm out in a new social situation where the conversation is long enough, relevant enough or deep enough that it warrants me sharing a little more about my life. But, I always hate that first moment- the moment before they realize that it's all good. I was at a friend's birthday party, and was having a fun and fascinating conversation, wine glass in hand, with a group of people- a mix of a couple friends and a couple of people new to me. The conversation turned to kids and parenting. The way the conversation was going, I was either going to have to change the subject or mention my son's diagnosis, so I said something along the lines of, "My youngest son is 3 and just started walking. He has Down syndrome, so it has taken him a little longer to "get there". The guy I was talking to, immediately lost his smile and shifted to his serious face. One of my friends quickly saved the moment by saying, "Jen has a great blog where she writes about her experiences with her kids." Up walks a woman I don't know, who hears the tail end of this statement, and she practically shouts, "You're a MOMMY BLOGGER??!!"
Me: Umm...yeah, I guess so.
Her: I LOVE MOMMY BLOGS!!
My friend: (introducing us) So-and-so this is Jen
Her: OMG!! You're Jen?? Of "Jen's List"????!!!!
Me. No!! Oh God NO. I mean...I've gotta hand it to Jen of Jen's list, but that is definitely not me. No, I just write about....my kids.
I decide that there is no way I'm bringing up the meat of what I write about in my blog. Based on how loud and how enthusiastic she was, I didn't see THAT conversation going in any direction that would have been good for me.

Sometimes I wonder if I like the mystery. Like I've got a good "secret" to share- something that's just a little bit different from everyone else. Almost everyone has a story. And like every good story, it takes time to unfold. I have friends who tragically lost their spouses, friends whose parents were taken from them at a young age, and even recently learned that a friend ended up in a cult called the Folkolare because she didn't have enough extra curricular activities. These are things you just don't blurt out upon first meeting someone. Because if you do, you will be met with the Whoosh of air leaving the room. And those of us who have "stories"? We don't really want to have to do damage control over the perception of our lives.

So, what should you start off with in a conversation with someone new? I think I'll try opening with this one, "One time, I accidentally asked a woman if she was drag queen."

Now, "the Whoosh" that accompanies that is a fun one to explain away...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Yeah. Yeah.

I procrastinate when I get overwhelmed. The school year is beginning to loom large in front of me and it's time to face it head on. I finally, finally (after many weeks of procrastination) filed all of the necessary paperwork to begin Due Process with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). I'm filing to get a one on one aide for Elijah. My main reasoning for needing an aide was that he wasn't walking yet. Well, homeboy is well on his way to making me look like a big, fat liar. Unfortunately (for LAUSD), he still is going to need an aide- at least for this school year. Elijah is getting stronger and more motivated to walk each day, and yet it's a new skill. He still sits after about every 10-20 feet- just for a second or two and then gets back up and carries on. But, he's going to need that extra support. Not to mention needing someone to keep an eye on the hair pulling behavior he has. However, thanks to my awesomeness rather unusual discipline methods, I'm beginning to think he is understanding that hair pulling is NO BUENO!! He hasn't pulled anyone's hair recently, including his favorite victim- Christian. Don't get me wrong, he still gets the "look in his eyes" when I can tell he might go for the pull. So, I verbally give a warning, "Gentle, Elijah!" I think he gets it. Tonight, Christian was reading Elijah and I a book before bed and Elijah started getting "the look". I said, "You need to be gentle, Elijah." And he looked at me, reached up, took a little bit of his hair and did a little tug-tug. Ummm...yep. The boy gets it. I'm not holding my breath yet, but it would be AMAZING if I didn't have to worry that he'd be making all the girls cry at preschool.

Elijah is also starting to show me that there is a LOT he understands. While Christian was reading tonight, he would describe certain pictures from the pages to Elijah. Christian would say, Look, Elijah! See how the cat spilled the milk? It went Smack! Splat! Elijah looked Christian right in the face, intently and nodded his head and said slowly, "Yeah. Yeah." They did this together a few times- Christian pointing out certain pictures and Elijah agreeing with a "Yeah. Yeah." It seemed so clear and smart- as if he totally gets us and everything we say and do, but he's stuck with just a few almost-words and some signing to communicate his understanding.

I taught Elijah the sign (language) for "Apple" a few weeks ago and it was one he picked up and began using regularly, as if Oh Thank you! I've been DYING to ask for an apple and just didn't know how to tell you! He uses it- a LOT. He uses it so much that I began to get suspicious if he actually knew what it meant. Yes, he would sign for apple while eating meals and when I would bring him an apple or applesauce, he would smile and get excited. But, he said it so often that I was suspicious- I just didn't know if he really liked apples THAT much. Tonight, in the middle of cooking dinner, I realized I was missing a main ingredient and had to walk with the boys down to the corner market to grab what we needed. While there, Christian asked if I could buy some apples too (and Cheetos and popsicles and one of those airplane spinner candy holders.) I granted his apple request and when we got to the register, I put the apples on the belt. I leaned down to get the next item out of the cart and Elijah signed "Apple".

Yeah.

Yeah.

Maybe I shouldn't sound amazed. I know my kid and I know he's brighter than most people will likely give him credit for, but sometimes he's even brighter than I give him credit for. Elijah has a handful of word approximations now (words that start with the sound or are close to sounding like the actual word), but only one real, clear word: "Yeah". He's been saying it for over a year now. He's never used it when he clearly means no. He answers appropriately every time. And yet, he answers Yeah to so many things that I couldn't imagine that he understands them all. But...maybe he does. He amazes me. He really does. He's just plugging along in this life, doing his thing. It's at a slower rate than most everyone else, but he really seems to be doing it all anyway: Answering questions (as long as it's Yeah or No), following directions, trying to dress himself, feed himself, take out and put away his own toys. He sees cool things his brother or other kids do and he wants to try them. He's just my teeny, tiny little trooper, under dog and I couldn't be more impressed with him if I tried.

This picture is one I stare at over and over. We were having a moment together and he got up from sitting next to me, grabbed his shoes, pulled himself up onto a chair and attempted to put his shoes on. (He doesn't have the fine motor skills to get the shoes on yet, but he wants to be able to do it!) I grabbed my phone and snapped. I'll admit that I sometimes look at this picture when he's sleeping and make little pinchy fingers at the picture like I'm smooshing his cute, little face.

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My boys are in a phase where they are astounding me at every turn- from my firstborn using big, actual vocabulary-worthy words in a sentence to my little one nodding his head in agreement. Yeah. Yeah. I want to freeze time for just a moment and breathe this in. (Deep breath.)

Yeah.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Vacation Therapy

We took an actual vacation.We traveled across the country with 2 sleepy boys at 4:00 in the morning and landed in Philadelphia around 2:30pm EST. We hopped into our rented Prius and took off for the shore, where Charles' family had rented a beach house in the quaint shore town of Sea Isle City. And this was the view from our backyard:

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Collective sigh of contentment.

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The boys easily adapted to their new surroundings and even the time change. We sat out on the back porch drinking in the amazing view, took neighborhood walks in the wagon, Christian tried his hand at fishing with his cousin Kyle, we kayaked amongst the mud flats and tall grasses, bird watched as giant herons landed 50 feet from where we were sitting, but mostly we just enjoyed each other. It was a much, much needed break from our everyday life!

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Elijah has had zero therapy in over 3 months. Nothing. No physical, occupational or speech therapy. The school district SUCKS, and it is because of them that he hasn't been getting the services he really needs. And yet...therapy input does not always equal output. It's not solely because he has therapy that he performs a new task. Some of it is sheerly developmental, and some of it is opportunity. Elijah has made huge strides in the last 3 months. Even without the therapy. I've become his PT, OT, ST and all other forms of therapist. But, it's not because I've done such a great job. I just think he was ready. So, on our trip he started mastering a few new things.

Talk about opportunity. We didn't have a sippy cup that had a straw with it, which is really the only kind of drinking he has mastered. He doesn't seem to quite get that you have to tip a typical sippy cup up to get the water out. Maybe it's too tiring for him? I don't know. However, without our go-to drinking cup, we had to improvise. The beach house happened to have a small child's cup. So, I filled it with water and thought, Why not? Let's give it a try again. He did it! It wasn't perfect and it was a little messy, but he actually managed it. All by himself. I don't think I'd leave him unattended with milk in an open cup, but it's a step in the right direction. Did I mention how proud of himself he was?

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The boys loved their time with Grandma. Christian was open and affectionate with her and was a fan of everything "Grandma's". Elijah quickly warmed to her too, and was happy to curl up on her lap at the beach with a few snacks taking a break from his long walks on the beach (!!)

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We arrived at the beach not long after high tide, so the sand was nicely packed and not difficult to walk on. Elijah took it upon himself to walk along the beach, greeting sunbathers with enthusiastic waves of his arm and blowing kisses like he was some sort of celebrity. He quickly amassed the "Elijah Fan Club" with that action. I tried to get video, but was too busy chasing him myself to get anything quality.

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Charles built a sandcastle on the beach with Christian and his cousin Kyle. And for anyone who has been at the beach with Charles, they know he doesn't mess around. He comes with a full size shovel and seeks to create model-scale worthy sand castle construction. I took these photos prematurely, as ultimately the castle ended up with a 2 foot long underground tunnel, a master wing with porch, the obligatory moat, and tiny trees coating the landscape...

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We said goodbye to our lovely Sea Isle home after a few days and headed back to the small town in New Jersey where Charles grew up. We arrived late that night and trying to put Elijah down in an unknown crib in an unfamiliar house did not go well. I have seldom seen him so upset. He calmed immediately when I laid down next to him on the outside of the crib. His sweet face relaxed and smiled around the pacifier still clutched in his mouth. But, the second I got up to go, crying resumed. I said goodnight anyway and walked out to see if he could calm himself. Christian was sharing the room with him, and I could hear him saying, "Elijah it's okay. It's okay, Elijah!!" He said it a couple of times and then miraculously, the crying stopped. Elijah is not the only one making huge developmental strides lately. Christian is too. I found myself welling with tears of pride for the compassionate and helpful kid he's becoming. He's beginning to take care of and play with his brother, not because I ask him to, but because he wants to.

The following day we met up with our friends Ken and Susan for a little playtime in Franklin Square Park in Philly. Christian played miniature golf with Charles and Ken, while Susan and I watched Elijah navigate the playground. Elijah has one major behavioral issue: He's a hair puller. He's fast and he pulls hard, so I have to stay within arms reach at all times when he's around other kids. (He used to pull adults' hair too, but we finally broke him of that.)

I've got a new "Stop the Hair-Pulling Technique" going that seems to be working, but it wasn't without a cringe-worthy moment: I had been quickly stopping him and saying (and signing) "NO, Elijah! That HURTS her!" I am careful to make my facial expression very serious. He understands, makes a sad face and wants to hug me, but then the hair pulling will happen again within seconds. I decided I might have to try something new. So, one day not long before we left on this vacation, I was at a play area with a friend and her kids. Elijah reached out to grab my friend's daughter's hair and I grabbed Elijah's hand to pull it away. At the same time, I grabbed a little bit of his hair and pulled while I said NO! Elijah immediately let go and looked at me, shocked. I didn't know how I felt about this, but it was the biggest reaction I have ever gotten out of Elijah and the only thing that has made him willingly let go of the hair. (I've always had to pry his iron grip off the kids hair, apologizing profusely to the innocent child.) So, I thought I might be onto something. Maybe sometimes a simplistic approach is necessary. So, I continue watching him play. Sure enough, I see a little girl get right up into Elijah's space (which might be the trigger for him?), he reaches out, begins to grab and I swoop in and grab his hair. He immediately lets go, before he even got a good pull in and begins crying like a banshee. I look down and in my hand is a CLUMP of his hair. Like a lock of hair. Except more than that. My heart drops to my toes. My brain clicks through all of the reasons a clump would be in my hand...I didn't pull that hard, did I??? Maybe he has some sort of unknown hair disease, where it comes out too easily?? I look around to see if this moment has been fully documented by the other parents who are probably currently writing a blog post about the mean Mom of a child with Special Needs who pulled her kid's hair out at a play area. Great.

After Elijah calmed down (but I didn't), he went back to playing. We didn't have another hair pulling incident again that day.  I told my Mom the story, who assured me that young children's hair comes out very easily and it probably wasn't that I pulled too hard. I decided I needed to try the approach again, but just be very, very, very, very careful. Since then, I have used a very light little tug as a reminder, while I say, Don't pull Elijah. Be gentle! It actually seems to be working. I don't think this is a recommended technique by many, or probably ANY child professionals. But, I'm also feeling the pressure as the school year is approaching. At some point (after we finish battling the school district so that my child can be safe), he is going to be in a preschool classroom, sitting next to other kids. It will not be good or appropriate for him to pull their hair. So, I'm trying this "technique" out. It's risky because there will be people who take serious issue with it, I'm sure. Perhaps they would feel differently if it was their sweet, innocent child who was at the mercy of my child's iron grip of their hair? If this doesn't work, my Mom has had a ton of success using a water bottle to squirt her dogs' unwanted behavior. Perhaps that is next? Ha ha...just kidding...maybe.

Cut back to Franklin Square Park. We got through an entire park play without a single hair grabbing incident. This is HUGE. Do I dare see the light at the end of the tunnel with this unwanted behavior?? Instead, we watched Elijah walk and bounce and swing and enjoy.

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We finished the park trip up with a carousel ride and then headed to the loud and busy Redding Terminal for a bite to eat. We love that place and luckily so did my boys. Elijah was too hungry to be happy at first, but once we got him some lunch, he was in great spirits. Christian exclaimed (like he did every. single. day. of this trip) "This is the best day ever!"

Our trip concluded with what we affectionately call "the porch hang" at Charles' Mom's house. We sat out on the porch during a flash flood storm, with thunder and lightning, and even lightening bugs. To this California girl, it was heaven!!We had to pack up the following day and mentally prepare ourselves for the LONG trip home, but before we left, Elijah decided to show off the improvement he's made in his walking skill. He walked the entire block without help! He would sit for a second or two every 20 feet or so, but then he'd stand right back up and walk some more. Who needs therapy?!

We set off for our challenging trip home: rental car drop off, shuttle to terminal, THREE airplanes, 2 layovers, red-eye craziness, no dinner, baggage claim, shuttle to the airport parking lot, then the ride home. The boys were troopers, but it was a day I could have easily done without. 12 hours of travel for something that should have taken 6. It's just what we chose to endure to squeeze every last minute we could out of our trip with family. And while we waited on our layovers, Elijah walked among the travelers, waving, blowing kisses and winning hearts. At least there was that.

Not every minute of our trip was perfect, but it was a wonderful mix of relaxation, exciting milestones, laughs with family,  and new opportunities for all of us. Maybe Vacation Therapy is all anyone needs every once in awhile...


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Monday, July 15, 2013

Cry. Then move on...

Yesterday, Charles and I took the boys to a concert in the park. We had visions of leisurely listening while enjoying our picnic-packed dinner. However, like some days, "leisurely listening" just wasn't in the cards for our boys. Christian insisted on playing at the nearby playground and Elijah was pissed that he was being confined to laps or his stroller, so I walked them both over to play while Charles hung at our picnic spot. The boys both launched themselves into the sandy area and began to explore- Christian making immediate friends with a group of boys willing to play "tag" and Elijah, anxious to conquer the many slides.

I spent moments appreciating how Elijah didn't mind the sand, didn't melt down about the sensory stuff, but quickly found his way over to one of the 5 slides coming off this play-gym monstrosity. I tried to give him some space and "let him do it on his own", but stayed nearby enough to lend some assistance. I was quickly struck by how he is very much a 3 year old trapped in a body that doesn't cooperate.

As I stood by the closest slide, which Elijah was thrilled to slide down, I watched him trying to climb back up the steep slope to slide again. He didn't want to go all the way around, climb the stairs and start again. He wanted to do what ALL kids want to do: He wanted to climb up the "down" of the slide and cheat the system. Only...he couldn't do it. He couldn't physically do what it was he wanted to, and he was FRUSTRATED. I gave him a moment, while he struggled and CRIED. I cried too. I want more than anything for him to have those "wins", those moments of feeling capable and independent. But, he's not there yet, even though HE doesn't really want to believe that.

I watched people stare at me with him. For the first time ever, I didn't care. I thought, Go ahead. Stare at me. I'm not exceptional. I'm not better than you. But, also I'm not burdened. I am a Mother who you know nothing about, with a child who you don't understand. And I am totally okay with that. I genuinely enjoy being around my child and whether anyone else "gets" that or not doesn't even matter.  What matters is my family. Plain and simple.

It was tough though, because it was fully apparent that Elijah knew what he wanted do, but just couldn't make it happen. I helped, but to him that wasn't the same. In so many ways, he's a typical 3 year old, with the "I can do it myself" mentality. Only...sometimes, maybe even many times, he can't yet do it himself. That was hard. That made me cry right along with him.

I wish I could make things easy for you, baby. I wish that everything wasn't 4 times harder for you than for everyone else. But I know that you will develop a strong character from it. You will appreciate (as you already do) those things you CAN accomplish. Accomplishment isn't everything. CHARACTER is. I believe that. You make me appreciate in ways I never could before those things I took for granted. 

While Elijah was trying to climb the slide, a little girl about 2 and a half years old came over and wanted to take a turn climbing the slide. She watched Elijah try to climb and then I gave her a turn, telling Elijah that "we have to take turns". As she easily climbed up the slide she said to her Mom, "See? I'm a better climber than he is." The Mom replied, embarrassed, "Well you're older than he is." I thought, No. She's not. I flipped through all of the scenarios in my head, and instead just said to the girl, "Well, you are a very good climber!" Then I went right back to helping my little man try to get out of it what he wanted.

He wasn't "happy". He wanted to do things he's not yet capable of. He's not dumb. He knows what he wants and knows that he's not getting it. It's only in those moments where I wish things were different. Where I wish that things could be easy for him. No Mother wants to watch their babies struggle. However, I do know that I have a fuller understanding and appreciation for things when they haven't come "easy". So...we cry sometimes. Because it's frustrating. Because you don't always get what you want.

We wrapped up our play at the playground and headed back over to finish listening to the music with Charles. The band finished a great song and the audience, along with Elijah, clapped and cheered. Elijah actually clapped and cheered louder than anyone. Everyone in close proximity to us, couldn't help but be struck by his enthusiasm. That's how it is- there are lows, but there are highs. What I admire most is that although things don't always go as Elijah might wish, he will still celebrate BIG the things that do. The moment of frustration is all but forgotten at the close of a fabulous song. That is the true gift. That is truly what it means to "live in the moment".  I get it now. Mourn and cry and pound your fists when things aren't going your way. But, when it's over, it's over and you're onto something new...

Cry. Then move on. Yes...that sounds about right.


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Monday, July 1, 2013

A Day at the Waterslide

We don't have a pool. This has always been fine by me, as I grew up in a household with a pool...in which part of my weekly chores with my sister was to clean said pool. Let's just say that we were both scarred by the pool cleaning enough to never have owned a pool (either of us, actually). However, now that I know about pool cleaning services and ridiculously hot, San Fernando Valley days, I long for the days of a pool.

Enter the local Aquatic Center. Clean, pristine, open to the public and a $2.00 entry fee with a library card. I've been taking Christian there a few times each summer on those insanely hot days to cool off for awhile. The only down side of this gorgeous pool-mecca, has been the presence of this large, looming, fun-tempting waterslide that exists at the pool. Every year has been met with disappointment or even tears, as Christian learns he is not old enough, nor tall enough to ride it.

This year...since on or about May 7th (Christian's 6th Birthday), he has announced, "This year I get to ride the waterslide, because THIS year I'm SIX." I can't quite remember all of the rules and figure his mind is like a steel trap about these kinds of things, so I've probably said Okay, then it will be really fun when the pool opens in June this year!

Let's skip ahead to June. Aquatic center opens. The days get hot and I say to Christian, "Daddy's home and can stay with Elijah while he's napping. What do you say to a quick getaway to the pool?" We pack up our sunblock and towels and head to the pool. On the ride over, Christian reminds me, "I'm SIX now, so I'm gonna be able to ride the waterslide."  I say, "Are you sure, sweetie? Most of the other things at this pool have an age 7 requirement?"  He says, emphatically, "I'm SURE. The guy last year told me." Okie Dokie...

We park and head to the pool entrance. There is a giant bulletin board at the entrance of the pool, which I stop to read, thinking that maybe we will take advantage of some of the swim lessons we did like last year, and there I see it....in big bold letters: MUST BE SEVEN YEARS OLD (and 48") TO RIDE THE WATERSLIDE. My heart sinks. I say to Christian, "Oh, no. Sweetie, look- it says here (and I point out the sign) that you must be 7 to ride the waterslide."

He crumples. Literally just crumples before my eyes. And this is it. The defining moment, right? Or maybe it's not...where I decide, do I tell him to lie or watch his heart break until next year. My mind flips through all of the possibilities while my child cries. I stoop to kneel in front of him and say softly, "Sweetie. Look at me. I know you're not seven, but you are tall enough to ride this waterslide. Maybe...just here...we could say you are seven." He stops crying, looks at me, and says, "Really?" I choose my words carefully and say, "Yes, really. We are lying by saying that, but the other rule is also that you need to be tall enough and you are. I know that you will be safe, which is why they have the rule." His eyes light up, "Okay. You are the best Mom ever." (Insert major feelings of guilt here.) We enter the building and I step up to the window to pay. The woman asks Christian, "How old are you?" And he freezes. I laugh and say, "He's seven." (cringe.) We enter the pool area and his eyes dance as we near the slide. "Can I go, Mom?!" I say, "Go! Have fun!"

He walks up to stand in line and the lifeguard says to him, "How old are you?" I think I hear, "Five!  Um...I mean, SEVEN!! Seven." The lifeguard measures him against the 48" sign and allows him to climb the stairs to the slide. The sounds I hear next are those of pure joy, perhaps similar to what I will be hearing in the bowels of Hell where I will reside for encouraging my son to tell a lie...I hear giggles and ecstatic screams and then, there he is. Plunging out of the bottom of the slide with a giant grin and an energy he can't contain. Even the lifeguard smiles. Christian runs over to me, echoed by the sound of the lifeguard yelling, "No running!!" He says, "Mom!! That was the best thing EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I go again??!"


I'm a rule follower. I've stood by in my life watching others break "the rules" left and right and just cursed them for not following along. It was a moment for me. I know that my ethics and values and desire to "rule follow" will still be passed along to my kids. Maybe it wasn't "right", but for once, even though it was "wrong", it felt like the right thing to do. Let him play. He's tall enough. He's capable enough. And I believe him when he says that someone told him last year that you have to be six. (They were probably wrong, but I don't doubt he was told that.)

It's not a forever lie. It's a day at the waterslide. It's one day where I got to make my son's dreams come true. It's my hope that as the years pass, he won't be left with the lesson that I taught him to lie, but instead that when it was safe and it didn't hurt anybody else, I was the Mom who let him have his dream. I was the Mom who let him ride that waterslide, when know one else would have.

Yeah...I'm okay with that.  

And I'll even be generous enough to assume that the two other kids who looked...um FOUR, and waaay shorter than 48"...had Moms with the same intentions...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Under Pressure

Some days my stomach is in a knot so tight that I feel like I might collapse under the pressure. If and when I start to think about all of the responsibility that rides on my shoulders, it gets to be too much: the lack of adequate finances to handle 90% of the things that are applying said pressure and then the pressures of no job security, and the raising of two boys- who rely on me to advocate for them, offer a variety of life-enhancing activities, nourish their growing bodies and offer emotional security that allows them to flourish.

All of this, plus trying and wanting to have a meaningful relationship with my husband that doesn't succumb to the pressure every time we're in the same room. Yep. The mystery is gone. Gone are the days of a coquettish look. Now, even if I tried to give him a coquettish look, he'd probably think I'd gotten something in my eye...if he noticed at all. My friend Larissa used to say that traveling with us was not for those uncomfortable with public displays of affection. She recalled a trip we all took to Paris. We had rented a car and were planning to navigate the streets of France from airport through to the charming town of Honfluer, into Normandy and eventually onto Paris. Charles was the designated driver since I could get lost in a paper bag, and he has a naturally built in compass- always knowing which way is North. Larissa sat in the back seat of our red Auto Europe rental listening to us bicker about which way to go. I was map-handler, which I can actually do (it's when left to my own devices that I'm a hot mess), but France also has multiple signs...pointing in different directions, supposedly all leading to the same place...
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...You get the idea. Maybe you even know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyway, we were bickering. And then we would discover we were on the right road after all, and it was all, "I love you Pookie!"

All of this was before kids.  While we had pressures then, the stakes got higher after having children. Then, add to that a child who needs "more"- for whom there are a multitude of therapies designed to improve his abilities. It feels like you can never do enough. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Hippotherapy, Music Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Adaptive Skills Therapy...That maybe, somehow, you're not doing enough...or that of what you are doing, you're probably somehow not doing it right. Mind you, I ride the same guilt trip with my typically developing child too. Maybe we haven't worked hard enough on teaching him to tie his shoes or pushed the reading hard enough...

The truth is that we struggle financially and that does not offer an easy solve for so many of these pressures. I was recently telling another Mom of a child with special needs that we need to go to Due Process with Los Angeles School District to fight to get Elijah a one on one aide- which is what he needs to be safe in a preschool classroom setting. She said, "Can't you just get him one and not bother with the school district?" The answer is no. No, we cannot. School let out for summer recently and if I had $1 for everytime someone asked me if Christian was doing summer camp, I might actually be able to afford that aide. Christian is not doing summer camp. There are only so many things that fit into our budget and so we have to prioritize. Summer for us looks like unstructured days with a lot of living room forts being built, water play out in the backyard, walks with the dog, playdates with friends and an occasional special outing.

Here is how I cope: I, the eternal optimist, look for the silver lining. I compartmentalize. I ask myself: Can I do anything about this right now? If the answer is no, then I put it out of my mind. I have to, or the pressure would be unbearable. I work hard. I cook 99% of our family meals, I make all of my kids lunches, I take the throw rug out into the backyard and scrub it clean for an hour, I re-cover the dining room chairs, I cut my childrens' hair, I do my own manicures, I do my own hair color...and I do all of this not because I'm some kind of SuperMom, but because I HAVE TO.

I remind myself that I grew up similarly to how my kids are growing up. That we didn't go out to eat often, that we didn't take elaborate vacations, or go to summer camp every year. Sometimes we were even bored. But, mostly we weren't bored at all. We made our own fun. I like to think that maybe, maybe it was some of the "lack" of some of these things that helped me become the highly creative person that I am. Give me a problem and I will offer 10 ways to solve it. Maybe I would have been like that anyway if my childhood had included daily entertainment, but as I said, I like to look for the silver lining...

Then, every once in awhile we get to escape from the pressure just a little and have a memorable, experience that doesn't revolve around our homemade solutions. One of those things came along recently, and thanks to a friend's generosity we took the boys to Disneyland for the very first time! It was worth the 6 year wait. I totally understand why I have friends that go to Disneyland as often as possible. I'll just say that it might even have been better than Christmas!!


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Family photo!

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The boys are so excited!

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The only characters we actually saw (except for in the parade)...

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Dumbo!

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Christian and his friend

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The only ride Elijah really seemed to love. He clapped his hands the whole way through it.

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Guess they can't pull out the sword...


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So exhausted. He only slept for a few minutes at a time and then would wake up, look around and smile. He seemed to love taking in all of the sights at Disneyland.

The real fun was Christian. He was old enough to appreciate every aspect of it and boy was he in love!


There is pressure in living life- responsibilities that we all have- whether the finances are good or not, whether you have children or not, whether you are innately an optimist or a pessimist. We each deal with our own pressures. I feel under pressure fairly regularly, but I think it makes me appreciate the simple things...my sons' laughter, a walk in the neighborhood, a meal that turned out just right...and I know that I will always have moments of worry or of wanting to "keep up". I will want to buy that extravagant gift for a friend, offer to cook a meal for someone who is sick, take that much needed vacation and sometimes these things will be possible, and sometimes they won't. Pressure, as I've been realizing, isn't all bad. It forces us into action. It's pressure that creates one of natures most beautiful gems- diamonds. I suppose, in part, it's how you handle it. It's about what you let inside, I think.

Wayne Dyer says it well: "When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out - because that's what's inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside."


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day!

Today I reflect on how blessed I am to have this wonderful man as the Father to my children. The way he loves our boys makes me fall a little more in love with him everyday. Today we started the day with pancakes, real bacon (lol- we are usually the turkey bacon types!) and Mimosas to make Charles feel special. Christian made him a card and then we spent the rest of the day with my family, making sure my own Dad felt the love too.

To all of those with Fathers past and present- Happy Father's Day!!

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Six

My last post was crazy long and I didn't want to wrap up all of the drama of that with one, beautiful, major milestone that we recently celebrated: My firstborn turned Six. I'm not sure when it happened, or how it happened, but my little guy is turning into a big kid with big ideas. Christian has blossomed this year and I think I'm gonna like "Six". I watched him with an amused smile today as he played the role of big brother with Elijah. Elijah would pull up a chair, climb onto it and then pull himself on to the top of George's dog crate with an accomplished grin. Christian would say in a sing-songy voice, "No, no, no, Elijah! Danger! Danger!" Then would come over, grab him safely under the arms and lift him down to the floor. He'd turn around to go back to the tacos he was eating and Elijah would giggle mischievously, and then lighting quick, would repeat the climb. They did this over and over while I watched with a smile, amazed at the little "game" they were playing and that Christian knew how best to pick up Elijah and was strong enough to do it. Christian has grown so much and accomplished so much this year that it kind of boggles my mind. Exactly one year ago, I was actually questioning his readiness for Kindergarten. Yet, he easily rose to the challenge- working out social complications and speeding through the newly learned academics. We can no longer plan entirely for him. He has a mind of his own and wants to give his input. He was quick to tell me that he wanted to have a Pirate Birthday Party this year. So, Pirate Birthday Party we did.


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Finally the old chest that has been hanging out on the side of our house, has a purpose! (Don't tell my husband I said that. Then I might have to admit that sometimes the stuff I often think is junk, is actually kinda cool... Shhh.)

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Treasure chest centerpieces from my business' Pirate Collection, a handkerchief table runner and color coordinated paper goods set the scene in the backyard.

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Lots of beverages were on hand. (Adult versions too!)

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I had fun with my signs...

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Plus, the best pirates EVER showed up to entertain the kids!!

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The treasure box could only be opened if a Birthday Boy was around. Christian to the rescue!!

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My nephew and niece were game to handle the Pirate Face Painting and Tattoos. It was a blast to have my family involved this way...and they did a really good job!! Thanks Garrett and Ciara!!!!!

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The piece de resistance was the Pirate Playship that Charles built. This is something we have been talking about since Christian was a baby. A fancy catalog came in the mail one day many years ago, and it had the most beautiful Pirate Playship that I had ever seen in it. Buying it was not even a consideration. The price tag? $52,000. (Yes!! Can you imagine??!!!!) Charles boasted when he saw that, "I can build a Pirate Playship and mine will be BETTER!" :) Well...his is better in that he made it, it's entirely made from recycled parts and it is a 100% love, sweat and tears effort. And the kids.....LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

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There was a pirate pinata and even pirate themed gifts...

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And finally, the cake!! My Mom (Christian's "Nana") made a couple of cakes that were a big hit!

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It's been almost a month since the party, and so much has happened in between that time to distract me from posting about Christian's Birthday. However, as I look back at these photos and remember the squeal of the kids having fun, Christian insisting, "It was the best day EVER!" and how much fun we had sharing this day with Christian's friends, it warms my heart. It's these moments that need to be cherished. Even as life spins around us- distracting us from moment to moment.

Six. It's a "big kid" number.
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