Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holidazedly

Feeling a bit grinchy today. Discovered that a package containing Christmas gifts that I ordered online was stolen from the FedEx station. Did FedEx call me to tell me so? No, I kept tracking it and was mystified that it had been “out for delivery” on the truck in Los Angeles for FOUR DAYS and yet not delivered.

I was tracking it rabidly because the box contained the Christmas morning “wow” present. You know the one, yeah, you know it. The one that you anticipate your kid’s head exploding with joy when she opens it? Yeah, that one. Naturally, it was not a small package. It contained three Razor Sole Skates for Viva and my two nephews. We are not doing a huge Christmas this year and I got a deal on these through painstaking bargain hunting online.



The good news is that Amazon is replacing them and rush shipping them to me at no charge. They will deal with filing a claim with FedEx and all that. Barring more delays from the weather (yes! Here in Los Angeles we are in the midst of a week-long deluge. Welcome to Christmas in Southern California), they should arrive on my doorstep tomorrow. I am tempted to stay home to insure they arrive and are not instantly carried off by a plague of pterodactyls.

In other world news, I am loving my kids right now. Ceeya is two, and what else need be said. She is fierce about her opinions, oftentimes to a maddening degree, to wit: We are in the car listening to music on the way home. She screams out, “Too youd!”

“Too loud?” I say, and obligingly turn it down a couple of ticks. She bursts into tears. After several stop lights of her howling with me asking different questions to determine what’s wrong while driving through the pouring-down rain in rush hour traffic, I finally come up with: “You said too loud, but do you want it louder?”

“YEAH,” she yells through her tears in that brokenhearted way kids do. I turn up the music.

“You need to say ‘MORE loud,’ not ‘TOO loud’ when you want to hear it better,” I say, as calmly as I can, considering that this type of outburst happens about five times on average between day care and home.

She sniffs. “Want juice,” she says. She is exasperating but so sweet.

Viva is amazing. We had a stellar parent-teacher conference. She is still consistently two grade-levels ahead of her grade and knocking the socks off her teacher with her kindness and willingness to help the other kids. Probably fodder for another post, but I am so thrilled with her transition to this new school. She has really come into her own. She is confident and happy and although we have our moments, most of the time she is such a cool person to be around. Our latest pastime is deconstructing Dora the Explorer (Ceeya’s new obsession) and laughing our heads off about how ridiculous it is.

It is a good time. This year has been a bit bumpy for us, but I feel like we are all doing well, considering, and are closer for it. I am looking forward to seeing what the new year brings.

In the very likely event that I don’t get back to the blog before the end of the holiday season: a belated Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Kwanzaa and a very healthy and happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Preschool Search is On

So the infant/toddler day care facility where Miss Ceeya frolics during the week has an age cap of roughly 2.5 to 3 years old. At that point you must get your kid the heck out of there. They don’t care where you go but you can’t stay with them—sort of like closing time at the bar, so to speak. (Not that I would know anything about that. And if I did, it was so long ago that it seems like a lifetime ago. Not that I’m old or anything. Wait, what was I saying?)

A couple of months ago, the lead teacher at the day care asked what our plans were as far as moving on. She gently mentioned that a couple of other kids around Ceeya’s age were already shopping around, and indeed, a couple of weeks before Ceeya’s birthday, two of them left for preschool. I started calling around and discovered to my shock that we are now at the point where there are already waiting lists. WHAT?

Well, you might say, why not just send her to Viva’s old preschool, and you would be right, except you don’t have all the facts, so you’re actually wrong. (I know, I know. Don’t get so upset, I can’t bear it.) Viva’s old preschool would be perfectly acceptable if: (1) we had two incomes; (2) it was anywhere near our current life, not a trek completely out of the way; and (3) Ceeya were a slightly different type of child. Viva loved preschool, but her preschool was very structured and traditional. Sweet Dub and I have been talking it over and thinking maybe we have to go Montessori with Ceeya. Not sure.

But you might say, why does Ceeya even need to go to preschool if her dad isn’t working? Can’t he look after her all day? I will say this to you: if I wanted him to never work again and also at the same time completely lose his mind, sure, he could be a stay-at-home parent. But I would like him to (1) have the option of taking a job should one arise (which actually looks imminent*) and/or (2) continue working on the film projects he has been doing while he is unemployed, because he is extremely talented and one of his projects is almost done. We are very nearly at the point where he could sell it and get distribution. This means he needs his days free so he can finish his project, work on the other projects he has in development and pre-production, and take meetings with people who can finance his production company. Following up on the numbered list from earlier in this paragraph, I would also like him to (3) be happy when he sees his family at the end of the day. He doesn’t do domestication very well. By this I mean he can do it—he cooks, he cleans, he changes diapers, and he kicks ass at all of these—but if he doesn’t have a creative outlet he goes cuckoo bananas.

I went on a preschool tour this morning at a place about 5 minutes from Ceeya’s current day care. It is a nice place, with a nice mix of kids (with our multiracial family, diversity is a plus and I am always looking for a place where one race doesn’t predominate). The teachers seem genuinely caring and the kids appear to be happy. They incorporate art, music and education throughout the day (basic numbers and letters), and the older group (age 4 and up) does simple cooking and computers once a week. They even have field trips occasionally. Monday through Thursday is a similar routine and Friday is a bit less structured. On Friday afternoons after nap time they watch TV because the main classroom is off-limits. The preschool is located inside a church, so they have to clean up that room as it is used by the church on the weekends. I am not clear why they can’t just do some other activity and I didn’t ask what they watch on TV, but once a week wouldn’t kill her, I guess. The monthly tuition is half of what I pay now, and less than half of what I would pay at Viva’s old preschool.

It was okay, but I didn’t LOVE it. I put our name on the waiting list as a safety and I’m going to keep looking. I have a tour with another preschool scheduled Monday. Stay tuned…

* Another conundrum, because he doesn’t particularly want a desk job, but in this economy, and with his film project not yet in the can, he is feeling pressure to cave and go back to working for The Man. While a regular paycheck is a lovely thing, I don’t want his soul to shrivel up and die. You see the problem.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's Go Ride a Bike

Recently Viva was riding her bike around the neighborhood with her dad and she was coming down a hill and got nervous as she was going too fast. Instead of braking, she put her feet down, nicked one heel on a bike pedal, and then in reaction, leaned too far in the other direction and pretty much ate it on the tree she was trying to avoid. They were a couple of blocks away, but her leg was scraped up pretty badly and she wanted Sweet Dub to carry her home. (Oh, there were tears! And moaning! And he was so mean because he would not just carry her!) He reasoned with her that they couldn’t just leave their bikes on the street, so she had to tough it out until she got home. She recounted the whole episode to me while I washed her wounds, put her feet up on a pillow, and treated her to a Popsicle and uninterrupted Disney Channel viewing.

A couple of days later, Sweet Dub had her go back to the same spot and ride down the hill again. She didn’t want to do it, but he insisted that was the only way she would learn to navigate the situation. She came back very proud of herself for having conquered her fear of the big hill.

So you know when you've been away from your blog for a while and you don’t even know what to write about? You think, I just have to get back on that bike and write something, anything, any damn random thing. And then you do and you even connect it to something else that actually happened in your universe and you’re all like, well, that wasn’t so bad. And then you realize you’re kind of talking in the second person and that’s kind of annoying. And then you’re a bit peeved at yourself. And around we go.

I’m going to put it out there: I’ve been a bit depressed lately. And when I’m depressed, I tend not to write about it, because that makes me dwell on it and that is no good for anyone. And I hate using my blog as a dumping ground for this kind of thing.

And there is this thing, this NaBloPoMo? Which all of us who have been blogging for a while are well familiar with? If I were participating I would have posted something every day this month so far. I thought about writing something cheeky and subversive like, “I declare this to be NoBloPoMo” but what sense does that make, it’s really just an excuse to be lazy, yeah?

I’m officially back on the bike and I’m not making any excuses for myself. Hello, Internets! What’s happening out there?

Friday, October 22, 2010

She is Two

Two years ago today, I was in the hospital having a wee little person removed from my uterus:



And these days, the paparazzi can catch her eating junk food and givin' folks the stink eye:



O Celia my love, how my adoration for you grows with each passing day. Now I must tear myself away from my computer and hie myself yonder to Ye Olde DayeCare, where lo! I shall distribute popsicles to many small people before taking thee out for pizza, which ye shall not eat. Many happy returns of the day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Breaking Free

Taking a break for the moment from the “all Ceeya, all the time” tone that this blog has recently adopted to get us all caught up on that other child of mine, Viva.

Viva is in second grade. She has moved seamlessly from the private school where she spent most of her weekdays between the ages of 2.5 and 7 to the public school right down the street from us. If you were me, you might have expected more drama. You might have agonized a bit over how she would do in this new school, this new environment, this new sphere. Would she make friends? Would the teacher like her? What if this were a complete disaster?

Honestly. I worried about the class size. She was moving from a school where there were 12 kids in all of first grade. I worried about the quality of the education. She is extremely bright, gets bored easily, and is used to getting one-on-one attention from the teacher. I worried that she would have trouble dealing with “regular” kids (whatever that means). You know, I just worried, because that is my nature and I am her mother and I want her to be happy and have a great school experience.

So: class size? She’s in a gifted/talented magnet so there are 16 kids in her class, not the 35+ I was having hissy fits imagining. Quality of the education? Because she is in the magnet program, she is surrounded by other kids who are quick and curious and as eager to learn as she is. Their teacher, who is happily back in the classroom after three years in administration, says, “These kids came in like it was March, not September. They were ready to go, and I love it!” She is getting to know each of the kids and tailoring different projects to their interests. She is as thrilled as I am with the small class size and getting to spend so much time with each kid.

Viva loves her teacher, her class, and her after-school program. So school is going way more amazingly well than I could have hoped. Since there is no drama in that, let us move on. Viva has also, over the past few months, undergone a radical transformation.

Perhaps you know that Viva is a tomboy. She is a tomboy to the extent that most of her friends up to this summer were boys. Had you asked me to describe her up to now, I would have said something along the lines of: she plays sports with a fierce competitiveness; she has a true disdain for fairies and princesses, dresses, and anything sparkly; she abhors pink. She likes to play with superhero action figures, and when she comes home from school, she strips off her uniform and pulls on a pair of boy’s basketball shorts. She may or may not wear a shirt. If she does, it will be a boy’s undershirt or an oversized T-shirt.

Over the summer, at camp, Viva had a gradual awakening, thanks to a group of knuckleheaded little boys at her camp. “Boys are stupid,” she told me. “And you know, I don’t think I want to be a tomboy anymore.”

I was blown away. I said, “Maybe some boys are stupid.* Some girls can be stupid, too. But don’t let the behavior of some silly kids make you change who you are. If you want to try being a little more girly, that is fine with me. It’s fine to try on different ways of being as you figure out who you are. I love you if you’re a tomboy, and I love you if you’re not.”

When we began back-to-school shopping, she indicated that maybe she’d be interested in trying on a dress. I ended up buying her several knit cotton dresses and leggings, along with pants and nice shirts. She also wanted sparkly low-top sneakers that lit up when she walked. Do you know that every day for the first week of school, my “tomboy” wore a dress and sparkly shoes?

Children are amazing. Viva is never boring. I love that I am here to buckle up next to her and marvel at her journey. And that still, so often, she is still badgering me to come along. The years move quickly, you know. Sometimes I miss her even though she is still here.


* The fact that she even uses the word stupid is incredible, since just a couple of years ago the word stupid was equivalent (to her) to using a “bad word.” My, how times have changed. How lazy I have become in my language policing.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Food for Thought (2 of 2)

So here is the thing with Ceeya, as we call her. There are all these neat little boxes that “specialists” want to put her in. She has dyspraxia and neuromotor incoordination. She is oral defensive. She is a resistant eater. She needs helps with her oral-motor skills. She is tactile defensive. She needs help with her fine motor skills. I could go on.

I could. I could make myself crazy looking up stuff online (okay, so yes, done that) and reading books and articles until my eyes bleed (almost), and worst of all, feeling unable to share much of what we’re going through because (a) some people really don’t believe in all this mumbo jumbo and say, “there’s nothing wrong with her, she’s just sensitive…she’ll eat when she gets hungry…you’re spoiling her.” (No, it’s true, some people say some bullshit like that. It’s astoundingly helpful, just as much as you might imagine.) Or (b) some people will really want to get all in your business and ask all kinds of questions, most of which are not really all that helpful, under the guise of being helpful. “Have you tried X?” they ask. “I heard that helps with autistic kids, my friend’s niece had a baby who had that.” As I prevent my head from exploding into smithereens via the sheer force of my will, I explain that Ceeya is not autistic. And as much as you are trying to help me, I am relying on paid professionals who, you know, have some kind of training in this area? To help come up with some kind of treatment? So as I do not run screaming off into the night?

I also steadfastly refuse to share this with my mother because inevitably she will latch onto Ceeya’s diagnosis and conclude that she has suffered from the selfsame thing for lo these 60-some-odd years, and that every bad thing that has ever happened to her can be traced back to it forever and ever amen and that it is too upsetting for her to deal with because it makes her think of bad things that happened 50 years ago and how things could have been different if only, so we should never speak of it again but recognize that she is suffering silently henceforth. Let it be stated for the record that I love my mother dearly, but: she has been known to try my patience.

I am tired. I have been dutifully taking Ceeya to occupational therapy once a week, which I now have to submit claims to my insurance company for and struggle to get reimbursed for. It is a dance that I never wanted to learn. We have been doing all kinds of activities with her—exercises to strengthen her grip, a vibrating toothbrush to desensitize her to oral stimulation, putting at least one unfamiliar food in front of her at meals and leaving it there even as she screams in horror. We play blocks with her, build Legos with her for fine motor coordination, bounce her gently on the bed to help with the vestibular issues. I know it will take time. It will take time.

Tonight around the Blah Blah Family table, we were building taco-burritos for dinner. Ceeya watched as we each spooned ground beef, and then rice with tomatoes, and then lettuce and cheese on our tortillas and rolled them up. She asked for rice, and lettuce. She carefully, methodically, spooned them out of the bowl and plonked them next to her shredded cheese. She didn’t eat them. She arranged them on her tray, and then asked for more.

This is nothing. At the same time: this is huge. She is playing with unfamiliar food. She is not eating it, but she has decided that it is not scary. It has a place on her tray, where the rest of her food goes.

It will take time. Lord, I am tired. But tonight, this one small thing made me happy.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Food for Thought (1 of 2)

I have been doing a lot of work with Ceeya’s occupational therapist on her oral motor skills to try and find ways to help her learn to eat better. Aside from a lot of oral motor exercises (try and get her to eat applesauce through a straw, see if she can blow a cotton ball across a table faster than her sister, etc.) I’ve been doing a lot of online reading.

Just found two blogs about kids and food that I’ve added to my reader and I’m putting them out here for you to peruse and enjoy:

(1) Spoonfed
(2) Raise Healthy Eaters

More to come, but wanted you to know I haven’t run off screaming into the night. (Well, not permanently.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Duh...Smartphone

I had a pretty good week there where I posted something every couple of days, and then: I fell off the face of the earth.

Hello, and welcome to Monday. I am back, and not necessarily better than ever, but better than some days, which is better than nothing.

Quick update on Ceeya: her occupational therapist came down with the flu, so she couldn’t make it to what would be only our second session with her on Saturday. She emailed me on Friday to tell me this, rather than calling me, but since I was out of the office at an all-staff event all day on Friday, I didn’t see her email until Saturday morning, 45 minutes before I was supposed to leave the house. Fortunately, she had arranged for another therapist to take us at the same time. I was a little irritated because our appointment was for 12 noon—smack in the middle of Ceeya’s usual lunch/naptime groove—and she emailed to ask if we could do a 10 AM time just this once. That would have been my preference.

All this boils down to: I am really in need of a Smartphone, don’t you think? The more I think about it, I don’t even understand how I am functioning without one. Wait! Clearly, I am not functioning without one. I have my pathetic Motorola flip-phone and it is a piece of garbage. Wait, I didn’t mean that. It has served me well, but Ceeya threw it on the ground a few months ago and ever since then my screen has been badly cracked and I look like a total loser with my Fred Sanford phone. I have been waiting for my Verizon “new every two” deal to kick in—whereby I can get a new phone at a deep discount every two years—and that just happened last week. So I was merrily researching Droid Smartphones and mentioned to Sweet Dub that I was thinking of getting one.

Leave it to my husband to throw a wrench in the works. “Why don’t you just get an iPhone?” he said. “Maybe because I already have AT&T, we could get a deal and you could get the new iPhone 4. Maybe we could both get one!”

(Note that Sweet Dub was forced to buy a cell phone when he got laid off in April because his employer reclaimed the company cell phone which he had had for 6 years, thereby forcing him to switch phone numbers after 6 years, and by the way not letting him take any of his contact info off the phone, so he spent several laborious days emailing people and asking for numbers, oh my God, the humanity. At any rate, at that point, he chose the iPhone 3, and he LURRRVES it.)

I could be wrong, but I think it’s highly unlikely that we will have to pay less money for two new iPhones than for one Droid on the plan I already have, which will give me a substantial (read $300) discount on a new phone. Hence, this is all very pie in the sky.

You know those people they call early adopters? I am not one of those people. For many years, I thought the whole concept of every one having a cell phone was ridiculous. And even as a mom, who you’d think would be paranoid and need to have her phone with her at every moment just in case something happens to the kids, it took years—I mean seriously, only until the last year or so—for me to not leave my phone inside my purse, inside my desk drawer, and walk off to meetings and such for hours. I am just not all that plugged in.

Anyhoo: at some point in the next week or so, I expect to get a new phone and I will be up-to-speed for about five minutes until the next thing comes along. But most importantly, I will be able to get email anytime, anywhere, forever and ever, the end.

And maybe get all of my appointments synced up and know where I am supposed to be, with kids and without. That would be handy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chewin’ the Fat with Dr. Eats

I met with a nutritionist yesterday to talk strategy for Ceeya's feeding issues. It was very helpful, and I walked out of there feeling poorer, but optimistic.

 

For one thing, the nutritionist (known henceforth here as "Dr. Eats") was very encouraging about what we are doing right, such as all eating together as a family at the table without the TV on, saying grace before meals (SPD kids need routine and ritual), and pushing fresh as opposed to processed foods as much as possible. She also liked that we are doing sensory activities that are related to food, such as putting uncooked rice and beans in a large Tupperware container, hiding small toys in the rice and having Celia dig through to find them, and "painting" with whipped cream.

 

Her primary concern as we talked about what Ceeya eats is that she's barely getting any carbs, since she doesn't eat rice, pasta, bread or potatoes (except in French fry form). So she wants us to begin trying to get her to eat those at every meal—to keep giving her the core foods she loves but also at each meal to offer a food she won't currently eat, preferably a starch. She made the point that when Ceeya rejects a food that she has been accustomed to eating, we should respect that, keep it out of her diet for a few days and then bring it back.

 

Interesting: when I told her of Ceeya's vestibular issues (i.e. she becomes anxious with unsteady or unpredictable movement), she asked whether she sits in a high chair. She does, so Dr. Eats suggested simply moving her to a child-sized table and chair, so her feet are firmly on the ground and she doesn't feel like she is floating in space. Despite the high chair having a platform for her feet to rest on, she may simply have issues with eating that far up off the ground. That had not even occurred to me, but it makes perfect sense.

 

Other tips: make everything bite-sized and stick a toothpick in it. Since Ceeya hates touching things, she may be more amenable to eating food when holding it on a stick. (She certainly loves popsicles, so this is familiar to her.) Dr. Eats suggested making really tiny meatballs, cream of wheat "snowballs," and rice balls to be speared with toothpicks. Sweet Dub, ever the dedicated father, has declared Friday night "Toothpick Night," and claims he is making food the whole family can eat and it will all be on toothpicks.

 

Dr. Eats says we should make the most of Ceeya's willingness to dip things to get more protein into her—since she loves tortilla chips, she suggested pureeing black or pinto beans into bean dip, or making "baby" guacamole with mashed avocado and a little salt. She is already into dipping fruit into yogurt, so we will just continue with that.

 

Portion size is another thing. We don't tend to give Ceeya a lot of food at one time, because it overwhelms her and she will just throw it all off her high chair tray and look at us blankly. Dr. Eats said that even giving her a lump of mac and cheese is too much—we basically have to differentiate each noodle. "Pull out five individual noodles from the mac and cheese," she said. (Dear Lord.) Dr. Eats also suggested getting Ceeya more involved with food prep—for example, in making homemade chicken tenders. She advised putting cornflakes in a Ziploc bag and letting Ceeya bang on the bag until they're pulverized, then putting boneless chicken pieces in the bag and letting her shake it until they're coated. She can then watch me fry them. "Now, she may not eat them the first few times," she said. "In fact, you might have to make them that way twenty different times before she'll actually eat them. I'm not saying she's going to eat a new food tomorrow, but she may eat it in three months."

 

So, pretty much as expected, there is no quick fix. We're in this for the long haul, but there is at least light at the end of the tunnel.

 

And my little lambie pie is so worth it.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Official Word

Yesterday when I picked Ceeya up at daycare, they told me she not only refused to eat her yogurt, but she had a complete meltdown about it. It feels like the range of foods she will eat is steadily shrinking.

Here’s the good news: I have a consultation with a nutritionist tomorrow. Cost: $175. That’s not so good.

But: we received our full evaluation from the occupational therapist. Verdict: Ceeya presents with an array of behaviors that indicate sensory processing difficulties, including:

Tactile defensiveness, which means her central nervous system has difficulty processing and modulating incoming touch sensations. She is averse to many textures including many different kinds of food. This has impacted her muscle development in her hands because she does not use them as effectively as she needs to manipulate and explore, so she is delayed in terms of grasp patterns and object manipulation.

Oral defensiveness, which makes her highly sensitive to tastes, textures and temperatures of food. She eats a very limited range of foods, primarily cheese, fruit, crackers, chips, and over time has actually decreased the foods she will eat, probably because she is bored from eating the same damn thing all the damn time. So now off the list are cottage cheese, yogurt (as of yesterday), applesauce, steamed green beans, broccoli and peas.

Poor modulation, which means she can’t self-regulate very well. She gets upset easily and can’t calm down, she has a hard time falling asleep, she is a restless sleeper and if she wakes up in the middle of the night she can’t put herself back to sleep. I am serious when I tell you that I have not had a good night’s sleep in over two years.

Over-responsiveness to sound, i.e. “kids’ birthday parties are my worst nightmare.”

Decreased vestibular processing, which means her awareness of where her body is in space is poor and unpredictable movement of her body freaks her out. This translates into her hatred of swings, not liking to tip her head back to get her hair washed, and an aversion to unsteady surfaces like a balance bridge or a large trampoline (she seemed to like the small trampoline at the OT center, which had a support bar she could hold with both hands while jumping).

So we clearly have some work to do. I am relieved that this is not just my imagination, or something she will grow out of on her own. I was really upset when I first read the report, mainly because of her fine motor delays, which I wasn’t even aware of. She has low muscle tone and decreased strength in her hands due to her tactile sensitivity. Rationally I know this is reversible, but it just hurt my heart to read it.

Recommendation: occupational therapy twice per week, as expected.

Current status: waiting for a phone call back from the head of the OT Center to discuss more realistic options.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Grain of Salt

This week I have been going back and forth via email with the very nice occupational therapist who is writing up Ceeya’s assessment. She cautioned me that because SPD is not recognized as an official condition and will not be until inclusion in the DSM-V in 2013, for now she is going to have to couch her observations very carefully in order to see if we can get full coverage for Ceeya’s therapy. For one thing, she is going to note things that I don’t think are an issue, like Ceeya not being able to put a wooden puzzle together correctly, as a fine motor skills delay. “Read it with a grain of salt,” she says. (I love salt! Salt N Pepa too!)

On the one hand, I appreciate this, as I do not have the fundage to pay for occupational therapy twice a week out of pocket, to the tune of $15,000+ per year (since that was her initial recommendation—a full year of therapy, sweet holy Moses. Have I mentioned that my darling husband got laid off in April and is still unemployed?). On the other hand, I’m not crazy about the idea of Ceeya being labeled with something she doesn’t have, and I worry about all sorts of “pre-existing condition” crap that might follow her forever. That does not float my boat, my friends.

If Ceeya did have some sort of fine motor skills problem, it goes without saying that I would want her to get some help for it. I am not THAT bad of a mommy. I think. But that morning was the first time, to my knowledge, that she had ever even seen a puzzle of that sort. The fact that she matched the shapes to where they were supposed to be, but didn’t actually press them in hard enough so they would stay there, indicates to me she didn’t fully understand the point of the exercise—not that she was incapable of doing it correctly.

Over the weekend, I bought a similar puzzle at Target which had more pieces and was labeled ages 3 and up (they didn’t have any which were labeled for younger kids, which is probably why Ceeya hasn’t encountered them before since she is not even 2 yet). Ceeya matched all the pieces perfectly but again didn’t push them fully into place. When I asked her to do that, she did, with a bit of frustration on a couple of oddly shaped pieces, but she figured out that she just had to move the pieces around a bit to make them fit. Now it is one of her favorite things to do.

This leads me to the official Blah Blah plan for handling our business, which boils down to this: we would rather fork out a few hundred dollars at the outset for sensory-stimulating and educational toys and play with Ceeya every day ourselves than pay out $1,200 a month to a twice-weekly occupational therapist and then fight to get reimbursed by the insurance company.

By this I mean no disrespect to occupational therapy as a profession. I realize neither Sweet Dub nor I are trained to provide OT, but surely there are ways we can work with the OT to reduce the time and cost and make it work for our family.

Stay tuned for next time, when we (hopefully) get the actual written report. What will it say? What does it all mean? Will I ever look at a wooden shape-sorting puzzle the same way? And will there be ice cream? (Highly doubtful, and perplexing.)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

And So Our Long Journey Began...

So we had Ceeya’s assessment on Saturday morning, and it was quite an experience. The Blah Blah Family arrived at the center on time, and sat in a very nicely furnished, sunny waiting area with lots of toys, books and puzzles. Ceeya and Viva immediately began playing together with one of those giant wooden activity boxes. Our assessing occupational therapist arrived and started us off with the paperwork. There was so much paperwork that Sweet Dub and I split it and continued working on it throughout the session. Much of it involved our own assessments of Ceeya’s sensitivities, but some of it involved very detailed questions about her birth and her developmental milestones. I honestly don’t remember exactly when she started doing certain things (the curse of the second child!) but I know that she has always been well within the normal range of physical development.

Anyhoo, we were there for well over an hour, and the OT tested her with puzzles, checked her muscle tone, tried to get her into a swing (which Ceeya was simply not having—she detests swings and almost anything that makes her unsteady. Oddly, she enjoys a rocking horse or a rocking chair), watched her on a trampoline, checked her balance on an exercise ball, watched her eat, had her use crayons and utensils, etc.

One thing I will say is that I was really surprised and proud that Ceeya pretty much took off exploring in each play room that we went to. (There were three successively bigger rooms.) This might have been because Viva was there with her and there were no other kids around, but still, I was pleased to see that.

We have not yet received the official evaluation, but the bottom line is this: the OT is not sure that Ceeya has enough “wrong” with her to be eligible for her sessions to be covered by insurance, and yet (yes, you knew this was coming) she would recommend therapy twice a week for the next year. She's pretty sure she has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), and that she's pretty much constantly in a state of "fight or flight," but yeah, probably our insurance won't cover it. Occupational therapy costs $150/session. Doing the math: that’s $1,200 a month.

Fortunately, I work for a children's social services agency and my bullshit meter was pinging off the charts.

Stay tuned for the next installment, when we take matters into our own hands.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Floundering


Recently, I received confirmation that, much as I’ve suspected, Ceeya has a sensory processing disorder. We have a variety of problematic issues that have gotten progressively worse in recent months. I don’t talk much about that here, which is a shame, because it might help someone else who is struggling with something similar. But I feel that we are just getting started sorting out her issues and receiving treatment (primarily occupational therapy). It may be a long slog.

I’m teetering on the fence of how much do I share here. How much of this is really her story, but also about how this is such a small part of who she is. She is a sweet and smart and funny (yes, she already has a sense of humor) kid. I love her to pieces. I don’t want this condition to define her, but at the same time it occupies so much of my energy and brain space.

Too often these days, the things that are happening in my life are personal to many other people, and I don’t feel comfortable sharing so much about their lives. Again, rethinking what I want this blog to be.

Thanks for your patience as I sort this out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Working from Home

Sometimes when you are working from home all the planets align and even though you might occasionally stop working to throw in a load of laundry, you nonetheless are able to buckle down without the distractions of the "water cooler talk" and the like and you write something totally kick ass and you can actually check off a huge project on your TO DO list, a project which has been hanging like a millstone around your neck, like a big frickin' piece of granite or even a giant block of ice, whatever, it's heavy, dude.

Or sometimes, like today, you decide you will buckle down to work right after you make a big pot of coffee. But when you happily pull out the bag, it is suspiciously light, and you realize in horror you are almost out of coffee. And then you go searching through your freezer in hopes that a random bag of java might have fallen behind some tater tots (which you just mis-typed as tater tits, which is a bizarre notion in itself). And no, no hidden coffee, but then you notice that a bag of edamame beans was not correctly closed, and so there are assorted beans littering the bottom of your freezer, along with assorted coffee grounds. And of course you notice there are things in the freezer that are well past their prime, like pot roast that has been frozen for well over six months, so you go on a veritable freezer purge and a good scrubbing, and then you realize that you have just spent half an hour when you should be working, cleaning out the freezer. And the coffee still isn’t made.

And then you think this would be a funny blog post about procrastination, but then you think you don’t have time to blog, you have a grant to write, and then you promise yourself that if you buckle down and finish it, you’ll write the blog post too. And then you make the coffee and go out to the backyard and write out in the sunshine for 15 minutes so you get some Vitamin D and then you go back inside and type for 3 hours and finish the first draft of the grant and email it off and then boy howdy you feel pretty good about that, so here we are.

Happy weekend to you all, procrastinators and non.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cuatrodos

Hello!

I am forty-two years old today.

That is not so bad, right? It is better than the alternative, which is to cease to exist altogether. When you put it like that, it sounds pretty damn good to me.

Over the weekend, we were having some lovely, funky friends over, and I bought an assortment of beers because I was feeing a bit whimsical. Why not try different kinds of summer ales and such?, I thought. They might in fact have enjoyed some rum punch or something, but making some sort of rum punch was a bit beyond me. (They probably like punch. I knew I should have made punch.) At any rate, the cashier carded me. I almost wept, except that I was giggling a little bit. I thanked her and as I handed over my driver’s license as proof that I was of legal drinking age, I said, “I will be 42 next week!” I might have sobbed as I said it. Maybe not.

So here we are, forty-two. It honestly is not all that different from 41, or 40, or even 39, if you want to know the truth, and yes, I can remember that far back. The main issue of being 42, and it may not be related to my age, seems to be that I think I am going blind in one eye. My ophthalmologist can not seem to tweak my prescription correctly in my right eye, and so I spend my days tapping away at my computer with one eye closed in order to see correctly. Since I spend a great deal of time writing for my job, this is annoying. If I open my eye, it’s all blurry and I can’t read a thing. Not to worry, though, I can drive perfectly well! Take it easy out there, Greater Los Angeles!

Today I am looking forward to having Ceeya sing Happy Birthday to me on my actual birthday. She has been practicing the song every day for about three weeks or so. It sounds a bit different when she sings it, principally because she interprets it as “Appo DIRTday to you,” which I love, and I particularly love the way it sounds in the high-pitched gusto with which she sings it.

One final thing: In honor of my Dirt Day, and with a hat tip to Chad Ochocinco, I am changing my name for the day to Lisa Cuatrodos. Encantado.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pampering Myself (and not with Diapers)

I took a few days off a couple of weeks ago (calling it a vacation seems a bit disingenuous, since we didn’t go anywhere and since I spent most of it working hard corralling the kids without the help of my husband). On one of the days when Viva was in camp and Ceeya was at daycare, I took 3.5 hours at a new salon to get my hair colored. Call me shallow, vain, whatever, but baby, I felt like a new woman when I walked out of there. My new colorist, April, was sweet and down to earth and my hair looks exactly its natural color. I mean exactly.

My hair is very thick and resistant to color, so whenever I color it takes forever. Somehow she managed to cover most of the silver hairs that were cropping up (I did find a few strays here and there later) and she also managed to duplicate not only my natural light brown hair but also the lighter highlights that naturally occur. I’m not sure exactly what went down in the salon—I may have made promises I couldn’t keep, something about free tickets to the Cayman Islands or something, it’s all a bit foggy in my memory, but you know, whatever I said, she hooked me up and my hair looks better than it has in recent memory.

I was thinking, as I walked out, how difficult it is for me to do this kind of thing with any regularity, but how easily it made me feel better about myself. And feeling better about myself makes me better in every other aspect of my life (cue cheesy music here, I mean could I BE more predictable). Sorry for the cliché, but for reals, it’s one small thing that makes a big difference.

Take care of yourselves out there. Give pampering a chance!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Blog Angst

Much has been happening in my personal life and I don’t feel I can share much of it here, although when I sit down to write, that’s all that’s on my mind. Then there’s the larger question: what is the purpose of me writing here? What or who is it for?

When I began blogging many years ago, I did so at the suggestion of some friends (Splooey and Mr. X, and they know who they are). “Blog? What’s a blog?” I said. They knew of my writerly ambitions and thought it would be a good way for me to get started writing regularly, with no pressure. Maybe they thought I would find my voice.

I like to write, and I like to make people laugh. I think I thought blogging might help me write some humorous essays, a la David Sedaris or something. Maybe. But all I know is I’m not feeling very funny these days, and I’m wondering if it’s because writing is an introspective exercise and when I take a half-second to get introspective, I get depressed.

But when there are these significant lapses between posts, a year later I look back and wonder what happened. Hence, I’m writing this so I can document where I am.

I am exhausted in just about every aspect of my being—physically (we just recovered from a family-wide bout with a nasty stomach virus), mentally, emotionally, the end. I no longer enjoy my work. I still enjoy my kids (most of the time). I miss Sweet Dub because he is in the middle of a manic creative phase right now, trying to launch a new career and get a TV project off the ground. My extended family is a huge mess and I’m trying to stay out of it. Work is really making me unhappy and I feel I have no options for fixing it.

It’s just a rough time.

Follow-up to this post: due to liability issues, one can’t actually tell this prospective employee that she needs to do something about her hair. Total can of worms, and what a shame. She was the top candidate for this job but eliminated from consideration for this one reason. (See the comments section for more info if you'd like.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Can This Be Salvaged?

Something has been weighing on my mind over the past week or so. I know of a situation in which there is a job opening and three candidates have been interviewed. Of the three, one clearly ranked above the rest in terms of experience and consensus was that this person was the most personable and all-around best fit for the position. The position was not offered to this person because of this person’s appearance. This person would be going out to meet with people to get them involved with the organization and it was unanimously felt that this person’s appearance (more specifically, hair) was unkempt and disheveled and that this person would not present well to the public for this reason. This person is warm, well-spoken, and passionate about the cause that they would be speaking about. Everyone who interviewed this person liked this person and wanted to hire this person. Everyone on the interview panel agreed that it was a shame they had to discount the person for this reason.

In this economic climate, I can’t imagine that this person (who, like the other two candidates, has been unemployed for some months) would refuse to do something about their hair if they really wanted the job. This is probably hindering their job search considerably, so even if they are offended that this criticism is made, it just seems the decent thing to do to let this person know what’s up.

The person who ultimately makes the hiring decision has been agonizing over this for the past week, particularly given that another interview was held yesterday and the interviewee was not anywhere near the caliber of the first person. The interview panel now compares every interviewee to the first person and finds them lacking.

The hiring person really wants the first candidate. If you were in the position of the hiring decider (just made that up) how would you handle this situation? If you were the really strong candidate who is being passed over due to your appearance, would you want to be told? And how?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Beach Blanket Blah

Happy 6th of July. It’s chilly and raining here in Los Angeles. Maybe I should move to San Francisco?

Speaking of chilly, now that T-ball season is over, our Saturday mornings are free [That I even mention this tells you how enamored I am of organized sports and getting up and running out the door first thing on the first day of my weekend] and this Saturday, we decided to go to the beach. Some of us wore bathing suits with shorts and sweatshirts over them, while some of us decided why even pretend that we were going to get into the frigid and filthy Pacific. It was overcast, and “June gloom” (a weather phenomenon wherein Southern Californians wake to a morning cloud layer overhead which usually gives way to sunshine later in the day) has not been burning off until sometimes mid-afternoon, so we bundled up, threw all our crap into a wagon, threw the wagon into the back of the Jeep, and motored over to Santa Monica.

We arrived at the beach maybe twenty minutes later, removed the children and wagon from the vehicle, and trundled across the sand, where we staked out our spot. Let it be known here that the Blah Blahs are spoiled beach-goers, in that we generally go to the beach for only a couple of hours because we live close enough that it does not need to be an all-day affair. Also, we do not like crowds, so we like to get to the beach early, do our beachy activities, and then move on as the crowds start to arrive.

We laid out our blanket and promptly began building sand castles (Viva) and eating snacks (me) and placing teaspoons of sand into buckets (Ceeya*). We Blah Blahs are industrious folks. Sweet Dub sat in a beach chair and over the next twenty minutes or so, provided the following commentary:

Man, I wish I had a breakfast burrito right now.

Is anyone else hungry?

Man, it’s cold. I mean, it’s freezing!

Did you see that? Are those dolphins?

I’m wearing two T-shirts and I’m still cold. My feet are even cold. Are yours?

Man, it’s cold. This is really unpleasant. We might have to go home, guys.

So…I’m thinking we head out of here and go find a breakfast burrito. Anyone?

Honey, where was that place we used to go to that had those really good burritos?

Why are you laughing?

This is unpleasant.

Shortly after this we were treated to a gross display of extremely poor beach etiquette in which a family of five who were clearly from out of state arrived for their first look at the Pacific Ocean and despite there being very few people at the beach plonked their stuff down about two feet away from the people closest to us and then proceeded to yell back and forth to each other at great volume, from the water’s edge to the blanket to the teenage daughter who was hanging back near the car, a good half a football field away, draped in a blanket against the wind and the water spray.

Oh, dear Lord. I was fascinated yet simultaneously annoyed. I began to ruminate on the wisdom of posting some pointers at the beach, to wit:

First and foremost, most people go to the beach to relax and have fun. As much as possible, give your beach neighbors some space. This is easier when the beach is not crowded, but even when it is, keep at least 6 feet (i.e. one beach-blanket length) between yourself and the next group of people. We don’t want to know all your business, we don’t want to lie all on top of you, and we want some illusion of privacy.

If you’re going to play football or Frisbee, don’t do it right in the field of play. That is, don’t do it right at the shoreline, where people are entering and exiting the water and where people often like to take a walk. Sorry, but that’s unfair. Do it in the beach space behind where people are relaxing, i.e., furthest from the water.

Also, and this is related, don’t yell into your cell phone. Don’t blast your music. And for heaven’s sake, don’t set up your beach blanket and umbrella directly in front of someone who’s already sitting there. It’s rude. Finally, don’t smoke and don’t leave trash on the beach.

Whew, I feel better.

It's all a blur, but I think we lasted a full hour at the beach due to the cold and wind, rude beach neighbors, and lack of breakfast burritos materializing out of thin air. However, as I remember it, we nonetheless had a very nice afternoon chilling out in the backyard after the sun came out. I even seem to remember Sweet Dub later making a very scrumptious surf and turf dinner, so all was not lost.


* This is how our youngest says her own name. Since that is how Viva got her bloggy nickname, I am holding with tradition and will henceforth on this blog refer to Miss Celie as she refers to herself.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wistfully, Summer

Today I do not like being The Grown Up.

Today is the first day of summer camp for my little schnitzel with noodles, the All-Wonderful Viva.

Her father, the Ever-Amazing Sweet Dub, was a little concerned, I mean, curious, about how her day was going, and since he is not working, he thought he would sneak a peek a few hours in to see how she was doing.

Here is his report:

“I can see her right now, it looks like they’re just finishing lunch. She can barely sit still. She just jumped up and ran over to the counselor and I can’t hear what she’s saying, but she looks like she is really excited. She’s kind of standing on one leg and leaping around while she’s talking. Okay, he said yes to whatever she was asking and she ran back inside the gym all happy. So it looks like things are going well. You know, I can’t hear her but I know my baby. I can read her body language and it seems like she is pretty excited, so – oh, here she comes. She is sitting back down at the picnic table and it looks like she is doing some kind of art project.”

I wish I was doing some kind of art project. I wouldn’t mind an art project and maybe some kind of group game that involved kicking a ball and running and then having a cold beverage and a snack.

I loved camp. I loved the swimming, and the macrame, and making those plasticy lanyards, and playing soccer, and eating PB&J on the grass. And the smell of the grass, and the heat, and the sweatiness, and flinging oneself from activity to activity with total encompassing joy.

It’s hard being The Grown Up some days, is all.

Monday, June 07, 2010

First Post by Viva

From Sweet Dub's iPhone, written on Memorial Day weekend:

I just went to the beach with my daddy and mommy I had a great time with my family we dug a tunnel we almost hit water my little sister is scared of the sand and dosnt want to put her shoes on I wanted to swing on the swings but my dad didn't let me so we had to leave good bye.

It makes me a little breathless, reading it, because there's no punctuation, but that is part of the beauty of it.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Find a Happy Place

Sweet Dub is going out of town for a few days to do some filming. I miss him already. I really do! I have a lump in my throat and it’s been about 6 hours. That’s kind of ridic, but as Woody Allen once said in far ickier circumstances, “The heart wants what it wants.”

In the meantime, I will be working on Celie’s food aversion and social anxiety*, corralling kids before and after T-ball (it’s Team Picture Day on Saturday! At which time we will be asked to cough up an obscene amount of money to get a picture of our kid with her team and her very own personalized baseball trading cards with her picture on them! Remind me again why we are doing team sports?**), attending two Sunday birthday parties which are being held at exactly the same time, and trying to meet multiple deadlines at work. It is time to put away childish things like coffee and invest in some Red Bull. Or maybe just step it up to espresso, no?

Work is kind of sucking right now. The deadlines seem to be reproducing and as they do my Malaise seems to be trying to keep up, followed closely by Eye Strain and Headaches, both of which seem to appear within an hour of my arrival at work. I have not had a vacation this year (woe is me), and I am not expecting to get one now until September. Feeling very ground down and unappreciated, whiny whiny fiddlesticks.

P.S. I have officially hit the wall on the third of eight projects I am working on. Well, I cleared my desk of two projects this morning, so I am actually ahead of schedule. When does THAT ever happen, I ask you?

P.P.S. Bizarre interaction of the day: an older white male co-worker telling me, “You da bomb!” What?! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

* I expect to have both of these completely under control by the time her dad gets back on Sunday. I believe this falls under the category of “if you can believe it, you can achieve it.” In reality, I am hopeful that I can get her to accept one new food this weekend. Baby steps, as They say.

(Have been doing some research on food aversion and have discovered that Celia has what is called food neophobia, i.e., a fear of any new foods. [This flabbergasts me, since I am pretty much game to eat anything and that was the expectation in my family of origin, in which my sister and I gained reputations as “picky eaters” because she would not eat lima beans and I would not eat raisins. Honestly. We would both eat all kinds of things that other kids wouldn’t eat, including Brussels sprouts and beets, and yet we were stigmatized. My family is a piece of work.] This goes beyond being a picky eater into total freakout territory. Whee, fun times.)

** I am so not a joiner of anything. Slacker, thy name is Lisa.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Dangers of Cloning

If you were a fly on the wall, yesterday evening you would have seen Sweet Dub embrace me in the kitchen, after which the following exchange took place:

Sweet Dub: I love you so much, I wish there were three of you.

Mama B: What would you do with three of me?

Sweet Dub [clearly he has a plan]: One would stay home and take care of the kids. One would have a high-powered job to keep me in the style to which I have become accustomed. And one would be devoted solely to me.

Mama B: I see where you’re going with this. So that last one wouldn’t have to do all that much except work out, take care of your…bedroom needs, and go shopping?

Sweet Dub: Shopping?! Shopping for what?

Mama B [thinking "arm candy"]: Lingerie, and clothes—

Sweet Dub: Why would she need clothes?
Why, indeed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kinky

Hair style is the final tip-off whether or not a woman really knows herself.
- Hubert de Givenchy, Vogue, July 1985
I think I need a haircut.

My hair is getting really long and I’m tending again toward my cop-out hairdo of pulling my wet hair into a simple ponytail and letting it air dry on my way to work (which it doesn’t, because I have really thick hair). As Viva says, “That is not a hairstyle, Mom.”

What a journey my hair has been over the years. I know that many women agonize over their hair, but the journey seems particularly fraught for those of us with super-hyper curly hair—and those of us whose ancestry has at least some passing acquaintance with Africa get the double whammy of having hair that is simply not a part of the mainstream standard of beauty.

My guilty pleasure (well, one of them) is watching What Not to Wear. But after watching it for a while (and honestly I watch it much less than I used to—I watched it every morning when I was on medical leave a couple of years ago), the segment where they would do the hair makeover started to bug me, because invariably whenever they came across someone with curly or even wavy hair, they would blow it straight. “Sleek and sophisticated,” they would gush.

I call bullshit on that. You mean you are going to teach someone how to completely change their wardrobe to look better and feel better about themselves, but you are going to tell them that the way their hair looks growing naturally out of their heads is not okay? It’s perplexing, because so often hosts Stacy and Clinton preach the message of fit: know your body, accept the shape you have, and dress to compliment your unique shape. They never say you have to lose 50 pounds, or your legs are too short, or your shoulders are too broad. They’re all about working with what you have. And then the hair stylist comes in and gives the woman straight hair. I say: teach them how to style their curls! Teach them to love their hair as it is!

I digress, but only because it is related to my personal hair mantra, which is: It’s all about self-acceptance. And again, working with what you have. When I was a kid, my mom got so frustrated with trying to braid my hair that when I was about 9, she finally just cut it all off—without even asking me first. I then got mistaken for a boy all the time for a couple of years there, because she kept cutting it. This actually was fine with me most of the time because I was a total tomboy, climbing trees and playing Six Million Dollar Man, and I wouldn’t wear a dress if you paid me.

When I hit middle school, my hair had grown out enough that I went back to having a wet set (ecch, can you imagine) every Sunday. By high school, curling irons were it. My hair might not be straight, but at least it was in smooth, big curls. Near the tail end of high school, I cut it all off very short and wore my hair natural in a light brown/dark blonde afro and since it was the 80s, with very thick blue eyeliner. Oh, my.

By the time I hit college, I’d discovered relaxers. No one in my family ever used them, so I had no personal experience with them. I never thought they would work on my hair, but at some point a friend suggested I use one to texturize my hair, so it would still be curly, but grow down, not out. I used them with some success throughout my 20s. During this time, people would tell me how gorgeous my hair was. Are you kidding? Never in my life had I ever thought my hair was pretty. And here I was, with this giant curly head of hair, learning how to use leave-in conditioners and actually enjoying how my hair looked, floating halfway down my back.

By the time I hit 30, I was very happy with my hair and stopped relaxing it. I also became something of a hair product junkie and began falling in love with sites like nappturality and naturallycurly.com. One day, I was walking down Robertson Blvd. in Beverly Hills and a man in a convertible flagged me down. He complimented me on my hair and in the same breath said he was looking for models to be on a show about a Japanese hair straightening system. Would I be interested?

“How long does it last?” I asked.

“About six months,” he said.

“Even when you wet it?” I said.

“Yeah, you won’t believe it,” he enthused.

“No thanks,” I said. “I’m all about the self-acceptance.” And I kept walking.

All about the self-acceptance…except, it seems now, when it comes to white hair.* Get me to a colorist, stat!

Apparently I’ve still got some work to do.

* I’m not going gray, I’m going white. I think it’ll look cool when I’m 50, but I’m not there yet.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Changing the Paradiggum

There was this commercial several years ago in which a bunch of people are sitting around in a conference room and one guy is all gung-ho and trying to get everyone else on board and he says “Sometimes you have to change the paradigm [which he pronounces paradiggum]...think outside the box.” And that has become part of the Blah Blah family lexicon, that “changing the paradiggum.”

And yet fixing one problem sometimes creates another.

Case in point: Miss Celie has been having sleep issues for some time. A (not so) brief history:

Stage One: We started out as co-sleepers. This was very sweet when she was an infant. I would just scoop her next to me and we would sleep with our heads close together all night long. I set up the Co-Sleeper next to the bed, more as a bed rail than anything since she didn’t actually sleep in it, and I slept in between Celie and Sweet Dub. This worked just fine until…

Stage Two: At some point she learned to roll over and keeping her on the side of the bed, even with the Co-Sleeper, wasn’t working. Sweet Dub was no longer worried about rolling over onto her and squishing her in the middle of the night, so we would then go to sleep with her between us. This worked for a very short time, because:

Stage Three: She began crawling and then walking, and would practice in her sleep, flopping around and kicking Sweet Dub in the head. He would wake up, irate, and stomp to the couch and sleep there for the rest of the night, while I would sleep like a rock, oblivious. Not very fair to him, and yet because she was still waking up to eat in the middle of the night, I was too tired to do all that much about it. However, eventually we moved on to…

Stage Four: We’d put her into her crib in the room she shared with Viva at the beginning of the night. At some point she would wake up, I would feed her and/or change her, and because she is a high-need baby (read: loud), I would have to remove her from the room so as to allow Viva to get some sleep. At that point I was so drunk with sleep deprivation that I would stumble to the couch and lie down with her there or just take her back to bed with me. In the latter case, within 30 minutes or so Sweet Dub would get kicked in the face, exit the room and go back to the couch. And I would continually wake up because I was getting kicked and banged into by my very active sleeper. All was not well in Blahville.

Stage Five: Last week, we committed to sleep training Celie and moved Viva across the house into her own room. Bought a rocking chair and hunkered down to battle. The first two nights were rough. She woke up every couple of hours howling. But then…the heavens parted and the sun shone down and she began sleeping through the night. Regularly. For the first time in her nearly 19 months of life.

And now, we are paying the price. She is furious with me. She follows me around screaming at me. She cries, she throws things, she hits. I was reading a pamphlet yesterday for something I’m writing for work and I came across a list of typical behaviors for young kids who have experienced trauma (I am not making this up):

Difficulty sleeping
Excessive tantrums
Defiant, won’t cooperate
Difficulty staying still
Aggression or acting out
Depression or anxiety
Low self-esteem
Inability to trust others
Separation anxiety
Cries a lot and won’t be easily consoled

I could put a check mark next to almost every single one of these. And last night I had to go to an event after work and didn’t get home until after she went to bed. This morning she was a mess, falling apart every five minutes and screaming when I put her in her car seat. At day care, she was fine sitting on my lap on the floor as I talked with her caregiver. I asked if she had been acting out at all. No, she is as she has always been at day care – she’s one of the easy ones, they wish they had 15 kids like her. And then when I got up to leave, Celie fell to pieces. She clung to me screaming. All of the teachers looked shocked. “I’ve never seen her like this,” said her beloved E, who has been her primary caregiver from the beginning. She had to pry her away from me and walk outside with her to wave goodbye. It was not a good way to start my day, to put it mildly.

So I get it: Celie misses her mommy. A lot. And it makes her angry and sad. We have been very much on the go these days, even on weekends, what with T-ball games and birthday parties and going up to visit my ailing grandmother. Celie’s not getting a whole lot of one on one time, and now she’s not even sleeping with me. Where we used to wake up all snuggled against one another and she would pat my face and give me kisses, now she wakes up alone. One of us goes to get her and cuddle her immediately, but it’s still a loss.

And now I have written this epic post, is there a resolution? Sleep issues solved, separation issues drastically heightened. There are no easy answers except take some time off and be with her. This, during a busy season at work when my husband has just been laid off. I need my job. But my baby needs her mama.

For the record: I know I am a good mom. I know I am doing the best I can on this hamster wheel of modern life. Today I am buying a lottery ticket and hoping for the best. Maybe I could stay home with her for a while.

P.S. She is very sweet when she's not mad at me:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blog Neglect

Blog neglect, n. That state of inactivity on one’s blog that makes all regular readers forget that one ever even had a blog. Also, the related malaise that leads to complete inarticulateness when one actually does sit down to write a post

Here is what I must do:
Set a regular schedule and stick to it. I’m aiming to blog Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

And…I got pulled away from this while writing and almost forgot to post it. Ah, the irony.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Good Times

Yesterday Sweet Dub and I met for lunch and inadvertently celebrated an anniversary: it’s been a month already since he got laid off.

I know! Doesn’t life always fast forward at the worst times?

At any rate, it was kind of a fun lunch. Laid-back, and Sweet Dub was dressed all casual and hip, wearing a new hat which makes him look even more like his doppelganger, Mos Def.

(Hm. Inserted a picture here of Mos Def in hat. Blogger will not recognize. What the fizzle?)

We talked about current events and other things not related to the kids. We ate Italian food and shared coffee afterward. It was kind of like being on a date.

We are working on a couple of creative projects together—well, mainly he is working on them, and I am trying to do my part in my spare time, and telling him whether I think this or that is a good idea, and helping with logistics when I can. And in this way, I think, the lay-off has been a good thing.

He is simultaneously happier, and a little stressed out, and excited. It’s an interesting, unpredictable chapter in this life we are building together.

That said, more to come…

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Too Many Cooks

It is never simple here.
Everybody has an opinion.
A brief piece which is time sensitive is held up.
Repeatedly.
Because so-and-so has to review.
And then whats-their-face needs to read it.
Please say This and not That.
Take This out.
We can’t say That.
I find out that This is also politically sensitive.
In the sense that if we say This, we might not get That.
This could cause big problems for us.
Did he say you could say That?
I am tired and cranky and sick of this game.
Write it yourself then, I think.

It is just this moment.
Tomorrow or even an hour from now I will feel differently.
Inhale, exhale.
I go play with the kittens that were rescued from inside the wall while a crew was renovating an office.
They are tiny, and wide-eyed, and full of beans.
How can you not smile when watching them?
I defy you.

Monday, May 03, 2010

There’s Nothing I Hate More Than Nothing*

Bad things are not the worst things that can happen to us. Nothing is the worst thing that can happen to us!
- Richard Bach


When I first read this quotation I misunderstood that second part. I thought it meant, “There is no such thing as the worst thing that could happen to us.” Maybe it was because I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

But what he’s saying is that the worst thing that can happen to us is that nothing happens to us. And that, yes—that I agree with. How are you to grow as a person if nothing happens to you? Think of how much all your varied life experiences have shaped you--whether for good or bad. They are what make you so distinctly yourself.

Similar wisdom from another and very different source:

Just because it's different, doesn't mean it's scary...try new things!
-I'm From Barcelona, on the Yo Gabba Gabba! Music is Awesome CD

* Showing my age! Can you guess where the line comes from?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Acceptance

Just a quickie:

Catching up on my blog feed reading, and I came across this little gem which had me nodding my head. In it, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits reiterates what has been floating through my mind since Sweet Dub got laid off: in essence, this too shall pass. This happened to us, and it was neither good or bad, and something else will happen tomorrow, and that too shall pass. And life will go on.

“A weed is only a weed when we don’t like it. Children are only naughty if we don’t like their actions. Life only sucks if you judge it as bad.”
This is very hard for me, this dropping of judgment and expectations. Very, very hard. But it’s a great exercise in retraining your brain.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Back from the Doldrums

Well! I just dropped a bomb on you and then skedaddled away, even though so many of you so kindly took the time to comment and commiserate.

That’s not cool, and I apologize. What’s happened is that Sweet Dub got laid off and that very same day, our modem decided to die. What with one thing and another (oh, the intricacies of health insurance and COBRA and such, and by the way: SUMMER CAMP! You gotta start thinking about it! And by the way: cell phone! Sweet Dub’s was a company phone, so he suddenly didn’t have one and lost all his contacts! And hey: pinkeye! The baby got it! And T-ball! We are smack in the middle of T-ball season! And sickness! Sweet Dub and I are both neck-deep in phlegm! And exhaustion! And, scene.) – well, what I’m saying is, I’m pretty invested in keeping my job right now, so I’ve not been blogging at work, and I’ve had no Internet access at home, and I don’t have a Smartphone, so I’ve been somewhat off the grid in terms of blogging.

But here we are, and ten days post-layoff, we are managing to stay positive. I am trying to avoid thinking about health insurance because it makes my eye twitch, so I won’t go into that, but just know this: the Blah Blahs can’t ever catch a break with something like that. Every avenue I tried came back to this: I must pay through my employer for health insurance, and it is $1,100 a month. COBRA is not cheaper, and we don’t qualify for the federal subsidy because Sweet Dub is eligible for health insurance through my job.

But enough about that. (Already I can feel my blood pressure spiking and my heart rate increasing, just in writing those few sentences.) At least one of us has a job. And we have some severance pay and we have some savings (partly for the hypothetical house which is impossible to buy in Los Angeles anyway) and if worst comes to worst, we have credit lines that are not being used. But I would hate for it to come to that.

Here is where I should insert something pithy and somehow poignant and inspirational. But instead I want to tell you a silly story, because it’s finding the humor in the everyday that’s keeping me going right now, and maybe it will make you laugh, too.

Earlier this week, I discovered that if I said, “Ready, set –“ to Miss Celie, she would say, “GO!”* But she would say it with such force that she would literally rock forward on her toes and the vein in her neck would stand out. And then she would break into a huge grin, as pleased with herself as could be.

Last night, I was talking to my mom on the phone and I figured this was a perfect “show off to Grandma” moment, so I said to Miss Celie, “Ready, set –“ and she said, “No.”

Ready, set – NO. It’s kind of appropriate, I think.

* And she doesn’t pronounce it plainly, “GO,” it’s more like “Goh!” which for some reason is more endearing and harder to convey on the page.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Holy Crap

Sweet Dub just called me. He got laid off today.

Holy freakin' crap.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Seven

It was a Tuesday morning. Sweet Dub was working horrific hours at his job. When he left for work at 6 AM, he asked if I was okay. My hips had begun hurting pretty bad at about 4 AM, but I said, “I’m fine, go to work.” And then I said, “But if I call you and ask you to come home, it’s not an April Fools!” and I went back to sleep.

About an hour later, I woke up with the distinct feeling of being wet. “The final indignity has happened,” I thought. “I’ve peed myself.”

I hefted myself out of bed and padded into the bathroom, where I peed again. As I was washing my hands I felt like I was peeing on myself again. I could feel fluid running out.

“Did my water break? I think my water broke,” I said out loud to no one in particular. “Is that what this is? This is not what I thought it would be.”

And, seven years later, that pretty much sums up my journey of motherhood. It is not what I thought it would be. It is so much more of everything, I can’t even explain it.

That day, my life changed forever. At 7:22 PM, Viva rocketed into the world.


A few hours old

A few weeks later

And she’s been rocking my world ever since. But enough about me, because after all, it is her birthday. Here are her specific birthday instructions/requirements:

(1) I must sleep with her, in her tiny little bed, so we can wake up together all snuggly-like
(2) She does not care what she has for her birthday dinner, as long as there is cherry Jello for dessert
(3) She is having a class field trip, so no party at school (huge sigh of relief here)
(4) HOWEVER, she is inviting her entire 1st Grade class over to our house for a party next Saturday (insert nervous breakdown here)
(5) She must also sleep over at Auntie Lola’s Saturday night, so as to wake up at her house Sunday morning for an Easter egg hunt and thus, maximum birthday/Easter-type leveraging of wonderfulness

Ah, my girl. Was there ever one so amazing and superb? Her legs are ten feet long and she can tell you the plot of every SpongeBob episode EVER and sometimes she still does that thing where she says, “Remember when--?” and it’s about something that happened when I wasn’t even there, but she always assumes I am with her, all the time. It’s like she thinks I can see everything she is doing. Not quite in a creepy way, but like we are so connected that I must be able to see everything she does even when I’m not there. Like we are twins or something.

She is slow as molasses on a cold day, and quick as a whip, and all other kinds of similes and metaphors that I won’t bother employing here. She wants to be like all the other kids, and at the same time she wants to be different, and I get it, I really do. She is a complex little person. The other day she said:

“Mom, Ms. C only lets me get CHAPTER books out of the library.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“I’m the only kid that has to read chapter books. No one else has to read chapter books.”

“I thought you get to choose whatever book you want,” I said.

“No, Ms. C picks our books,” Viva scowled. (Actually, I believe the process is that the teacher has to approve the books they’re checking out.)

“So what’s wrong with chapter books? Is she picking ones that are too hard for you?”

“NO,” Viva said.

“It’s just that you’re the only one who’s reading them?”

“Yeah,” Viva said. “The other kids get the easy books.”

I finally realized that she thinks the teacher is being hard on her, rather than recognizing her skill level and having her read what’s developmentally appropriate. I then tried to explain to Viva that it’s because she is so good at reading that Ms. C gives her the more advanced books, because she might be bored with the easy books. Viva was still skeptical, and still kind of pissed at being labeled different in some way, even though it’s because she is way beyond her grade level.

She has an innate sense of fairness, and she really could not give a damn what she looks like. Except she better have some cool sneakers on. If she could wear whatever she wanted every day, it would be basketball shorts, a T-shirt and some badass Adidas. She protests having her hair “did,” but refuses to get it cut. She loves the way her hair looks right after she gets out of the shower, and right after it’s been oiled and braided. She has a much higher tolerance for fuzzy edges than I do, and ducks when I try to swipe at her hairline with a brush in the morning.

She hates it when she is not excellent at something the first time she tries it. I mean, she hates it to the point where she will burst into tears and throw a racket down and say, “Tennis is so STUPID anyway!” I mean, like in the moment if she could she would take a flamethrower to the tennis racket, the tennis ball, and all of Wimbledon, Serena Williams be damned. I know that it is only time and a moderate level of maturity that make me a bit more mellow about things like this than she is, but at the same time, it is exasperating.

Three weeks later, she will be bouncing a tennis ball with her racket like she is a pro, rage forgotten. She is a tough cookie, and still a little girl who screams for her parents in the night when she has a bad dream. The Tooth Fairy is no fiction to her. Yesterday, we had a serious conversation about cartoon duck voices (from Donald Duck to the baby duck on Tom and Jerry, we covered the whole pantheon).

She is so distinctly herself. I really lucked out. So happy birthday to Viva, my sweet, smart, ever-growing knockout of a girl.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sleep: The Last Unicorn*

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one.
- Leo Burke

I was reading about sleep deprivation last night. And although I was reading a book** about child development, the book mentioned as part of its chapter on children and sleep that studies performed on adults who were averaging about 6 hours of sleep a night functioned similarly to individuals who had not slept in 24 hours.

I can’t remember the last time I had a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. I feel that I am irritable, prone to weepiness, and not ever functioning at optimum capacity. Not surprisingly, it’s not a good feeling.

One of the best ways, I have read, to ensure that you get enough sleep is to establish a bedtime for yourself. Before I became a parent, I pretty much just went to bed whenever I felt sleepy. This meant that some nights, I could get ten hours of sleep, or, if I was feeling particularly peppy, that I could stay up late and get by on five or six hours. Right now, with my sleep debt, the concept of eight full hours of sleep seems like the most heavenly thing imaginable. I told Sweet Dub last night that we need to get to bed by 10 PM. He thought that was really hilarious, and not really helpful, since we are being awakened every night in and around the 2 o’clock hour by Miss Celie. It takes at least 20-30 minutes for her to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, so even so we will not get a full eight hours of sleep.

We are the Crabby Blah Blahs. Hear us whimper.

P.S. it looks like Miss Celie may have another ear infection, so we’re heading back to the pediatrician this afternoon. (The screaming you hear is just inside my head.)

* By which I mean: it's rumored to exist, but has proved elusive. Have you ever read that book? I went through a Peter S. Beagle phase when I was about 15, but that is a tangent which I am cutting short --hmmm, right now.

** The extremely popular NurtureShock! Read it and weep! No, actually, it’s really fascinating, in the “I know I should go to bed but I just got sucked in to read the next chapter” kind of way. It pokes holes in a lot of assumptions we have about modern parenting. I’ve been wanting to read it for months, was waiting for it to come out in paperback, and finally just gave in and bought the hardcover. I regret nothing!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Skinny Mini

At our last pediatrician visit a couple of weeks ago, we discovered that Miss Celie had a “raging” ear infection (the doctor’s words, not mine), and that although she’d grown two inches since her last checkup five months ago (yes, we’re off schedule), she actually weighed less at 17 months than at 12 months. I know Celie is a horribly picky eater, and I had been dreading the appointment, because the list of foods she will eat is quite small, and lately she had begun rejecting certain foods that she previously would eat.

Dr. H said we might need to take her to an occupational therapist to work on her food aversion. (This is an actual thing, this food aversion!) But then she conferred with one of the other doctors in the practice and they came up with a plan whereby we are to offer Miss Celie food once an hour while she is awake. We are only to offer her foods which she actually likes, although they do want us to try giving her PediaSure or Carnation Instant Breakfast as a supplement. (It turns out she hates PediaSure and will only tolerate about one tablespoonful of Carnation Instant Breakfast in her milk.)

If she doesn’t gain weight on this plan, by April 21st, they will send us to jail. No, no, I kid. They will refer us to a nutritionist and possibly also an occupational therapist, who will re-teach her how to eat. (I am serious.) I don’t know if this comes through in my regular blogging, but we are actually pretty healthy, balanced-meal eaters. Viva has even commented that her teacher says she is the only kid who brings healthy snacks to school. (That is rather alarming and fodder for a whole post of its own.)

We are educated, middle-class, blah blah blah, which I hate even writing, but I feel like we have all the tools at our disposal for our little one to be healthy and flourishing. Is our kid failing to thrive? In all honesty, I walked away from the appointment with a giant lump in my throat, feeling like a terrible parent.

Sweet Dub’s reaction was similar: “I feel like we let her down,” he said.

Celie doesn’t look underweight. She has a layer of baby fat, and she has curvy little arms and legs. She has a little potbelly, as most healthy kids her age do. She isn’t fat, but her genetics are going to predispose her to that. Sweet Dub and I were both skinny kids and we are not large adults.

She’s also been teething, this time with molars, and she’s caught every cold that’s come down the pike. Her appetite has not been great. At the moment, she eats most kinds of fresh fruit*, cheese, some yogurt, applesauce, peanut butter, crackers of all types, some pasta, and that’s really it. Oh, and air, in the form of any kind of puffed veggie-type food item like Pirate’s Booty or Snapea Crisps. She won’t eat baby food, she won’t eat potatoes (except the occasional French fry, her one food vice), she won’t eat rice or bread, and she won’t eat any kind of meat. She also won’t eat tofu. She eats green beans and sometimes broccoli.

It’s tough. Sometime she will eat things they offer her at daycare and then she won’t eat the exact same thing at home. Months ago she tried peas from a classmate's plate, and ate a bunch of them. She would eat them at home, but then one day she refused and hasn't eaten a pea since.

She is often crabby, and I am quite sure she is just hungry. But if you offer her a food she doesn’t recognize she will turn her head away and screech until you remove it from her sight, or at least from her highchair.

Someday I will look back on this and shake my head at how overly concerned I was, as I watch Celie eat a bowl of ceviche or something. But for now, I’m in the thick of it, and feeling pretty bad.

P.S. My doctor even suggested feeding her ice cream to fatten her up. Not sure that’s the road I want to take – first of all because of the sugar, and second of all because I don’t want her to grow up thinking of ice cream as a food group. Talk to me in a couple of weeks if she still hasn't gained weight.


* Except bananas. What kid doesn’t eat bananas?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Avoidance

In direct contrast to the last couple of posts, today’s post is a bit fluffier. Think cotton candy. Sprinkled with just a light dusting of exasperation. Read on…

Well hey, it's that time of year again. What’s that, you say? Well, it’s Viva’s birthday! (Almost.) She will be seven in just nine more days – that’s right, she’s an April Fools baby. So I sent out birthday party invitations by email to some friends, and one emailed me back that she won’t be able to make it but by the way, she ran into the mom of one of Viva’s bestest besty friends in the whole world at the farmer’s market last weekend and the mom asked my friend to give me her phone numbers and call her because bestest besty friend misses her so much.

If they are bestest besty friends, you ask, why are we not in touch?

I’m so glad you asked. Viva and her friend (let’s call her BeBe) used to attend preschool together and were inseparable, and then her mom elected to take her out of private school and put her in a charter school. I’m not mad at that – if I could get Viva into a charter or magnet school, I would probably do the same.*

What I am mad at, and long-time readers (all two of you! Hi there!) may remember this, is that two years ago, we had decided to let Viva pick one friend to take to Disneyland for her birthday, and naturally Besty Best was that friend. I ran it by BeBe’s mom first, and told her no pressure, she didn’t have to decide right away. But I made it clear that we would pay for both of them to go with us for the whole day, and that food/treats/etc. were all part of the deal. Basically all they had to do was show up. And then I called her. And I called her. And she never took my calls. And I never heard back.

And you know, try explaining that to your 5-year-old. She was very upset, and I was all mama bear furious. (How dare you snub my kid? At least have the decency to call and say you can’t go, for whatever reason - make something up if you have to, for heaven's sake.) We ended up taking my sister and nephews and had a lovely time, despite my morning sickness and fatigue.

At any rate, I know what I should do. I should do the right thing, do what would make my kid happy, right? I should suck it up and call her. I know that. I just don’t want to!

* Just found out Viva got waitlisted for second grade at a charter school for the second year in a row. She is number 83 on the list. I love public school,** oh yes, I do.

** I’m not being sarcastic, I really do love public school. I just wish the ones in L.A. weren’t so hit and miss. And that the school-year schedule made sense for parents who work full-time and have no family support. I can’t really have my kid out of school for three weeks at a time at Christmas.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sorrowful; Grieved; Sad

On Monday, a hospice liaison came to visit my Nanna. In light of the spread of her cancer, they discussed the options: radiation, chemotherapy, or palliative care. My grandmother chose palliative care, so a nurse came on Tuesday and brought a wheelchair, oxygen, a bench for the shower, and morphine; and came back on Wednesday to review her medication schedule with my mom. A hospice nurse will visit on a regular schedule from now on.

So those are the facts. My head is all awhirl and I feel kind of sick and sad. I'm trying to think positively. I don't want her to suffer. I feel horrible that my mom, an only child, is experiencing this long, torturous process all over again - my grandfather died of metastasized prostate cancer nearly 6 years ago, at home, with hospice care. It was awful, horribly awful.

Trying to think of something positive to say, but right now - I got nothing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tongue Tied.

I keep starting posts and deleting them today. When I re-read them, I feel they are hardly worth the effort of reading. So I delete. And then I rebuke myself sharply. And then I go sit in the corner and weep hot tears of futility. And then I think to myself, man, that salad I had for lunch is just not cutting it. I wish I had some chips or something. And then I realize that part of the problem is that I am so easily distracted these days. And then I go back to daydreaming about chips, and vacation, and the upcoming Macy’s sale.

Now that I am out of the habit of blogging it seems I can barely string two words together. Oh, noes!

I’ll try again tomorrow.

Mmm, chips.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Simple

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
-Confucius

I have a family member who insists on making huge grand life decisions with (seemingly) nary a thought to the consequences. I don’t understand why, when faced with two possible routes on the road of life, this person invariably seems to choose the one which is clearly marked, for all to see, “Train Wreck.”

It is very frustrating to get a phone call with details of the wreck after such a decision has been made. I am never sure what to say. I try not to be judgmental (I know! Laughable!). It is difficult.

Keep things simple, I want to say. Address one problem at a time. Don’t create additional drama when you already have enough going on.

And if you can, eat a piece of red velvet cake. It may help put things in perspective.