Friday, February 27, 2009

Sometimes it is easy to forget that she is only 4

GIRL started talking early. She has been able to carry on full, interactive conversations now for some time, rather than just the stream-of-consciousness monologues thrust at you by many her age. Sometimes it is easy to forget that she is only 4. She grasps intricate concepts, and she is what we like to call in the theater world, a quick study. She memorizes things very fast. A few weeks ago, I was reading aloud to BOY a letter that had come home for the parents, detailing how they would be doing a different shape each day and plan the morning's activities around that particular shape. There was a schedule of: Monday: circle, Tuesday: square, etc. I read it once aloud, and the next day GIRL recited most of the week's shape schedule. She had memorized it from my saying it aloud one time. It was impressive.

When she and I are out and about, people will overhear her conversing with me at the grocery store, or on some errand and will comment on her dexterity with language. It is fun. Except when she starts with the questions...ahhh, yes the questions. Why? Why? Why? And after I explain, with some detail, she goes deeper into the WHY? She is a critical thinker.

The blessings are many with this GIRL of mine. She is the best company you could hope for, and has a pretty good gauge on when she's had enough.

"I didn't know that shopping would take THIS long..."

Rather than a tantrum in the store.

Or: "Mommy, I'm tiiired." Some days, she needs to go to her room and chill for an hour with a stack of books. I like to listen at the door and hear her "reading" them aloud. At night, when she's really tired - she's tired, she knows it, and she wants to go to bed.

There are always exceptions, but basically that is how she flies. She is incredibly loyal and delights in her friendships. She loves to make art projects for everyone in the family, including BOY. The rate at which she is learning to write her letters is amazing. I take joy in her pleasure.

But, heaven help you if you go up against her. She is tough. And...she has a fiery temper. When she's really upset she works herself up into such a state that she gets scared she won't be able to come back down.

There are times when she takes my breath away. She is a brainiac. She is competitive. And she is strong willed. All qualities I would have loved to have. All qualities that I am so happy that she has for herself. Yet, qualities that are a challenge to parent...

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No, I will hit the send button and it will be done.

When I was an actress I suffered from a debilitating stage fright. Auditions were...something I suffered through. Something I had to do, obviously, to try out for a role. I started doing theater early on. My first acting class was when I was 8. I took to it right away. I loved playing roles that were so different from myself. I was rather reserved, but taking on a role was very freeing. I don't remember when the stage fright started, but instead of getting better as I got older, it worsened. By the time I was in my twenties, I would feel physically sick before I went on stage, or on an audition. Sometimes I wouldn't even go on the audition. There were, what I recognize now, as panic attacks. I would have plans to go somewhere that required a little more of me, an audition, a chance to meet someone, and...right after I got out of bed I would experience waves of dizziness. So acute that I would have to lie back down. My inner anxiety created such disorientation that I would have to remain in bed for a few hours. Later, when I had by then missed the audition, the dizziness was miraculously gone. This is one of the reasons why I gave up acting.

Writing has been cathartic for me. I have been able to let my thoughts drift out through my fingers, and have been pretty successful at not letting my censor start shouting in my ear. As acting was in the beginning, it has been very freeing for me. But, I am now testing myself a bit. Blogging is very safe. You write what you want, slap it on the Blogosphere, and usually get positive feedback. The community is like your very own PEP SQUAD. Your cheerleaders. And it feels validating and really wonderful.

However, I feel the need to see if my writing resonates in other places, too. Hence, one of my New Year's Resolutions, which was to make at least one submission a month for publication consideration. This month my intention is to submit a few poems to a well known publication. This publication happens to take emailed submissions. And, probably most people would say that being able to email your work is sooooo convenient and that would be the end of it. Nope. Not for me.

You see, emailing to me feels really direct. Basically you're sending your work, that has emotional meaning to you, in an email bullet DIRECTLY to someone else. Whereas when you print out a cover letter, fold it up with your poems, stick it in an envelope, put a self-addressed envelope in it for the "we regret" letter, add a stamp and throw it in the mail... Well, you know it goes through a lot of hands. Why does that make a difference? Well, in my convoluted thinking process it means that maybe it sits in the mail room for a while, then it may sit on some one's desk...It could take a while to be opened. Maybe it doesn't even get opened. There is mystery involved.

With emailing a submission to someone, it zooms directly into their inbox. Perhaps they get thousands of submissions, and your email doesn't even get opened right away. However, there is a chance that it does get opened, glanced at quickly, and given the rejection right away. Yet, they take weeks to let you know. And in this world of QUICK, QUICKER, QUICKEST...that seems almost mean.

So, my stomach is clenched today, as I write this, because in a few minutes I will submit some of my work via email, and I can't run after the mailman and say...OH, I FORGOT SOMETHING!...snatch the letter back and wait for another day. No, I will hit the send button and it will be done. And then I may have to lie down and take some deep breaths.

****Painting by Chuck Gumpert - titled: "Imminent"

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fabulous limbo contest

Yesterday was quite fun. I soaked up a good dose of GIRL & BOY. I am continually struck by their amazing creativity and ability to have the cuff. The sign above is GIRL's creation. She asked for help with a few letters, and how to spell the words, but basically wrote the whole thing herself. She crossed out some letters that were "NOT RIGHT!" God help her, she's a perfectionist. I try to tell her that this is AMAZING at 4 years old, but she is still hard on herself. Just in case you need a translation:

AT 8

I don't know about you, but I am going to be there...

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Monday, February 23, 2009

JCK felt a bit like an alien in Utah.

JCK has been away for several days and didn't have an opportunity to blog. Perhaps you've noticed? JCK went to Utah to meet her sister, and visit her nephew who is at a boarding school there. She did get to streeetch herself a bit. Doing things JCK doesn't normally do....

Instead of watching the feeding habits of her young scamps, BOY & GIRL, JCK was able to observe large BISON eating. Very little difference, although she believes the BISON have better manners. She ate meals in restaurants, instead of standing in the kitchen. JCK went to a movie. It was called, He's Just NOT That Into You. JCK was just NOT into that movie overall, but it was fun to laugh and occasionally FLUFF is good for you. JCK went rollerskating. Yes. She did. JCK was the OLDEST one circling on wheels. She only fell once. Not while she was moving, but while talking to her sister they clutched each other and toppled over. JCK has intimate knowledge now of why skating is for the young. Falling can only have one result. PAIN. JCK also participated in Mini Bowling and SKEE BALL. JCK kicks ass. Even if it doesn't show up in the score.

JCK felt a bit like an alien in Utah. Although a great admirer of BIG HAIR, and a past participant in the fine art of BIG HAIR management, the manes in UTAH take BIG HAIR to another level. Look out New Jersey, Texas, and the entire've got some mean competition. JCK can make this snide remark as she lived in Atlanta for several years and was a BIG HAIR maven.

JCK missed her children terribly. Hearing their little voices over the phone line was difficult, and created an ache in her heart. She was gone 4 nights. JCK is exhausted.

BOY is determined to seek revenge on JCK leaving. Upon her arrival home yesterday, BOY refused to hug her. At first. Then after some discussion it was determined that BOY was MAD at JCK for leaving. GIRL adhered to JCK like a baby monkey.

E was husband/father extraordinaire. Did JCK mention that BOY had a high fever the morning that JCK left? Or that BOY threw up in the car on the way home from the airport? Poor BOY. Poor E.

JCK arrived home and the house was cleaner and neater than when she left. A few clothes had a new red tint, but if your husband does the laundry while you are gone, everything looks rosy. E also commissioned a banner for JCK. She will be doing something wonderful for E later in the week. It probably will not require paper and magic markers. Although there could be body paint...

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Monday, February 16, 2009 online literary magazine for women dealing with infertility, miscarriage, and infant death

Several years ago, when I was struggling with infertility, I felt incredibly alone. I didn't know anyone else who was having any difficulty getting pregnant. In fact, everywhere I turned it seemed that another friend or family member was pregnant...AGAIN. I dreaded invitations to baby showers, and felt guilty that my happiness for them was clouded by my unhappiness for myself. It was complicated...and even my husband, E, who is a very sensitive man, could not truly understand all of the assorted emotions that I was going through. Let alone the emotions brought out by the fertility drugs.

Last week I was contacted by the editor of a new online magazine called Exhale.

Exhale is a unique new literary magazine written for & by ordinary people who have faced extraordinary obstacles to getting/staying knocked up, or who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Exhale is published solely online.

Exhale is a space for creative expression. We seek out the gritty humor and complexities of discovering that producing a child isn't as easy as your mother told you. Without succumbing to the belief that a person's self-worth and happiness are defined reproductive achievement, we recognize and validate the vast array of perspectives and emotions associated with pregnancy/infant loss and infertility issues.

The Editor, Monica M. LeMoine, had come across my artwork during an online search, and discovered a blog post in which I talked about how the act of painting had helped me during a very painful period of infertility. She asked to use one of my paintings for the cover of her magazine. I went online to Exhale's site and couldn't stop reading. It is a very impressive magazine, with top notch writers, and professionally laid out.

Then, there was a quick email exchange in which I said...Thank you very much, I'd love to be a part of this, but... are you sure you want to use one of MY paintings?! She did. And, so I am very honored to be a part of the current issue. Once you visit, you will be drawn in. It is an invaluable resource for women struggling with infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. If you know anyone on this difficult, lonely journey, please send them to Exhale. You will be glad that you did.

To see more of my paintings, please go here.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

I know you would have loved

I know you would have loved
seeing the Mediterranean again
so I will dip my toes
in the sea, for you...

I know you would have loved
sipping hot tea with mint again
so I will drink it, savoring
the scent, for you...

I know you would have loved
walking on the beach of Oman again
so I will enjoy the sun
on my face, for you...

I know you would have loved
feeling the mountain breeze again
so I will tilt my face up
into the wind, for you...

I know you would have loved
returning to your students again
so I will be passionate
about teachers, for you...

I know you would have loved
sitting under a Cedar of Lebanon again
so I will rest my head back
against the trunk, for you...

I know you would have loved
laughing your raucous laugh again
so I will let my sides ache
joyfully living, for you...

This poem is dedicated to Denell, who died yesterday of cancer. She was a dear friend, and a bright light for all of us. Go in Peace, my friend. Someday we will meet again. Inshallah...

***Photo of Denell taken at a restaurant in Anjar, Lebanon - 2005.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We close one door and open another...

On Monday was BOY's last day at the preschool. On Friday, the teacher told the children that BOY would be going to a new school. Then she had each one of them draw a picture of their own design, and the teacher wrote what each child wanted to say to BOY. On Monday, during circle time, she gave BOY a bound book with drawings from his friends. It was so sweet. There were various messages from his friends:

I will miss you. You were a good friend.
I like playing castle with you.
I hope you like your new school and make a friend.

I will miss my friend, BOY.

I like playing dog with you.

On the cover of the book was the class picture and a special good-bye message from his teachers. His teachers and the Director have been phenomenal. The lunch bunch kids also made a good-bye banner for him. It was a bittersweet day. He is a large presence there. He will be missed...

GIRL is having a lot of sadness over him not going to the same school anymore. She spent a lot of time in my lap today. She is declaring that she, also, wants to leave the preschool and go to BOY's new school. I know that this is temporary, and that she truly loves her days at the preschool, but it will be an adjustment for her. Once she gets the new routine down, she'll be fine. It is a joy to see the huge growth in her confidence over the last few months. She is flourishing.

Yesterday we visited BOY's new school as a family. We wanted BOY to get a chance to meet his teachers, and to see his new classroom. We entered the classroom, and with no hesitation, BOY immediately walked over to the train table and started engaging in conversation with a couple of boys. E and I just looked at each other and smiled. GIRL enjoyed seeing his classroom and chatted up one of the teachers. His lead teacher picked out a little boy to show BOY around the outside play area. He was darling, demonstrating to BOY the various things to play with.

Today was BOY's first day at the new school. He will be able to ride a bus to school, and about all he cares about. Of course! How cool is it to get to ride a bus when you're 5?! Since it was his very first day, I wanted to take him to school myself, and pick him up, but tomorrow he rides the bus.

He said he was nervous this morning, and I was glad he was able to talk about his feelings. Yet, as soon as we approached the school, and he saw his teacher with a few children who had just gotten off the bus, he shouted a greeting and couldn't get over to them fast enough. He went up to the little boy who had befriended him and put his hands on his shoulders, looking into his eyes. I'm not sure what BOY said, but the other little guy smiled. He then lined right up, holding hands, and walked away from me into the school. My eyes filled with tears. Happy ones.

When I picked him up, his teachers said he had had a great day:

He painted with Q-tips.
He did shaving cream.
He played with trains.
He ate all of his hot lunch.
He had a private OT (Occupational Therapy) session on fine motor skills.


He hugged all of his new friends.

Now THAT is my BOY. We close one door and open another...

****"Leaving the world for a while" painting by Chuck Gumpert.

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Decision

It's so hard being a grown-up parent. You hold these small, precious lives in your hands. Everyone says that children are resilient. And, indeed they are. But, when it is your children....they appear delicate. Confronted by important choices, suddenly you are supposed to know what decisions to make. And to make them! Incredibly hard. Painful. Even when you know that you are making the right decisions.

It's been difficult to quiet my mind, yet I find myself feeling relieved. And then has been challenging to sleep. I feel anxious, and overwhelmed a bit. Not by their findings, but by changes that have to be made. Again. And although I am concerned about BOY dealing with a change in schools halfway through the year, I have to acknowledge that it is myself who has issues around change. Intellectually, I can tell myself that change is powerful, and brings new adventures to the table that always enrich in the end. Yet, FEAR is my first reaction. So, I need to take that suitcase of MY anxiety and check it at the door. Because, really? There is only one decision to make. The one that is best for BOY. And that means moving him to a school where he will get the help that he needs.

Now that the decision is made, I can breathe and move forward. It is an opportunity for growth. For all of us...

***Painting titled: "Iron Essence" by Chuck Gumpert.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

The Meeting

We met on Tuesday with the PUSD Special Education Preschool team to get their full assessment on BOY. In the last two months, I had brought him in twice for a series of occupational and psychological tests, each session lasting over two hours. And, they visited his preschool four times to observe him. Once by a speech therapist, twice by the occupational therapist, and once by the psychologist. Each visit they stayed 2 hours. They were incredibly thorough. Our meeting with the team, to go over their findings, was three hours. BOY's teacher also attended for the first two hours, and we are so appreciative of her taking the time to do that.

The assessment was helpful. Incredibly beneficial and validating. In fact, we were impressed. 50 pages of documentation. A compilation of the test results, all the observations, and the summary findings of the many questionnaires that were filled out both by us and his teacher. The attention to detail, and the hours of work that went into the report, was truly amazing! 50 pages of our BOY. And they got him. Really got him. All of his strengths and gifts, how much fun he is, and the challenges that he faces.

There are 4 areas of need to be addressed. Three of them relate to Sensory Processing. Sensory Processing refers to how the brain organizes and integrates sensory information from our bodies and the environment, so that we use what we need to perform everyday activities and function in an adaptive way.**

The areas of need with Sensory Processing:

BOY has significant difficulty with drawing, tracing & writing.

BOY has difficulty with attention - inattentive, easily distracted much of the time.

BOY has difficulty using both hands, both sides of his body in a coordinated way. (Example: Although BOY uses both sides of his body, he avoids crossing mid-line, and uses strategies such as switching hands, or turning the paper around, instead of tracing or cutting continuously while coordinating turning the paper as necessary.)

The other area of need is in Communication:

BOY requires repetition of many directions, and he often ignores what he is told.

In summary...what all of this means is that BOY does meet the criteria for special education services as a student with a specific learning disability: deficit in the psychological processing area of attention. As well as additional issues related to sensory processing. The best news is that BOY's challenges can be treated with Occupational Therapy, and it can all be overcome.

Ever since BOY was born, we have had periods of challenge that seemed outside the norm, and it is validating to have an answer. As E said in the meeting, for us it is as if puzzle pieces are finally falling into place. Yet, at the same time, no one wants their child to have additional challenges. It is painful. I adore BOY so... And, adore doesn't EVEN BEGIN to cover how much I love him and treasure him.

At the end of the meeting they gave us their recommendations:

  1. For BOY to have Occupational Therapy for 45 minutes once a week.

  2. To move BOY as soon as possible from his current preschool, and enroll in a school district Pre-K morning preschool inclusion class at a local elementary school. There he would get specific help all week by teachers trained in these specific learning disability areas. And... he would be able to excel in the areas where he has strengths. An inclusion classroom is one in which you have 15 students who are general education students, and up to 5 children with special needs. There is a full-time general education teacher as well as a full-time special education teacher in the classroom. In addition, they have two full-time aides.

But, we LOVE his preschool!! Do we want to move him AGAIN?

To be continued...

**Definition of Sensory Processing taken from the report.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

You would never know it if you met me on the street

It is not obvious, and is not easily detected or revealed. You would never know it if you met me on the street. Or at a cocktail party. Or on the playground. It occasionally comes up in conversation. Not often. And until now has not weighed on me.

It didn't affect my earlier life as an actress, a massage therapist, or an Executive Assistant. My daughter has not asked about it yet, but I feel the time approaching. Fast. And I don't yet know how I will explain it. I have not been overly conscious of feeling ashamed. Yet, for the first time this week, I did feel something resembling...shame.

I overheard my daughter and my husband talking together during the Super Bowl.

I want the Pittsburgh Steelers to win.

Why, Daddy?

Because that's where Daddy went to college.

Just words. Ordinary words. Yet...I am not a college graduate, and now it bothers me. Because I will have to explain why to my daughter when she asks. And my reasons? Years ago...solidified by youthful ego and blindness. The reasons now sound very weak.

At some point, I might want to go back to complete a degree. But, it wouldn't be for the usual reasons: furthering a career trajectory, or even the satisfaction of finishing something that I started. No. It would be because... I want my daughter to know that I value a college education. I'm not sure why I'm focused on my daughter knowing this, rather than both of my children. But, it feels important for her to know this about me. And, that's all I know...

*****Note: Well! What wonderful thoughtful comments. Thank you. I've commented on a few things below. Thanks for the discussion!

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