Dear Gems, Today you fed me for the first time. I gave you a piece of banana and after taking a few bites you took it and fed it to me. I think this is so exciting. I don't know why but I do. Well... actually I think it's exciting because I feel it shows you have an awareness outside of yourself. It also tells me you are mimicking my actions; I fed you, you feed me. I think it shows signs of empathy...although I'm not sure you quite fully understand the feeling hunger outside of your belly. I found this small action as a sign of huge development. I love watching your little details. For example, I like watching you move your food around and pick different things out. I wonder what's going on inside your little head that makes you do what you do. Your experience in life is very limited so I wonder what primal, unaltered part of your brain makes the choices it does. This week you decided me feeding you was no longer going to work. You have always wanted to take the spoon out of my hands, even when you were still having trouble directing your own hand in any direction at all. I've tried to let you feed yourself chunks of food. However, with things like yogurt or apple sauce I can't do it or else we'll end up with food on our walls. This week it was chunks or nothing. You are very independent. I like it. I hate it. It means my services could be rendered not so useful in the not so distant future. But for right now my services are quite needed and I really enjoy getting to watch you find your path and make your choices even when it's just between a banana or an O.
Dear Gemma, This is the face you make when you are beyond excited. When I pull out a food you like you make this face and your feet start moving a mile a minute! It's the most amazing thing to watch. But then you want what you want right away and if I haven't peeled that mango in 10 seconds flat you get mad! Oh, the squeaking and shrieking and crying that follows is pretty harsh. But the excited face is well worth it! I love you my Gemma. xo Mama
What a breakthrough! Annika has been taking violin since October. Until yesterday she had only done many different finger and muscle strengthening exercises. To be honest it's been a struggle. I got mad at her after last week's class and came close to quitting classes all together. I know I sound like a tiger mom but you have to hear where I'm coming from.
We started violin because we feel....and know that music is a huge aspect of learning. But, also like sports there is so much a skill like playing an instrument can teach you about life. Annika chose the violin. She was excited about it and then it got hard and I saw her focus fly right out the window. One of Annika's weaknesses is that she only wants to do something if she's good at it. I'm hoping to help her get comfortable being outside of her comfort zone. Or at least to not run away from it. You can't accomplish much if you only want to stay in your comfort zone.
So, one thing Annika does very well is steer her ship and everyone in it to where she wants to go. In violin class she started making jokes, hiding under chairs, talking in funny voices, entertaining her teacher to do anything butt proceed with class. I talked to her about it. I tried to help her get comfortable. I tried to motivate her with rewards. And every class was torture...for me. Even the teacher said she could see this bothered me more than her. But I had never seen Annika behave like this.
After last week's class I put my foot down. I sat her down and was very stern because it's all kind of a joke to her. Mostly what I wanted, and hoped, I got through was that I didn't care if she failed, if she didn't play it right or whatever. I was mad because she wasn't trying. She wasn't even giving herself the chance to fail or succeed. That's all I wanted from her. To just try and give herself a chance.
With that conversation I at least got her to practice easier. We practiced every other day for 15 minutes. Gemma is always crawling up on Annika's legs when she's playing the violin. We used her as a focus tool. If Annika could play with her baby sister at her feet then a solo performance with her teacher would be a breeze.
She had her class again yesterday and what a breakthrough! During the week she finally practiced stroking the strings with her bow. And during class Annika actually played a song along with her teacher on the piano for the first time! Her teacher was impressed and surprised with her focus. And I was happy to see her focus come through in a way I've often seen before. I was mostly happy with the confidence she had acquired throughout the week. I was happy she found the courage to give herself a chance and I was blown away by how impressive she was. Honestly, I did not expect her first time playing to sound that....competent, for lack of a better word. Her teacher has been impressive with the way she built her muscle memory to hold the bow and violin and tuned her ear to hear the melodies.
So, again here I am saying that it's not about the violin and her playing. It's about the lessons she is learning. She must have courage and try. Being outside one's comfort zone is actually a thrilling place to be. To gain confidence she must practice. A little effort with consistency goes a long way. She has tremendous ability when she stops worrying about failing.
The icing to my cake was when I talked to Annika's teacher at school today. Turns out her behavior at school is exactly the same as what it's been like at violin when she is challenged. So, I'm hoping I can now take the lesson learned in violin and apply it to school without me being there.
At any rate, I love watching the video above. And I love hearing Gemma in the background.
In so many little and big ways I see the difference between Annika and Gemma. The biggest indicator that these two girls will be two very different women with different process on tackling problems and projects is the way they are learning to sit up, crawl and walk. I originally thought that Gemma was developing faster. She started her attempts to crawl and stand a good month or two before Annika did. But then I noticed the major difference between them. While Annika won't tackle anything until she's pretty sure she can succeed at it, Gemma likes to take things on a little at a time. Two months ago Gemma started trying to stand on her own but only on our bed. She clearly knew she was falling often so she would only do it where the landing was soft. She started out by holding onto to me, pulled herself up and then let go. She repeated the process over and over. The next step was to pull herself up the wall and let go. Then she worked her way up by going up on her own but resisting against me with her knees or shins. She repeated the process on any floor that was soft. About two weeks ago I started seeing her hold onto to furniture, let go and then slowly and very controlled squat back to sitting. And again she would only do it on a carpeted or soft floor. Last weekend she made progress by coming up on her knees. She was working the balance from all fours to only two points! Yesterday, while at Annika's violin class all of a sudden I saw her standing on her own for about a minute. She had gotten to standing on her own from a squat position. Today she stood up on her own again on the tile floor which is not soft. She is baby stepping her way to standing. She has yet to take steps. I can tell she's making sure she can stand comfortably before she takes a step forward. In fact, I'm now seeing her do the one-foot crawl. The same meticulous process was applied for crawling. First it was swaying back and forth on all fours. Then she did this routine that looked like a Pilates class. One hand up, then down. Other hand up, then down. One foot up, then down. Second foot up, then down. And soon enough she crawled and now it's crawling with speed. I love how Gemma goes about learning new things. I love how she has this determination to practice and get comfortable at each stage before moving on. I can relate to how she is doing it very well. I recently learned to ski and I wanted to do the bunny slopes over and over until I felt comfortable before moving onto the next slopes. I needed to feel control before tackling a new feeling. I'll be able to relate to Gemma's learning process very well which is good. And it also lets me know I must have patience and understanding with Annika as she learns new things because we tackle things in a different manner. Today, for the first time I was able to photograph Gemma standing. It is a blurry picture but I got it. Her face tells you how excited and proud she is with herself. I love it!
We went to the Ronald Reagan Library today. It's been a while since we last visited. When we pulled up to the parking lot I remembered Annika was crawling and pulling herself up on things but not yet walking when we were there last. So she must have been somewhere around 10 months....the very same age Gemma is now! I found the pictures from that day back in August 2008. It's was a little bittersweet to compare then to now. I'm thrilled I have two girls but sad my dad is no longer with us. I'm amazed to see how much these little people change in four short years.
2008: Annika holding onto these glass panels they have in one gallery.
2013: Gemma doing the same thing today but her sister is always close by.
2008. My dad and mom with Annika. They were visiting from Florida.
2013: This time it was Dave and me with the girls. My dad is no longer with us....
2008: Annika holding herself up. I think this was the place where she really started to pull herself up. The panels helped her feel more comfortable for some reason.
2013: Gemma pulling herself up. She's been doing it for about 2 months now. Annika entices her to be more active and to mature faster.
2008: My dad holding Annika up over this table so she could see the ball roll around the maze.
Co-sleeping is such a personal choice. Sometimes people ask me why I do it or how can I do it. This picture always comes to mind and I'm glad I finally found it.
I was about 5 or 6 years old. I believed with all my heart that my dolls and stuffed animals had feelings. I couldn't put them to sleep on the floor! They would be heart broken! So, they slept with me and I remember getting as close to the edge as possible just so THEY could be comfortable. I've been training to co-sleep with my babies my whole life!
I've traded a twin bed for a king and three dolls for a husband and two girls. So don't ask me to put my 10 month old in a crib. Or to kick my 5 year old out of our bed at 4am. I can't do it! They have feelings and will be heart broken if I don't have them in bed beside me. Seriously...they do!
Three years ago today my dad passed away. About a month after, a friend told me that the void of a parent never goes away. Most other losses get easier with time but the loss of a parent is different and time doesn't do much to fill the hole. Three years later I find the statement to be very true.
I miss my dad at the oddest times. Never on his birthday or my parents anniversary or even on the anniversary of his death. My mom had to remind me about today. It happens out of the blue and it hits me like a sucker punch. I get the desire to talk to him but I can't. Then I feel like I can't breathe. His absence is all encompassing. Sometimes I cry and I feel better after the tears have run their course. Other times I sit and talk to him and then imagine what he would say back. But mostly, because I am a mom to a 10 month old and 5 year old I hold the feelings inside and move on. To be hones that's what my dad would tell me to do if he was here...move on and focus on what's in front of me.
The more I parent my two girls the more I realize how much my dad influenced my life. What I've come to notice in the last few years is how much he influenced how I see the world. He was a patient man, specially when I was a young child. His strength was patience with the old and the young. The middle was where he had trouble. When I was little he spent a lot of time with me explaining how the world ticked. I saw the world from a man's perspective. I remember wanting to be Tarzan, not Jane. I got Batman, not Catwoman. I saw myself in the role of all the boy heroes not the women. Not that in the 1970's there were any heroines except for Wonder Woman.
I'm glad for this perspective. I feel pretty lucky I had it along with the confidence and fearlessness boys are given. I see the same attitude in P. Somehow I've managed to take my dad's lessons and pass them on to my girls. P sees herself as one of the boys. Like me, she identifies with the male cartoon figures not the females. The other day she was watching Tarzan and she told me she wanted to be Tarzan not Jane for Halloween. I felt so proud. The most important thing I got from my dad is the very thing I'm some how passing onto my two young girls. My dad lives on.
December 18, 2012, exactly 9 months after her birth G was baptized. It was a very small affair. Only our immediate family, Anthony her Godfather, and our cousin with her family were there. 12 people in all. It was perfect, small and private.
We flew to Florida so G could be baptized by Father Oscar Alonso. He has been a friend of the family's since I was in elementary school. He is a priest who takes his position as a man of God very seriously and prays daily to have a pure heart and mind above all else. His devotion to God and to the community is admirable. I couldn't imagine anyone else baptizing either one of my girls. I love this man. He has been a foundation and a moral compass for me on several occasions. I'm not very religious but I do find solace in the traditions of the church. My culture and family background are closely tied to religious traditions during Easter, Christmas, throughout the year and in the steps we take to becoming men and women. So even though I may not agree with the church on everything I don't turn my back on it because my religion is intertwined with my culture and the essence of where I come from.
However, I've been disappointed with the Catholic Church since P attended St. Mel preschool. I feel there is an arrogance to the way they handle kids. It's left me very frustrated. What I've experienced with the Archdiocese here in Los Angles in not what I grew up with in Florida. This is a general statement but I feel that the Archdiocese in Florida hold it's position as educators more sacred. You see their sense of responsibility for molding the minds of young people and honor and respect for the parents. Anyway, Father Oscar is well aware of my feelings and his advice was so kind. He didn't take a stand for or against the church. It was more of an understanding of how I felt and a respect for my choices. It was humbling. I am grateful for people like Father Oscar who help me feel faith again in my religion.
Both girls have the same Godfather. My dear friend Anthony. We've known each other since high school. I think it's the longest friendship I have sustained. We have been many things for one another throughout the years so it is only fitting that he now be my daughters' Godfather. Anthony is the kind of person who can fit anywhere and make everyone around him feel comfortable and happy. He could dine with kings or paupers and be engaging and joyful to both. I am grateful for his presence in the lives of both girls. He is the perfect mix of Dave and me. We have many of the same beliefs. He knows where I come from and has always accepted me as I am. What else can I want for in the person who could essentially replace me?
The day of the baptism was beautiful. The event was great, except for G crying her head off through a good part of the event and then falling asleep right after! I now understand why kids should be baptized as babies. When they're older it's harder to hold them through the entire ritual if they're wiggly! I'm very happy G is now part of the family of God. And I'm so glad the baptismal gown fit her! I was first baptized in the gown, then my brother, then P and now G. Even though the primary gown was for 3-6 month olds it still fit her at 9! Phew!
Three weeks ago we went to P's Christmas performance at school. Dave and I held back tears of pride throughout the whole event. Once it was just the two of us in the car, we let the tears flow. It was one of those moments that you live for as a parent. The kind of scene you see on TV and movies that makes parenting look so awesome! And the moment really was. P was so charismatic up on stage. I must admit she looked so damn cute in her holiday dress. The day was going to hold a happy memory forever for me. Then, on our ride home I saw Facebook postings about this thing happening in Connecticut. No one posted specifics so I Googled it. My stomach sank. While were having a happy parenting moment others across the country were having the worst parent moment imaginable. Later, when I went to pick P up from school it felt like a privilege. I thought about the mothers who would never pick up their kids from school again. I cried. I cried for days. I can usually brush off sad news events but this really shook me. P goes back to school on Monday. Lucky for us, our holiday break started after that Friday three weeks ago. Time has mellowed the rawness of the event but I'm still rather nervous about P going back to school. Logically I know she should be fine but emotionally I feel like I should keep her home. There was something about all of us being at school at the same time that this horrible thing happened that makes me feel vulnerable. We haven't discussed the event with P. It has not been brought up. We don't watch regular TV so she has not seen it on the news. We threw out front pages of the paper for a few days. Anyone who has referenced the event has only mentioned it by other random terms; the Connecticut thing or that school thing. No specifics and never said anything other than referencing it. I'm debating if we should talk about it. She has not asked about it so I figure it may not be a good idea to bring it up specially now that she's about to go back. I think she is too young and the kids too close to her age. I'm trying to keep the memory of that day a good one. I'm trying to just remember the fun or funny moments. Like this one:
The kindergarten classes were the last to go. The minute the kids hit that stage all the parents filled the first 20 feet of space right in front of it. We were all like a big crowd of groupies! I was standing up holding G so I got towards the back to not block anyone. I wished I had my camera on me. The picture would have been amazing: the kids looking at all us parents and all us parents looking at them with camera phones, video recorders, long lensed SLRs, etc recording every single moments. It was priceless! Dave was off to the side getting great shots like this one. Just priceless. I will try with all my might to keep this memory in my mind forever!