three things i learned about emma today

as most of you know, i recently ventured into full-time stay-at-home mamahood, with a consulting gig on the side. read here and here for more details on how and why i made the decision and how it's going a few days in.
today was one of those days that i was less stay-at-home mama and more consultant, working outside the house in a series of meetings. so, little e stayed at home with my mom, who was her partner in all things physical therapy, reading, taking strolls through the neighborhood, Baby Signing Time, and, apparently a crawling, climbing, and cruising bonanza.

yet even from afar, i learned three things (in no particular order) about my darling little apple cheeks that i was not fully aware of prior to today:

1. she loves her some lima beans. yup. my mom prepared them with a little cracked pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice and she lapped them up greedily. makes me a proud mama, especially since i can't really stand the things, though i know they are good for her.

2. in my absence, she misses me - after an extended period of being super close as we have this past week- like no one in my life has ever missed me before. according to my mom, when i left for work today, she crawled into our bedroom, climbed up to eye level with the bed (it's pretty low because we have no frame - see the Craigslist post for more info on that), and looked for me. when i was nowhere to be found, she plopped back down, disgruntled, and crawled back to my mom.

when i arrived home this evening, she clung to me with all of her being. said hi, patted me on my back, hugged me, and gave me one of her wide-mouthed, slobbery kisses.

i can't tell you how endearing, heartwarming, humbling, and touching emma's unconditional love is.  she treats me, despite my imperfections, like a most perfect of beings (at least for now) - like a supermama to this most super child.

3. everytime i think i have a handle on where emma is developmentally, i am proven wrong - not by the doctors or therapists, but by emma herself. when i am asked questions by a therapist, as i was today, such as is she cruising yet?,  i respond, no, not yet, but she's working on getting there.

yet, without fail, she so frequently proves me wrong. she's always one step ahead of any challenge with a tenacity and perseverence that is incomparable.

case in point:  when i came home from work this evening, i learned that quite to the contrary to my assertions that morning to the therapist, our little e spent much of therapy cruising ever so gingerly, but boldly all the while, alongside our couch several times today.

i'm so proud of my little apple cheeks and so incredibly blessed to be her (most of the time stay-at-home) mama.


day two of stay-at-home mamahood

my state of being in one wordexhausted.

and, as i write this, it's only 2:00 PM.

oh, boy, am i in for it.

before i go further, let me provide some context here.

i've worked much of my entire life. my first job? probably around 9 when I started babysitting for money for nearby neighbors.

my highschool years were punctuated by waitressing and telemarketing jobs, on top of the "pro bono" work i did for my father's fledgling business at the time.

so, anyway.

i worked throughout college - often holding two jobs (coffee shop and working for the college's development office).

when in graduate school - i worked full-time, too, with paid internships at two non-profits in the city and a part-time job at another non-profit.

since that time, i've worked full-time, even when i attended law school.

so, i say all of this to make clear, that at the ripe old (or young, depending on your vantage point) age of 38, i am no stranger to work.

but, after a half day of being a full-time stay at home mama - cleaning the house, cleaning-up after emma, preparing her breakfast and lunch, taking her on an hour-long walk (in her stroller) through the neighborhood and adjacent park, attending emma's therapy session, and then going to her Gymboree class - i am completely and utterly worn out.

but...to employ another word to describe my present state of being:




as for her?

well, she's on her truck and ready to get out of dodge!



status: 14 months

vocabulary to-date:

dada (consistently);

mama (mostly when upset);

up (a rarity employed only when she really means business - as in GET ME OUT OF THIS CAR SEAT NOW!);

bottle (uttered as bo bo bo ba ba ba);

moo (cows are a recent favorite toy of hers);

oink (for the pink pig she plays with when the special educator comes to the house for therapy);

bubble (so rare these days, and comes out as bubububububububububub, but that's pretty darn close!)

and as of now,


yep, our little apple cheeks has two 80-pound Labradors as playmates who she loves and who love on her, but, alas,

there's no woof woof yet.

nope, its meow. and, she's only been around a cat once.

of course, most of these "words" when uttered are approximations on the sounds; the only clear word (as it has been from the start, much to my chagrin) is DADA.

but, wow.

our little girl is starting to speak.

and the sign language - forget about it! she's mastered "more" and "all done" and hi and bye and drink.

i can't wait till tomorrow to hear or see her say her next word.

mama's pride: bountiful! 

ps: if you want to find a great set of stuffed farm animals to work with, IKEA has a very affordable option. emma carries her cow, bull, and pig around with her constantly.

on how Craigslist can sometimes bring "angels" to your front door

this past weekend, we had big plans, oh yes we did.

we were going to clean out the attic, and sell some stuff, and re-arrange the furniture, and basically simplify, simplify, simplify, now that i have decided to stay at home with emma and not work full-time.

but, then along came a little earthquake earlier in the week,
and some travel interruptions,
and, then, a hurricane.

it was actually a tropical storm once it hit our region, but folks in our little part of the world have a tendency to use big language for all weather (and other) things that transpire in our area -  partly out of geographic boredom (we just don't have volcanoes or mountains or oceans or regular storm-related nuggets to talk about around the water-cooler) - and partly out of a bit of self-importance. we are the nation's capital after all. and, by virtue of that, we are important people to whom important things occur - or so some perceive.

so, as i said, an earthquake, then a hurricane. some trees fell, some electricity temporarily lost, some plans were changed.

and, some clutter remains.

we did manage to move a lot of stuff around and identified what we intended to sell via Craigslist - something we'd never tried before - and then we sat there. all weekend. waiting for people to come. people who called and emailed and offered down payments and swore that they'd be there, irrespective of the weather.

yet, most never showed - they'd either changed their mind or couldn't because of weather concerns.

so, we spent a lot of time staring at the walls and the clutter and keeping emma's crawling/play space cordoned-off from the rest of the house so she wouldn't come across pieces of a bedframe or a bench in her path.

but, then, on sunday as the rain passed, we received an email, then a call, then some texts from some folks in North Carolina who wanted to purchase some of our larger items.

they drove five hours to retrieve the furniture.

they called or texted to give us their ETA every hour or so along the way; they didn't want to disturb our young child's naptime.

and, then, when they arrived after a harrowing drive, often stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, 

they came with smiles, and handshakes, and a present for emma.

they said hello to emma and told us about their family and how they have worked with folks with special needs. they talked about emma's muscle tone and asked about her verbal and phsyical progress.

they did this without ever knowing about her diagnosis before they came (all they knew was that we had a young child whose nap schedule was fairly precious these days) and with a gentle, open, inquisitive kindness that we sometimes don't find among family, much less strangers.

can you believe?

they purchased the furniture, packed it in their truck, and gave our little apple cheeks a wonderful gift that was not only developmentally appropriate for her, but also particularly useful at this stage given her current physical and speech challenges. 

after all of that, they offered us the use of their home if we're ever in North Carolina.

they were genuinely some of the nicest people i've ever met, period.

they extended community to us.

and, they were strangers from craigslist.

i am still in awe.

has anything like this ever happened to you? please share!


on becoming a stay-at-home (and sometimes working) mama...

i am a full-time working mama....

at least until tomorrow.

i am hanging-up my legal advisor hat, leaving my current full-time employ, and assuming a new role.

it's 75 percent full-time stay-at-home mama and 25 percent stay-at-home legal/policy consultant - or at least that's the plan so far so my husband and i can still afford to provide for our little apple cheeks in the ways she deserves.

and, now that this very long week has neared its completion, i feel both a new lightness and a weightedness because of my decision.

as with most children, i am sure, the older emma becomes, the more she has demanded my time, my attention, my presence at not only her myriad doctor and therapy appointments, but also in her day-to-day life. she wants and needs me to read to her, work with her on learning to crawl and eventually stand on her own and walk, to eat breakfast and lunch and dinner with her, to play, to explore, to share in the daily beauty of her young life.

this morning, as i left for work, emma was clinging to me like a little koala bear, with a few strands of my hair in her tight fist and saying mammaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmamammaaaaaaaaa, as my mother separated her from me and we tried to part ways by blowing kisses and waving bye, bye. it took ten minutes to get out of the front door.

this was coming on the heels of the last three days which i spent in El Paso, Texas for work. so, i understand her response. she just got me back, and here i was leaving again.

while in El Paso, i was focused on issues that i find tremendously compelling and enjoy working on. yet, i spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about emma and wondering: how is her physical/occupational/speech/educational therapy going? did she learn to sip out of the straw yet? (we're trying to wean her off a bottle and sippy cups don't work because of her low muscle tone) how is she sleeping now that she has gotten past the worst of her virus? will she need to see the geneticist again if her verbal and physical skills don't start coming back soon? (last week when we saw the geneticist he said she had regressed in some areas and the virus may have caused that, but if she isn't improving and picking old skills back up - like climbing, or sitting upright easily, or eating without gagging regularly - then we need to let him know.)

i received so many photos and texts from my husband, mom, and sister - all of whom shared in emma's daily care duties - which helped to fill the void of missing her, but weren't enough to satiate my need for more of, about, and on my little baby girl.

in the evenings while i've been gone, i've called and drilled my husband with every question i can think of from sleep to bowel movements, no topic has been left untouched. until, of course, my husband grows so weary of the counselor on the other end of the phone line interrogating him about all things emma that we agree to say our good nights.

i feel a lightness when thinking of the joy of days ahead spent learning with and from my little apple cheeks. i feel a heaviness thinking of the financial toll it will take on our family; on the professional toll it will take on me and my career which i have worked very hard to cultivate over the years.

for me, stepping out of the official, full-time workforce is not an easy decision. stepping into full-time mamahood is.

i hope to perform my new job with excellence, but like starting any new job (even when you have loads of experience), i am nervous, anxious, excited, and trepidatious.

how have you managed the work/childcare balance? what drew you to stay in the workforce or become a stay-at-home parent? or as in my case, a something-in-between, if all goes well? was your decision driven by your child's special needs? or other reasons? any advice?

please share!

and, wish me luck.


bread therapy

have you baked a loaf of bread recently?


me, either. i haven't since over a year ago. i tend to do it around holidays and foresake the rest of the year, reserving it only for "special occassions," as though everyday life isn't special enough.

but, my husband has. for years he has told me about these bread-baking skills he has, but i always looked at him kind of dubiously because he's a busy guy, an amazing father, has a full-time job, and goes to school pretty much full-time, too. so, bread-baking hasn't exacltly been at the top of his to-do list.

until now.

in the past two weeks, he's baked us four loaves of beautiful, yeasty, wonderful, warm bread.

there's nothing better.

emma agrees. the doggies agree.

it's made the house seem cozier, our lives seem richer, our bellies feel more satiated, and our communal eating enjoyment all the more pleasureable.

so, thanks, emma's dada for making our often chaotic house feel like a home.

love, apple cheeks (via mama)

ps: want recipes? have to visit "apple cheeks- approved recipes" in the near future for those yeasty yummies!



i love talk radio.

i have ever since i was a small child. i used to steal away with my little am/fm radio that was gifted to me one Christmas, and hide it under my pillow at night, listening to some talk radio show from the big city of Chicago.

i was not from anywhere near Chicago, and had never been there, so the origin of the show itself seemed so exotic and cool. and, the deep voice of the show's host, who spoke with callers-in about various topics of the day, was soothing and comforting. i'd cuddle-up under the bed covers and listen intently for hours.

it anchored me in my sometimes chaotic childhood and helped me fall asleep.

so, it's no surprise that i listen to talk radio still today. i have a deep fondness for it. driving to and from work (public transportation really isn't the best option for me based on my home and work locales), i listen to it religiously. in fact, whenever i am in the car, i listen to it - driving emma to gymboree, running errands, or going out in the evening - i tend to have it on, foresaking music for those who relay the news, who cover stories of ordinary people in far-flung towns that i have never been, who make the very ordinary sometimes seem extraordinarily rich with detail and life.

driving to the drycleaners this weekend, i was listening to one of my favorite stations. a story on National Public Radio (NPR) covered the newest album of a not-too-weathered music artist who had a soft, sultry voice and a life of experience to impart upon her faithful listeners.

there was so much poetry in her words - and in the coverage of a few similar stories that hour on NPR - that i was flooded with memories of how transformative for me have been the struggles and triumphs of strangers who will never meet me and i will never meet in turn; how much they have moved me to do, act, feel, be.

in the musician's discussion of an instrument she used, the interviewer asked how she managed it - didn't it essentially just overpower her with its size and scope.

she responded that it did not, actually.

instead, she said that it served as her anchor. it actually anchored her on stage. and, in way, she made it sound like it anchored her in life.

many things, people, images, beliefs are evoked when i ponder what anchors me most in my life today.

this past year, so many of the challenges that my husband and i have faced, confronting the truth of our daughter's diagnosis, have felt overpowering.

but, we have found anchors in the faces and support of some of our close family, old and new friends, strangers, friends made through this blog, community, voices on the radio....

but, as i really think about it, emma has been my greatest anchor. she has grounded me in a way i can't really fully understand or explain.

though her struggles and challenges are cumbersome, overwhelming, and sometimes feel like they might dwarf me, she - her essence, her presence, her love - actually anchor me.

and move me

to be her anchor

in return.


apple cheeks mcg on the move

for your friday enjoyment, here are a few cute pics of emma on the move. she's bouncing on her therapy bean-shaped ball, riding her Rody Pony, and driving her little truck - here she is on the move.

each of these help strengthen her core, which ultimately enables her ability to crawl, walk, sit, eat, bend, and do so many necessary things.

but, as you can see, even though core strengthening is the end-game, in the meantime, she's just a 14 month-old having a pretty good time.


until monday,
apple cheeks' mama


it's raining, it's pouring, yet emma is not snoring

do you have a child who refuses to take naps?

i do.

our little apple cheeks mcg (my new nickname for her pseudonym) recently decided that, among many other things, she is now in her ripe old age of 14 plus months too old to sleep twice daily, thank you very much.

one of my friends recently said her daughter, who is around the same age, stopped napping all together recently. so, she climbed in the crib with her, pleading that her little one sleep just a bit.

i haven't climbed in a crib yet, but i have sung so many songs, given so many bottles (not in one setting mind you), taken so many walks, and rocked in her rocking chair for so long that i am now tempted.

especially on a day like today - it's actually raining. really raining. storming in fact.

we've had our feeding therapy session already, gone to Children's Hospital to see the ENT, and had a hearing evaluation.

and, mama is tired. the doggies are tired. but, emma - not so much.

instead, at one point this afternoon, she was on the floor petting one of our dogs, and after I turned around to greet my sister at the door, we discovered emma climbing on top of the dozing dog, practically straddling him as if a pony ready to ride.

he didn't move an inch, but as she giggled and climbed off of him, he did look up at me with his droopy eyes, as if to say really?

yes, sweet doggie of mine, really. our little apple cheeks mcg has gotten her groove back post virus, and now she's not about to sleep through a day of fun. so, neither are we.


an apple cheeks picture book using Shutterfly

special needs or not, all children learn language through sound, image, and imitation. and, there are an abundance of picture books out there with numbers, letters, animals, people, cars, trucks, houses - well, pictures of just about everything in the world you can imagine so that our budding readers and speakers can see a word and the image and learn.

but, none of these hundreds of thousands of books have pictures of apple cheeks' mama, dada, grandma, doggies or, well, of her. 

and, emma's early intervention therapists have been telling us repeatedly how important it is that emma have her own book of pictures of mama, dada, grandma, the doggies, and her - her immediate, daily world - to aid her in her identifying familiar people and objects and begin to put word to image.

when emma was really young, we kept reminding ourselves that we needed to take pictures and put them in a small photo album for her to use. but, in the midst of all of the other things we were juggling at the time, we never did.

then, on emma's birthday, my sister and brother-in-law gifted us a wonderful picture book they created using Shutterfly.

and, it is perfect. emma has used it on a near daily basis since that time to put the image of herself with the word/name emma, the picture of mama to the word mama, etc...and, is now, learning to point to the appropriate picture when prompted. same with dada, the doggies, her aunt and uncle and the list goes on. the picture book also encapsulates some of the sweetest pictures of emma in her younger months, from birth till very recently, which i treasure.

reflecting on the book recently made me think about how i could use it to create other picture books of things in emma's world, that she would directly recognize to eventually learn those words. i haven't done so just yet, but once she masters this one, i will.

how about you? have you used Shutterfly or something similar to create a picture book for educational purposes for your child? if so, please share!

. . .

since i love the book so much, i thought i'd invite you to look at it with me, so you too can see select images of our little apple cheeks from some of her earliest moments through this past June. i haven't included the book in its entirety and i have excluded some personal identifying information, but here are some of the more endearing parts.



baby signing time!

"baby, baby, baby signing time. baby, baby, baby signing time."  it's baby signing time!  if you've heard this refrain, you know i am talking about Baby Signing Time.

a few months ago, friends we connected with through the local Down syndrome Network recommended that we consider sign language for our daughter. and, specifically, they recommended Baby Signing Time.

we'd already considered it and purchased a slew of signing books and flash cards and all kinds of things i don't know that i've used more than once.

so, one day, my husband announced that he had ordered this series of Baby Signing videos, cards, and books that are for infants to toddlers - they use a combination of videos, song, the written and spoken word, and the actual hand sign for the word for quick and easy learning.

what's the point of sign language you might ask, if your child has receptive and expressive communicative skills and no major hearing impediments? well, i'm no doctor, but as a parent i stand witness to its ability to open a world of pre-verbal expression for both typical and special needs children.

but, at the start, i was skeptical because it seemed like yet another tool to incorporate in our already overflowing toolkit of toys, books, activities, educational, speech, and physical therapy interventions. our (read: little apple cheeks' ) week is so full already, i really couldn't fathom adding more to it.

so, since the videos have arrived, i have somewhat reluctantly turned the TV on and watched the videos with emma on a daily basis. in the past few weeks, i have found my signing vocabulary growing with leaps and bounds which has been fun, but really isn't the point here.  more importantly, i  have watched emma viewing the videos intently.  for some, this may seem pretty obvious that a child is going to watch TV or a video - but emma doesn't watch TV and her only exposure thus far to anything close to a show has been to educational apps on the I-Pad (more on that later) and these Baby Signing Time videos.

and then....yesterday, as i was feeding emma lunch, i learned two things about my daughter.

first, she does hate some food (in so many of my past posts, like let them eat cake, i proudly shared what a versatile eater she is and how she has rarely said no to anything other than sweets; i now stand corrected). i tried to feed her regular couscous (not Israeli Couscous which she loves), but the regular, fine-grain kind, with lots of veggies. well, she hated the texture and spit it out repeatedly.

at which point came lesson number two for me. i asked "more?" (while signing it as well) but she did not respond.

then, when i asked "all done?" she smiled, grabbed one of my thumbs with one of her hands, grabbed my other thumb with her other hand and made the sign (with my hands and hers) for "ALL DONE!"

and, she was.

so, although she isn't quite able to articulate "all done" verbally, she's cognitively understanding what it means and letting me know that she was indeed, all done.

so cool.


the emma-cam through Spain

in my post on our trip to Spain, i spoke at length about what a joy it was to share this beloved country with our little apple cheeks mcg.

i've finally gotten around to posting just a smattering of our photos of our drive through the South of Spain for your viewing pleasure. for reminders of where we went and how we got there, read the earlier post. 

until monday, emma's mama