Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Practicing for twins

Twenty-six years ago, I knew practicing with just one Cabbage Patch doll wasn't going to cut it...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My new release, 'A Twist of Fate,' realizes a lifelong dream

When I got pregnant, I imagined that I would have one, normal baby, take a year off from the rat race and write a book or two. Who knows, maybe I'd even make a fraction of the money J.K. Rowling did when she decided to do the exact same thing.

Alas, my reproductive system had other plans.

Despite all the trials and tribulations that came with those unforeseen plans, I did manage to carve out some "me" time — thanks in no small part to my husband — to write what became a 28,000-word novella.

(The story of three identical women from different corners of the world who find fulfillment after suddenly being switched into each other's lives came to me long before I was pregnant. But the irony of these characters being "identical triplets" was not lost on me.)

After briefly shopping the book around to a few agents, I decided to self-publish because I simply don't have time to climb that hill right now. This is not to say that the e-book you can purchase for your very own is poorly edited or formatted — I did take as much care as I possibly could with that, including a professionally designed cover.

So there it is, out there in the wide world for all and sundry to read. At the very least, I can cross "publish a novel(la)" off my bucket list. At the most, it'll go viral and some producer will agree with me and this anonymous commenter that it would make a really excellent Hollywood-Bollywood crossover film.

A girl can dream.

(Hrithik Roshan, call me. I promise not to drool on you. Much.)

In any event, I have always wanted to be a published author. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, now I can say — with a wink and a nod — that I am.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

'A Twist of Fate' coming soon to
an e-reader near you!

Hi folks!

Remember back when I told you about the novella I just finished writing and the interview a local writing blogger did about me and when I gave you an excerpt from the book?

Sure you do.

Anyway, I've finally run the gauntlet of friend/family editors, fruitless agent queries and exclusive publishing house rejections and feel comfortable self-publishing. I knew this was where I would end up with a story under 30,000 words, but I had to try, right?

So, this week I'm planning to announce (just in time for holiday shopping!) a pristine electronic copy of "A Twist of Fate" for your very own. Until then, here's a copy of the cover, which I just finished, containing original artwork by a longtime friend and amazing artist, Christian Stairs.

Be sure to put it on your stocking stuffer list for your favorite readers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I like about the Anat Baniel Method

The best thing about our recent therapy trip to California — aside, obviously, from the (albeit fleeting) gains that Malachi made — was an increased understanding of the Anat Baniel Method (ABM) and a conviction that it really works.

I was raised on homeopathy and naturopathy, so when I say that alternative methods tend to be pretty hokey, I say it with love in my heart. ABM, however, is NOT hokey. It's not about aligning energy or pleasing thetans or whatever. It is — once you get passed the steep learning curve — a logical and internally consistent method that operates on the technique that every healthy child uses to learn how to walk: playing and experimenting within the confines of his or her ability.

In one of Malachi's typical ABM sessions, he cries infrequently and often plays contentedly for most of the session. (Let me tell you that it is quite remarkable in itself for Malachi to play contentedly for 45 minutes.) Instead of dictating a particular position or game for him to play, the practitioner follows his movements and amplifies his intentions, often pressing on or — for lack of a better word — wiggling different parts of his body that could help him in his endeavors.

In the traditional view of therapy as "hard work," it might not seem to an outsider that he is learning anything. But the latest brain science tells us that we learn best when we are actively interested and learn worst when we are angry or upset. So it follows that fostering a calm alert state, rather than a frenzied straining effort, is best for learning new skills. For example, during a session, Malachi will periodically stop playing with his toy and have this look on his face like he is "listening" to his body and really feeling what the practitioner is doing. That's the best, because you know he's learning about some new part of his body, making the connection that other muscles can be involved in his action to make it easier and more fluid.

I have to admit that I don't know the history of physical therapy. But it seems to me after witnessing this method in action that traditional physical therapy took methods that were effective at treating muscle problems and graphed them onto people with brain problems. It works, but it has its limitations. Rather than the traditional view that Malachi's muscles are too weak or too tight, with ABM the idea is that his brain is unaware of how it is using those muscles at that particular time and by drawing his attention to it, he can fix it.

Since Malachi's disorder stems from his brain and not his muscles, this makes a lot of sense to me. It also makes sense to me because I can see it as the edge of a spectrum that I am also on. Just like anyone, sometimes I will be preoccupied and squeeze someone or something too tightly — that's my brain failing to send the right signal to my muscles. Or more globally, I slouch a lot even though it hurts my shoulders to do so. By bringing my attention to what my back muscles are doing, I can use them more efficiently and effectively. We are helping Malachi do the same thing, just on a bigger scale.

However, the biggest thing I still struggle with in ABM is this concept that you shouldn't put your child into a position that he or she can't get into his-or-herself. This is a hugely controversial aspect of ABM and one that deserves its own post. For now, suffice it to say that I'm still not very strict about it with Malachi but I do understand the logic behind this tenet better than I did before and I fret constantly over whether I'm doing the right thing by holding him up to "chase" after his brother. (OK, I don't really fret over it at that particular time very much because it's RIDICULOUSLY ADORABLE to watch them shriek and giggle when they "catch" each other. But other times I hold him up to play, I do worry a lot about it.)

Overall, despite the negatives, if you want a method that focuses on the brain, I think ABM is the best one I've found.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Welcome home

I don't consider myself to be a very weepy person (at least not before my son's brain injury, but we're not talking about that right now) nor a person who is particularly supportive of the military.

However, this commercial, which aired several years ago, never failed to tear me up. 

For some reason I was thinking about this commercial the last time I was at the airport, seeing off family. Maybe it was the large flags hanging in the check-in area, maybe it was the fact that I was there with my new little ones and was feeling protective. Whatever the reason, it should have prepared me for what happened when I left the airport. But it didn't.

As I pushed the button for my floor of the parking garage, a strapping young man in a full khaki uniform and a bulging duffel bag stepped on the elevator. We rode in silence for what seemed like forever. I thought: I should do it. I should say welcome home. Clapping would be weird. Don't clap. But welcome home might be weird too. What if Portland isn't his home? What if he wasn't in Iraq or Afghanistan? Am I presuming too much? I know! I'll just say thank you.

But when I thought of that, "Thank you," the full weight of what it meant hit me and the words caught in my throat. 

Thank you for risking your physical and psychological health for us. Thank you for leaving your friends and family for a hostile environment and a hostile culture. Thank you for doing your duty for your country while the rest of us actively ignore the fact that we are fighting two wars. Thank you for being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice knowing that we can never repay you or your survivors for it.

The door opened and the moment was gone. Even a simple thank you would have been better than nothing and I kicked myself all the way home for missing the opportunity.

So here I am, saying thank you Guy at the Airport. Thank you to all of our fighting men and women who have been deployed far and wide.

And, welcome home. 

Sunday, November 06, 2011

In the beginning...

Malachi (left) and Jaden at about two months adjusted age. 

In the beginning, Malachi did everything better than his brother. He breathed better. He digested food better. He nursed better. He did tummy time better.

In fact, he was supposed to come home from the hospital before Jaden. The best birthday present ever was when the doctors decided to release him (unknowingly) on my birthday.

(The best surprise birthday present ever was when we showed up at the NICU that morning and they'd decided to release Jaden, too. We were like: "Really? Both? At the same time? Are you sure? Can't we just have one for a day or two to get used to it? Really, you keep him. It'll be fine. We'll be back, we promise.")

I, of course, noticed when, at four months of age, Jaden finally surpassed his brother in abilities. Laying down to sleep, Jaden wiggled his thumb into his mouth to suck it. This is something Malachi still cannot do and it continues to bother him immensely. (I know this because my mommy ESP tells me. Oh yeah, and also because he screams bloody murder until we can coax a pacifier into his mouth and convince him not to push it away with heart-breakingly unsuccessful attempts to put his thumb in his mouth, all while a suddenly deaf thumb-sucking Jaden peacefully nods off. I'm very perceptive that way.)

Today was another jump in Jaden's abilities that drove me to tears. Jaden has taken several independent steps in the last week and I thought, despite earlier worries, that I successfully passed this milestone without being sad about it. First steps, over and done with, and all the emotion I had was surprised, joyful laughter. First time a stranger asked me if "the other one" was walking yet and I was able to simply say "no" with a smile.

But today was different. Today, right before nap time, Jaden decided he was done taking a few toddling steps towards something safe. Today, he was going the distance.

He walked back and forth, with the determined, proud look of a tightrope walker on his adorable little face. Every once in a while he would stumble and then get up — standing straight up, which was also a first — and paced back and forth at least a dozen times before he finally collapsed in exhaustion.

Jaden was so happy and I was so proud of him; you could tell he really got it that he was doing something exciting. He just kept going and going while I sat there cheering, trying hard to keep my attention on him and not the other little boy in my arms who might not ever be able to do that.

I try to tell myself that Malachi's experience is just as valid. Just about everybody goes through the same developmental steps at the same time; us "normals" don't even really have a choice in the matter. Same. Same. Same. But Malachi is different. He gets to experience a whole different way of being human. He isn't locked into crawling before he can walk. He isn't locked into talking before he can really listen. He gets to choose a different adventure; combine parts of life in ways that we could never do and that we couldn't even imagine. He has a different path and different isn't bad. In some ways, it's better.

But I still hate it. I hate that his gains never seem to be permanent or indicative of future capabilities. I hate that he used to eat wonderfully and now it's a major problem. I hate that he used to be able to prop comfortably in tummy time (see picture) but now he can't.

I hate that no matter how often I hear from experts that cerebral palsy isn't a degenerative condition it sure doesn't feel that way. Not to me. Not when I have a twin who is racing ahead while his brother still seems stuck on the first of The Important Milestones.

I hate that while today Malachi can see and grab for a single strand of hair, his eye doctor says his cornea is too transparent. Which, as all the doctors have seemed to say since the brain scan, either means something really bad or it's normal. No way to know until we know.

There's never any good news, just absence of bad news. Which is something. At least there's the absence. Thank God for the absence of bad news.

Until there is some.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: 10 years ago...

Our first picture together as a couple....

Same place almost exactly 10 years later....

.....and two kids later.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Ok, so I should have written this post yesterday or the day before but things have been pretty busy since our return from California. Not to mention, we've had some pretty remarkable milestones... of course from the twin we didn't spend thousands towards his development on.

Jaden's first word came when we finally got home from our trip at midnight. The cat was parading around chastising us for being gone so long and Jaden pointed at her and said "ca!" three times. Not only had we not seen the cat for more than a week but I have never consciously taught Jaden the word "cat." But the next morning I asked him if that was the cat and he replied "ca!" So, it's official. (Yesterday, we went to a house with dogs and he said "ca!" and I said, "No, that's a dog," so he calls them "da!")

Also, two days ago Jaden toddled his first few steps all on his own and yesterday while holding a remote he toddled a few more before my exclamation of joy caused him to topple over. It's very exciting, but of course it takes effort not to think all the un-accomplishments going on nearby.

Anyway, all of that is to explain why I didn't post this awesome picture at a more appropriately festive time:

It's hard to tell from this photo, but I was a tree for my two monkeys to climb on. (Anyone who knows the series Portlandia will appreciate that I "put a bird on it.")

I thought it would be funny if Malachi were Monkey See and Jaden were Monkey Do, but the few people I told that joke to laughed nervously, so maybe it's offensive. But hey, last year Malachi got to be Superman while Jaden was Clark Kent, so I think it's fair.

In case you're wondering, I was A Tall Building.

What were you guys for Halloween?


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