Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

I have totally neglected this blog of late. Can't even muster up an apology either since we've been enjoying some quality family time, as Hubs has had some extra days off around these holidays.

Christmas was a blast in this house. The kids were royally spoiled by Santa and extended family alike. With our Anniversary four days after Christmas, I have to admit to having been completely spoiled myself over the last week or so, too.

As of now we have family already in the New Year in Australia and South Africa, the rest of our immediate families are about to celebrate in Ireland, and I am willing to bet that the four of us will be ringing in the New Year in snoozeville!

Miss E has developed an allergic reaction to something and is constantly breaking out in hives - over two week's worth of hives! This is affecting hers, and our sleep and so we have bumbled along the last while in a state of semi consciousness, desperate to catch a nap or a large dose of caffeine to stave off the yawns. We are investigating the source of this reaction - but to date, changing the laundry detergent and washing every stitch she wears or uses has yielded no improvement. Neither has switching to sensitive skin body wash. We can't pinpoint anything she's eaten either which makes me worry that she has perhaps developed an allergy to something that heretofore hasn't caused problems?

Miss E gave up a blood sample on Friday (with nary a whimper I might add!), to see if that will give the doctors any pointers.

If any of you have any experience with anything similar, or have any tips on how I may ease the itchies - please share! Benedryl is only working for her maybe 50% of the time.

Jay is going to take 2008 in his stride, literally. He toddled off on his first steps last night - AT LAST! At 15 months it's about time boyo! However, I think the 5 minutes of 'Yahooing' that his Dad, his sister and myself rather vocally engaged in right after he did it may have traumatized him because he hasn't repeated this performance at all today.

Anyway - to all of you (if there's anyone still reading!) Here's wishing you all the very best in 2008!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crawling into a bubble.

This is what I plan to do for the next week or so.

I am not going to read or watch the news for the immediate future. I can't cry anymore.

Examples of some recent, local news stories:

Mother arrested in drowning death of her 10 month old baby after she left him alone in the bathtub for 10 minutes while she got her other kids ready to bathe.

Man in custody charged with shooting two gas station workers dead, and setting two women alight in a separate incident and seriously burning them, and shooting another man in the face as he tried to help the women. One of these women was 5.5 months pregnant - her baby was born by emergency C section and died a couple of days later. The other woman died last night.

School closed down yesterday as a result of rumours spreading that some kid was going to shoot someone. These rumours spread by cell phone text messages, and thankfully school officials took it seriously - but, what about the next day these kids have to go to school?


I know that these incidents are a harsh reality, and happen all too frequently across the world. I can't process it any more, though.

For just a few days - I want to take myself back to that fizzy anticipation of Christmas that I experienced, and enjoyed, as a child. Those feelings of pure delight and agonizing suspense where in my innocence, oblivious to the darker side of life, I waited for Christmas Eve and the often futile attempts to get to sleep early, lest the big guy in red catch me awake.

I want to relish in those same feelings that I see in Miss E, for the first time as she really grasps the idea of what Santa is all about.

I want to languish in the feelings of pure pride I have in watching her at her Preschool's Christmas Program, and that I am happy that in addition to the gift giving and receiving side of Christmas, she knows we are also celebrating the birth of Christ.

I want to hold on to the hope that Miss E and Jay represent for a future generation. That they will learn from us the value of their lives, and those of others and that they will never ever be so careless with them as others seem to be in this age.

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about what I can do to help those less fortunate, and I have taken a few (albeit small) steps to actually do something. I will not stop thinking of these people, but I recognize that my own family are important, too, and I want this to be a truly magical time of year for all of us. I'm letting go of the guilt I have felt that depsite what I may sometimes dwell on as shortcomings in my life - I have it a LOT better than other people - I can't carry that anymore - yes I have it better than many - but it doesn't stop me wanting to strive for something better - I'm not going to feel ashamed of that any more.

So as my daughter and I immerse ourselves in gingerbread men baking today, and package up a couple of boxes of homemade treats for friends, I will pray that we can all enjoy a happy, peaceful, and Blessed Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Greatest Story Ever Told.....

....according to Miss E.

Just so you know,

"there was a sailor, kind and good, and Jesus was his name-oh, J-E-S-U-S, J-E-S-U-S, J-E-S-U-S, and Jesus was his name-oh.

He came to wash my things away, and Jesus was his name-oh, J-E-S-U-S, J-E-S-U-S, J-E-S-U-S, and Jesus was his name-oh."


And, in case you were wondering,

"Mary didn't travel to Bethlehem with Joseph - it was Roadie"

Glad she had a Roadie, I think she deserved one - he could have done a better job on setting up the accommodation though, don't you think?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fourteen Months Already?

Today Baby J you are fourteen months old. Not so much a baby anymore. Time for a name change. From here on in we'll call you 'Jay' - which is how I refer to you from time to time.

The first year of your life has gone so quickly - and has been peppered with all these tests on your hearing, and on other parts of you, many times we wondered would it ever end? While you certainly haven't endured as many tests as some little babies, the fact that you are healthy, and developing normally has had all of us question why we're putting you though it all.

You have been a trooper throughout - engaging everyone in your beautiful mild manner, and your gorgeous smile. You have had CAT scans, sedated procedures, kidney ultrasounds, heart EKGs, Genetics, ENT and Neurology exams and each time we get a resounding 'NORMAL' back in the test results (well we're still waiting for the EKG results but it looks good that it is normal, too). Your Neurologist wanted to do a brain MRI, but on learning that you would have to undergo general anesthetic - Mummy and Daddy decided not to go through with this one, because nothing about you indicates an urgent need for this test and we don't want anyone putting you to sleep when we don't consider it absolutely necessary. We have one more little test, an eye exam which we'll put off until after Christmas - we all need a bit of a break. We think this test will be fine too, and hopefully after it's over we'll be in a position with the doctors to review everything and conclude that you have a tiny little hearing loss and that it is isolated and not connected to, or complicated by anything else. We will keep having your hearing checked to keep an eye on it - but we pray always that it stays stable as it is now and that it never gives you any bother.

You have had many lessons to teach us throughout the last 14 months, and some of them your Mummy has been a bit slow to learn.

You look at me with your huge blue eyes and your big smile and you reassure me that everything is, and will be okay! You have hit all your milestones on or before the 'normal' timeframes.

While I was feeling anxious in your younger months, you were busy growing in leaps and bounds - making your mark in our little family. Interacting with your sister - and holding your own against her (which is no mean feat!).

You started to talk and will now excitedly exclaim 'DADEEEEE' when you hear the kitchen door open in the evenings. You place your chubby fingers over your face and say 'Hidey' in anticipation of Mummy's 'Peekaboo'. You say 'Hi' and 'Bye' and 'All Gone' - and you have proven to us, and to professionals that you do not need to be assessed for speech issues!

You have taught us that it is okay for us to stand up to medical professionals and say 'enough', because you are doing so good.

You are such a wonderful little person full of character and fun! You are trying so hard to walk on your own but still have that little level of reservation (you get that from me!), and so for now you just grab on to anything that will keep you upright and push it around the house - the kitchen chair, your push along lion, the toy basket, your little train (that you can only push around if you're on your knees - how funny you look).

I can't believe you've grown so big so quick - but I am reveling in every little detail and enjoying you very, very much.

You are my sweet, loving Baby Boy, and always will be, no matter how big, or smart you grow to be - I love you so much and always will.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Do I have a faulty calendar?

Shopping at the Mall today. December 1st. A Saturday. With both kids in tow.

Yes, I am insane!

Apparently not as insane as the marketers for cute baby clothes, though.

Here I am, not even a Christmas decoration in sight at my house - still debating real vs artificial tree, anticipating Christmas and knowing that it is over three weeks away yet.

So imagine my dismay - and honestly, disappointment, to see Valentine's Day clothes for sale in Macys!

Can't we just enjoy life, one lovely season at a time without always rushing to the 'next great thing'?

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Last Day of November

It's been a LONG month!

Now I can get back to a more sedate pace of blog reading where I can open my Google reader and my eyes won't bleed!

I think you all know what I'm talking about, and for anyone who doesn't - consider yourself very fortunate.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Holiday Challenge!

Thanksgiving traveling, and two sick kids have meant very little computer time and no blogging for me lately.

Miss E is back at school, Baby J is fast asleep, and I have the luxury of peace and quiet at the computer for a couple of hours. One luxury amid many for which I am extremely grateful.

We live in a modest house. We don't have an extravagant lifestyle. I stay at home, and we go without certain things so that we can live on one income. For now, we are happy and healthy, and life is good. Yes there are things that I am anxious about, but these are not life threatening issues. We could save more and need to do better in this regard, but we are doing alright.

I don't have to worry about where we will sleep tonight. Nor do I have to panic that I can't buy food to feed my children. If I were to find myself pregnant with another child, it wouldn't send me into fear or despair about how we could afford it. I don't have to worry that my husband would raise his hand to me, or our children. I don't have to deal with mental or physical abuse of any kind that would send me running towards anyone who could help me.

Ever since I wrote this post, I have been ruminating over what it is I can do to help those people who face all of these fears and challenges, and more. Reading some of Jen's posts at One Plus Two has had me in tears many times. I have cried with sadness at the circumstances that leave people seeking shelter where she works, and I have cried in shame at my own awkwardness when presented with the issue of homelessness in the form of panhandlers. For some reason I can't link to individual posts at Jen's site - so you'll have to dig through her archives to see what I mean - I promise it's worth it!

We find ourselves once again in full blown holiday madness. I am getting to the point where I don't even want tv on in the house because all channels during the day are full of toy commercials that have Miss E dancing around the house shouting 'Can I get that? Can I? Can I?. I try to explain as best I can to her young self about how we will look forward to receiving some gifts at Christmas, but it certainly won't be everything she sees - she looks at me like I'm the worst mother ever to deny her the latest set of plastic rubbish she's seen and I feel so sad. I will not let her grow up obsessed with the latest material 'in thing'. I want her to enjoy the magic of childhood of course, but I also want her to grow up socially responsible and considerate of others less fortunate than she is. I will work on finding a way to teach her these things, in a way she can understand. We have started to talk about things she has outgrown, toys and clothes, and how other little girls younger than her would love to have these things because they don't have any toys. She is warming up to the idea of letting some things go, but I can tell this will be an ongoing lesson since I'm not sure she's 100% there, yet.

I'm not in a position to make grand financial gestures, but I can make small contributions - financial and in terms of donated goods. I'm not going to go into the specifics of what I'm doing as that is not the point of the post - it's not about me or how great I am for helping. I will quietly do what I can, when I can and I want to invite each of you to do the same.

The last few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. I have found myself feeling ashamed of my envy of material things, or financial freedom that other people have. We don't know what goes on in other people's lives so I need not concern myself with any of these superficial things. My conscience has been well and truly pricked. While I may find myself anxious towards the end of the month wondering how the heck we managed to go right through a paycheck without saving any of it - I am very grateful that there is a paycheck, and another one coming. Many people aren't so lucky. Yes, some people find themselves destitute through their own actions and addictions. Others have lost everything through a series of unhappy circumstances, beyond their control. My compassion for either group is the same. They are all people - individuals, couples, families. They are all some mother's child. They have hearts and souls just like you and me, and they-need-help!

I don't want this post to get preachy - but I do want each of you reading this to really think hard about how you can help. Even the smallest gesture may help just one person for just one day - think about it.

Think about it while you're at the Mall stocking up on Christmas, or other Holiday gifts. Think about it when you're talking to your children. Think about it when you're planning your holiday menus, baking your holiday cookies.

Actually - don't just think about it, reach out, and DO something. Do something now in this holiday season, and make it your New Year's Resolution to keep on doing something - I know I will.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Charlie

Today is my Grandfather's Anniversary. He died 16 years ago today, at the age of 92. He certainly lived to a 'ripe old age', as they say.

We never called him 'Granda', or 'Grandpa' or any other affectionate grandfatherly term. He claimed it made him sound old. All of his grandchildren called him by his name 'Charlie'.

I wish I had a photo to show you - but they're all in Ireland, and certainly not in digital format. He was a strapping and handsome man with a mane of pure white hair, brushed straight back from his face. Born not in the last century, but in the one before that, he started work at a young age for what was to become the biggest Bank in Northern Ireland. He worked his way up from errand boy, to Chief Inspector. He retired and was called out of retirement twice to lead projects, such was the Bank's respect for him and their acknowledgment of his experience and knowledge. Chief Inspector is a fairly high rank in the Bank, but his rise beyond this was no doubt capped by the fact that he was a Catholic in an environment where all directorships were held by Protestants. This was a product of the political atmosphere, that thankfully (although painfully), has changed to a large extent in Northern Ireland.

He worked for the Bank in a time when a job there was a job for life and for him it certainly was. He retired completely, I believe, well into his seventies. I worked for the same Bank, and although the times had certainly changed and it was no longer a 'work your way up from the bottom' kind of place, it gave me great pride to have been his Grand-daughter working there, and representing the third generation of my family to work for this company. As my own career advanced, I often found myself wondering 'what would Charlie think of me now?' Would he be proud that I had moved up in a relatively short space of time, or would he be shocked that I had done so since he left at a time when women had to leave when they got married, and when they rarely if ever worked on the counter in the branches? I like to think it would have been both, and hopefully a little more of the former than the latter.

But Charlie the Bank man isn't the man I remember. I remember him fondly as the man with the white hair, two pairs of black glasses, one for reading and one for television. The man who sat in a comfortable armchair in front of the fire, often in a zip up cardigan. With a steel comb in his pocket that he would give to us to 'fix his hair'. The man who would patiently let us comb his hair over and over, probably scraping his scalp raw in the process, and never saying a word.

He was very generous and our new Christmas and Easter outfits would come courtesy of him and our Nana. He would lavishly heap praise on us as we paraded our new threads in front of him, fashion show style. He also remembered for many years the praise I gave him for how dapper he looked at my Aunt's wedding, when I was ten years old.

He was an adventurous man and in his eighties flew to the USA with my Uncle and visited both coasts. We have film footage of him touring high above Alcatraz in a helicopter - thrilling for him to have done, and still thrilling for us to watch.

I've read a lot of blog posts recently about people who talk about their Grandparents whom they still see, or sadly whom they've only just lost and I feel happy for them that they have, or have had their Grandparents in their lives for so long. My husband's maternal Grandparents are still alive and very well at the ages of only 78 and 80. However, I feel completely jealous, too. I would love to talk to Charlie now, to Nana his wife, whom we lost 6 years before him. I'd love to know what they think of me living all the way over here in America! What they think of my children?

I still miss them, a lot. My Nana died before her time, from cancer and my mother was only two years older than I am now when that happened. Charlie in his declining years was 'doting' a little and was forgetful. He literally just wound down and passed away peacefully in his sleep, and for that I am very grateful.

I wipe away a few tears now and replace them instead with a broad smile in memory of a great, grandfather.

I love you, Charlie!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Professional Preschooler

Miss E has a whole two mornings of Preschool under her belt. She has taken to it like a duck to water, like she's been doing it every day of her life.

She waltzed into her classroom without a backward glance, leaving her Daddy and I in her dust. We each had to go in after her and ask her for a goodbye kiss and hug.

When I picked her up both days, she was upset. "I don't want to go home!" came her cry. So, this either means she's having a blast at Preschool, or that days at home with me are so pathetic for her, anything has to be better! I'll convince myself it's the former.

I asked the hubs as we were heading back to the carpark after dropping her off that first morning "Well, how does it feel leaving your big girl at Preschool?", he just drew in a big breath and said " That was hard". Who knew he was such a softie?

I'm delighted that all seems to be going well so far. On Monday I didn't know what to do with myself while she was in school. I took Baby J to the grocery store for some errands and it was very weird having only one in the cart, or at least not having to constantly berate Miss E for wandering off.

I get to see everything in action at the School tomorrow, as it will be my one morning this month to help out. I am delighted to be doing this so soon, as I'll see what the schedule is like and will be able to picture her day more accurately once I see how it all works.

Once we get into the swing of things I'm hoping that Baby J will enjoy some more quality time with me all to himself, and that I can get more blogging , housework done!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Miss E's First Day at Preschool



For other Wordless Wednesday participants, click here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Destitute

He stands on the grassy verge, just outside the perimeter of the grocery store parking lot. Tall and skeletal in stature, his dirty clothes literally hanging on his bony frame.

His hair is long and matted, his beard equally so. What is visible of his face is weathered, leathered and brown.

He stands here in all weathers, in the light and in the dark. Sometimes he holds a card which I've never been able to read, but I already know that it says 'Homeless, please help, God Bless'.

When I see him, my stomach tightens, gripped with a mixture of confusing feelings. How did he get to be this way? And, what is my responsibility towards him?

I have never reached out to this man and for that I feel guilty, but my fear outweighs the feelings of guilt most days.

He is one of many panhandlers I see, in various situations, regularly at busy intersections. Some I want to cry for. Others I want to scream at to go look for a job because they look plenty healthy and fit to me. Others still I want to call the cops on because before my very eyes they straighten up from their half naked, bent over position, set down their sign which says 'please help, disabled Vet.',pull on a shirt, walk when they'd previously hobbled, to their bicycle and cycle off when their 'begging shift' is over.

I struggle with the question 'what am I supposed to do for these people?' Are we not taught that we should help those less fortunate than ourselves? But, this is America - and while drug and alcohol abuse is not unknown in Ireland - it's not as prevalent, nor as obvious as it sometimes is here. And so, afraid that these people could be hopped up on any combination of substances, or that any assistance I offer will be used to procure more of said substances, I keep my windows closed, my gaze straight ahead and I do nothing. I contribute to the collection each week at Mass, and that is the only way I have salved my conscience thus far, on the understanding that that donation will be used in some way to help those less fortunate.

The grocery store beggar makes me think much more than any other I've seen. Perhaps because it's not that far from our cosy home in our nice neighbourhood with the great golf club across the road. Maybe it's because I pass him in a big comfortable car with my well fed children safely cocooned in the back. I find myself wondering if he has, or had a family. Is he a victim of a series of unhappy circumstances that have led him to this? If he's brought this on himself? Is he an alcoholic, or a drug addict? If he had a job, a home, people who cared. He looks so lonely, beaten, pathetic and absolutely destitute.

I have been thinking of him almost constantly since yesterday afternoon when I saw him again. This time he was standing a little way away from his grocery store post, on another grassy verge. Surrounded by two Sherrif's cruisers, he was handcuffed, and a lady Deputy was donning latex gloves, presumably to search him. I don't know what he did. If he had an altercation with passersby? Was this part of their attempt to 'move him along'. Was he high on something?

All I know is that my stomach is again tight with those confusing and uncomfortable feelings. I am afraid to reach out to panhandlers. I don't know what kind of reaction I'll get, I don't want to feed an already destructive habit by helping fund it but I know I must do SOMETHING. And, I will - I just need to figure out how.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why the Whys?

Dear Internet,

This is an earnest plea for help. My sanity, and possibly my daughter's safety, (well, not really) depend on it!

Why the whys? Why when a child hits three does this magically increase the frequency of the question 'why?', and how does this explosion of curiosity on topics to which the whys refer, occur?

These, surely, are not difficult questions? No more difficult than say,

'Mommy, why is there fire?',

'but why does it burn?',

'why did the fire light?',

'Mommy why did you stop?',

'but why is the light red?'

'but why can you not go when the light is red?'

'but why do the other cars come the other way?'

'Mommy, why are we going to the Mall?' (can you believe I have a daughter who asks this?)

'Why do we need to go shopping?'

'Why are the clouds in the sky?'

'Why are the clouds that shape?'

'Why can't I walk and not go in the stroller?'

'But why?' 'Why? 'WHY?'

WHY WHY WHY ad infinitum!

It's driving me NUTSO! So, dear internet, if you have any good solid answer that would head the incessant interrogation off at the pass I would appreciate it if you would kindly share.

Yours, holding my breath in anticipation,

Annie, on the bring of stark raving madness.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Britney's got nothing on me!

Today, while my back was turned, Baby J fell out of his highchair.

To all those people who asked when the media went to town on Britney Spears for this very thing, 'How can a mother let this happen?' Let me tell you.

She can let it happen when she's stupid.

When she carelessly and complacently assumes that her baby will be fine for the few moments her back is turned.

When she has the fabric cover and the straps of the highchair off, to be washed, so her baby is hemmed in only by the tray of the chair.

When she thinks the tray is enough to keep him safe.

When she takes a chance that no mother should ever take - especially when she knows what a climber her baby is turning out to be. They don't put the straps on there for no reason!


He seems fine, after a lot of crying and repeated head to toe examinations of him for lumps and bumps I'm satisfied that he did not hit his head (on the ceramic tile floor!). All his limbs are fine and he brightened up not long after this happened and was his usual happy self. I did not take him to the ER - but of course I'm second guessing that and I'm worried sick, 'what if he's hurt something I can't see?'

I feel like a completely neglectful mother. I take him to all these tests for his hearing to make sure we are on top of it and I can't adequately supervise him and protect him from danger right under my nose?

You think you're a candidate for 'Mommy of the Year' Megan?

I think I've trumped you. If it's 'Crap Mommy of the Year' we're going for, that is.

A Princess Cake and a Reality Check!

Hmmm - so you remembered about the Cinderella carriage cake then eh?



Yeah, I kind of wimped out on that one. To list my excuses:

•A trial run on Baby J's birthday cake revealed that I had rather over estimated my cake decorating skills!

•I have two kids aged 3 and 1 that require lots of supervision to keep them out of toilets, dishwashers, pot drawers, and you-name-it-dangerous-places.

•For the month of October we've been on the medical merry-go-round with Baby J with doctors visits.

•I couldn't find a ball shaped cake tin in time (*snort* this would be because I didn't really look that hard!)

•Did I mention I have two kids - aged 3 and 1?



Who was I kidding?



I humbly recognise that Jane Asher can make beautiful cakes like that because she's well practiced in the art of cake decorating and I may have cheerfully paid her or anyone else over $800 to deliver a beautiful cake here on Sunday as I was trying to assemble the cake that Miss E ended up with.

She wanted a Princess Cake, and some pink icing and creative work with some scrapbooking stickers, a Princess Cake she got!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Happy Three, Miss E!

Today is your third birthday. My baby is becoming a little girl (although you regularly argue with me that you are a BIG girl!)

You've known your birthday was on the horizon for over two weeks as you watched all the parcels arrive for your brother's first birthday, and helped us prepare for his party. Each time you insisted that all of this was for you, we carefully explained that it would be your turn, soon.

You showed remarkable patience, accepting each day when we would tell you how many more days until your birthday. I was delighted to be able to answer your excitement this morning as you ran into my room breathlessly asking 'Is it my birthday NOW?' - Yes it IS! 'Let's get organized and get dressed before my birthday guests come' you said to me, and I'm still scratching my head, wondering did you just turn 13, and not 3?

You watched me prepare your cake yesterday evening, tempted regularly to stick your fingers in the frosting, and were placated only when I gave you the mixing beater to lick. Your Daddy wasn't impressed with me allowing you to do this on the brink of bedtime, but we can make special allowances for birthday girls.

You have been positively fizzy with excitement each time you heard the doorbell ring over the last few days, and that tell tale thud of a big box being dropped at the door by the UPS guy! My plans of surreptitiously removing these parcels and keeping them until today, thwarted by your adorable dancing around the living room chanting 'I got a parcel, I got a parcel'. I knew we'd have mass devastation on our hands if I made you wait to open the boxes, and so you were showered with wonderful early presents thanks to all your family in Ireland.

Three years ago today you made me a mother. Daddy carried you over to me all wrapped up in a blanket with your chubby little face peeking out from under a little hat. Your face wasn't the only chubby part of your 9lb 6oz self!

You have grown in leaps and bounds since then. Talking up a storm from a very early age, and now I believe are destined for a career in Law with your uncanny ability to present an argument, and redirect Mummy or Daddy's attention so as to avoid trouble for yourself!

You make me laugh every day, (and sometimes cry, too!). You are a fierce, fiesty, energetic, comical and loving little lady.

You are growing to be protective of your brother (a welcome change since you were at times the one he needed protection from!). You love him with all your heart and are so crestfallen when he has to take a nap and he isn't there to play with you.

Daddy and I were in love with you from the very first instant we saw you. You've changed our world, you rock our world and you make us very happy, and proud to be your parents.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl! I love you to the moon, and back!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Serenity and Perspective

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.


Reinhold Niebuhr


How many times have I worried until I felt physically sick about issues that are beyond my control? That they are beyond my control, a source of further anxiety.

How many times have people said to me 'Try not to worry', 'Think Positive', 'Put your trust in God'? How hard have I tried to listen to them, but still had that ball in the pit of my stomach, the tight jaw and the headaches because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't let the stress and the worry go?

How many tears have I shed? How much anger have I felt?

Too many. Too much.

I have seen the Serenity Prayer many times. I understand its premise. I know the 'theory' of handing over the worry, but couldn't practice it. Until now.

I've written before about how it feels when doctors tell you that something is not 100% with your baby. An issue that has been present from birth and that needs careful monitoring. It hurts. As someone recently said to me 'it hurts a mother's heart', and it does.

Readers familiar with my blog will have read my stories before about our ongoing journey with Baby J and his hearing. A quick recap for those of you not familiar - a problem was detected with his hearing at birth and several hearing tests later confirmed mild hearing loss in his left ear. In August they were concerned that there was a change in his right ear. We are seeing a slew of specialists, and had a further hearing test this week to investigate the right ear further.

Since August I have been stressed out. I cried every time I told someone about what was going on. I felt frustrated that doctors were elusive, and tests weren't telling us anything. I was traipsing around to doctors appointments, my husband was taking time off work to come with me, and we had to trail Miss E with us a lot of the time (which anyone with a bored 3 year old will know, can add another stressful layer to the whole scenario). I literally was making myself physically sick.

Then, sometime before Baby J's first birthday 2 weeks ago something clicked. I essentially made a decision that I was not going to worry any more. I prayed the Serenity Prayer, but now I really meant it, and it helped. I have handed the worry over. I am powerless to influence how Baby J's hearing develops or does not develop. What I need to do is focus on the positive, and on the actions I need to do to make sure we stay on top of it and are ready to help him as soon as any 'extra' help is needed.

Going through the process of trying to first identify a suspected problem, quantify it in terms of severity and prognosis, and determine the cause is a daunting and stressful one. We deal with professionals with varying degrees of sympathy or compassion (never empathy, so far). But, while we are on this journey, I have learned, albeit the hard way, that there is nothing to be gained from worry.

Many people, the medical professionals, family and friends tried to tell me this, but I didn't listen because I was too caught up in what was basically a grief process. I look back now and I see how we (my husband and I) have gone through the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and have moved to acceptance.

We had two good appointments this week, and that sort of feels like a reward to me. The prize for finally 'letting it go'!

We saw a Genetics doctor on Monday. She was excellent and took time to answer all of our questions and concerns. She was able to rule out many genetic syndromes of which hearing loss is one element. She also pointed out that our understanding that J had inherited an autosomal recessive condition from us was inaccurate (thanks to the nurse in the ENT's office jumping to the wrong conclusion). J is a carrier of a gene that causes hearing loss, but at this point that is purely coincidental. So we still don't know the cause of the hearing loss. We may never know. For me though that is a secondary issue. My primary focus is Baby J and what his little ears are doing now and what will happen as he grows.

There are few more genetic syndromes that the doctor wants to rule out and so we will take Baby J for a renal ultrasound and an EKG on his heart. More tests! However, I am not worrying about these - I'm hanging on to that serenity!

Baby J had another sedated hearing test on Tuesday which brought the news that his left ear (the one with the originally identified problem) is still the same - so that's stable, no deterioration at all. Good news!

His right ear is showing a change, but it's a very subtle change, and not one that the audiologist is concerned about as of now. And neither am I. While it's not great that she confirmed this change in his right ear, this certainly wasn't gloomy news at all, I'll take it and will continue to pray that it stays stable and J's hearing will not get worse beyond this point.

As of now, Baby J's hearing is completely adequate for normal speech and language acquisition, which has been the primary concern regarding this hearing loss. If he does not hear all the speech sounds around him correctly, then of course he would never learn to reproduce them correctly without intervention.

No intervention is required at this point. We are happy about that, and remain cautiously optimistic for Baby J.

If he needs intervention at some point we'll get it for him. We are 100% on board with the ongoing monitoring. This is a 'happier' place to be than the denial and anger that had us questioning the diagnosis, and the need to be seen by all these specialists.

Perspective is also a wonderful thing, and something that helps me. The knowledge that what we're dealing with, while the fear of the unknown has definitely been there, it is relatively minor. We have been to a Children's Hospital a few times to see doctors, and specialty clinics with Baby J and it is an eye opener in terms of seeing the trials that other families must endure. I pray for all those families, those parents, and for all those mothers. I also pray in thanksgiving that my Baby J is so healthy and that we just have one area to which we need to pay special attention.

We now have a better understanding of why we've been putting Baby J through all these tests (reasons that were not immediately clear while we were undergoing them to be perfectly honest), and that helps give perspective to the journey we continue to move through, and the upcoming tests. While no-one has explicitly told us this, we believe that it is a by-product of the medical legal environment these days that doctors must disclose all the possibilities stemming from a hearing loss diagnosis and follow through with the appropriate tests to either confirm or rule them out. This 'disclosure' I could have done without because none of it ever came with any kind of statement on how likely or not it was that Baby J had any of the conditions to which they referred. Enter over active parental imagination and you have an explosion of panic, stress and fear.

With my new found serenity and perspective I will not give into the panic, stress or fear anymore. I will not be miserable with worry any longer, and I will continue to enjoy my child for the wonderful, happy, cheeky little guy he is!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Preschool, here we come!

I've been on the fence, a lot, about whether to send Miss E to preschool or not. If we lived in Ireland, she'd be off to nursery school at 3, and starting proper Primary School at 4, and this wouldn't cost me a second thought.

Living here however and understanding that some kids don't start formal education (Kindergarten) until they are almost 6 - I guess I bought into the idea that I shouldn't be sending her off to school too soon. She only turns 3 next week, and I do after all stay at home, why can't I just create the preschool environment for her here?

Well, let me chat about that last sentence first shall I? I can't create that environment for her because I have another child, one that lately has been dragged all around the medical place, and Miss E along with us because since we are so far from family, and most people I would trust, work, there are very few people I can leave her with. Secondly, my patience evapourates when Miss E loses interest in any particular activity (which is generally after a maximum of a minute and a half)and I give up. Add to this the fact that during the day the whining and the carrying on drives me nuts to the point that it's just a whole lot easier to let Big Bird teach her her letters!

We explored the option of preschool in the summer when all the schools were enrolling for the new school year. I limited my search to those providers within easy driving distance but was not impressed with either quality or cost. And so, I convinced myself, she didn't need it and I'd keep her home with me for another year before attempting 'school'.

Miss E is bright and she's energetic, and she's bossy. At her two year check up her doctor told me 'she's a smart kid, don't let her get bored or she will drive you crazy'. This is the point we are at right now. This combined with a not so great stay at my friends house the other day where she basically bullied my friend's twins, has left us confounded as to what to do and how best to help her mix and behave with other kids, her peers. Wise suggestions from my mother, a preschool educator in the past, and friends who've had their kids in preschool started to filter in and have us revisit the idea.

Miss E is a delight. She makes me laugh every single day. She amazes me with her speech and her topics of conversation. She is moving into a phase now where it is so much fun to see her and her brother interact and have fun, together. However, she can be challenging in other ways. She has a temper, and she has a hard time with the concept of 'no' regardless of whether she hears it from a peer or an adult. Disciplining her is hard, but we try to remain consistent and have constantly told her that hands are not for hitting, and that if she's frustrated she must use her words to explain how she feels, and not lash out. This has been frustrating for us because it seems like she takes none of it in. This leads to embarrassment on my part when she acts out in front of friends and their kids, or as happened at J's birthday weekend where she took it out on my cousin's kids.

I had an appointment with the director of a fantastic preschool this morning. It is a bit of a drive for us but we went to check it out. I told Miss E we were just going to have a look today and she stormily responded 'I don't want to just look! I want to stay and listen to the teacher!'. A promising sentiment of course, but the manner in which it was delivered had me worried about how this meeting would go.

I need not have worried.

From the instant we arrived at this school Miss E was beyond excited, and chomping at the bit to get inside and look around. We met with the director who showed us their VPK classrooms, and the other classrooms for the younger kids. The only spot that is available is in the 3.5 to 4 year old class. We were invited to check the place out today with the guarded condition that we see how Miss E reacted to this environment, and for the director to gauge if she would be ready for a class with slightly older kids.

As soon as Miss E saw the open door of the VPK classroom she waltzed right in like she was born to it. Her confident, enthusiastic attitude literally gave me goose pimples, not least because she is the polar opposite of the shy child I remember myself being. It was as if she was saying to the world 'Hey, it's school, here I am - I'm READY!' On seeing this, the director immediately said 'I think someone is ready for school' I could have hugged her. The director has no reservations whatsoever about Miss E slotting into the group with the slightly older kids.

All the kids from the various classrooms were moving outside for some playground time so Miss E happily went along with them so I could fill in the paperwork inside. The director was careful to explain to Miss E where the teachers were, and showed her the window through which she could see Mommy - Miss E could have cared less where I was, and while I can pretend that this hurt me, it didn't because I am genuinely thrilled that she is excited about this place, and that the director and the teachers were so welcoming. I chatted some more with the director and the teachers about how things go and I am more than delighted that we've got Miss E in here. This preschool is annexed to a Church, and they have such a loving, safe and caring environment and they strive above all to make learning fun, and make it a place where the kids want to be. Who could ask for more?

Starting the first week in November, my big girl is headed to preschool. Three days a week, three hours each day. One day a month I will volunteer and help out in her class so I'll get to see what their routine is and the kinds of activities she's doing.

Can you tell I'm excited about this? I'm excited for Miss E first and foremost I have a gut feeling that this will be very, very good for her. I'm excited for Baby J because he'll get to have me to himself for a while, something that at 12 months he has yet to experience. And, I am excited for me, too and I don't feel guilty anymore for saying that.

Preschool! Here. We. Come!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

One is FUN!


A few dozen new toys, and a million calories later, we survived the big First Birthday weekend. Baby J was in top form, and loved having all the attention, even if he did get a little overwhelmed and cry when we sang Happy Birthday! Ooops!

With all the worry that we've been through over his hearing lately, we decided that we had to have a big party to celebrate his birthday and focus on all the positives with him, and there are many. I want to look back on this stage in his life and remember it as a happy time, not an anxious time. A time full of the changes we're seeing in Baby J, and the excitement of each new milestone he reaches.

This little man is such a bundle of fun, and is really starting to come out of his shell and hold his own against his sister. Before now, due to Miss E being much more vocal and demanding of our attention, Baby J tended to be a bit of a passive observer really. I feel guilty periodically that I don't seem to give him the same amount of attention as Miss E got at that stage, and that I take advantage of his easy going nature and let him amuse himself perhaps too much. People assure me that this is the normal dynamic in a home with more than one child, but I still feel guilty.

These days, he's getting very vocal. Babbling away, and having full scale 'conversations' with himself every morning in his crib - I hear him over the monitor. I am focusing on these as very good signs that as of now his hearing is plenty good enough, and that he is definitely in line with normal speech development. He is even attempting 'Bye Bye' which sounds more like 'Buh Ba' accompanied by his waving arm.

Several people have asked for updates on our ongoing journey to get to the bottom of J's hearing tests. So far we have had CT scans come back clear, and blood testing reveal that he has a genetic cause for the already identified hearing loss. What we still do not know at this point is what exactly this means in practical terms for J, and what the prognosis is. He has to go through another sedated hearing test next week which will reveal if we are now dealing with hearing loss in his right ear, too. If this is the case it will be a very worrying development and I'm pretty anxious about it. We also meet with clinical geneticists and a pediatric neurologist this month. What exactly they will do, I have no idea. We are just going through with all of the audiologists recommendations in the hope that we get to the bottom of it, determine exactly what we are dealing with and we ask God for the grace to deal with the outcomes along the way. To be honest, I have no idea whether these visits with all these 'ologists' (count them - pediatric neurologist, audiologist, otolaryngologist, speech and language pathologist), is standard protocol following the diagnosis of sensorineuro hearing loss, or if they really suspect that J has issues in all of these areas! It's been a little overwhelming to say the least - but I am now armed with a folder, written questions for each doctor and a determination to leave no stone unturned in terms of finding out what's wrong and what we can do about it.

At this point, I am trying my best to focus on all these positives, and hope for the best - that is that this hearing issue remains as minor as it is now, and does not progressively deteriorate. At the same time, I have to try and prepare myself for news that I don't really want to hear in the hope that I can accept it and move forward positively for Baby J.

Above all, I do not want J to ever feel sad about this, or feel that he is or will be disadvantaged in any way. I want him to see me as a mother who will take on the world on his behalf, and later take it on with him, so that even later he can go out there and take it on himself!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Little Man

Baby J has his First Birthday tomorrow.

We have lots of fun in store which means lots of baking, cooking and organizing for me today. I will get a proper birthday post up, but in the meantime enjoy these pictures of his first year. Hope they make you smile as much as they did me!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Bouquet of Blooming Blog Bling

I am the proud recipient of several prizes lately.

First of all, I won a little prize draw at Parent Product Reviews. This arrived in the mail for me yesterday - what a nice treat to open something that wasn't a bill! Erika has great reviews, and even greater giveaways going on over at Parent Product Reviews, so if you haven't checked her out, go do it - oh, and come right back here to read about my other prizes, okay?

On to the Blog Bling.

Janice at Twist and Skewer has very kindly awarded me this great blog award and I am very flattered to receive it.



According to the blurb, this award 'casts a spotlight on bloggers who are just beginning to draw lotsa attention — the equivalent of a song with a bullet on Billboard’s Top 100 chart. Lotsa good posts. Lotsa good buzz. These bloggers are going places in a hurry.'.

Thank you so much Janice! I started this blog in April, primarily as a brain dump, and as a vehicle to chronicle some improvements I wanted to make in various aspects of life. I have been so delighted to find that many other bloggers dump the same kind of brain junk as me, face similar parenting challenges and want to make the same improvements. The sense of community and support has been very inspiring. It tickles me pink to know that people actually enjoy reading what I have to say!

I am supposed to pass this award on to five other people, and I will - but I need to think about it for a while. There are many bloggers out there who've been at this a lot longer than me, and so I don't think they fit into the 'break out' category, as they have already broken out and are leading the posse at this point. I have come across several 'new to me' blogs, some of them new bloggers like myself and I will consider them for this award, soon.

Momchatter (I feel bad not using your name, but I don't know it!) has bestowed upon me, not one, but two lovely awards:





Thank you very, very much for these - I seriously am very flattered, and thank you for your kind words on your own blog.

Now I can pass these two awards on to some of my favourite bloggers without hesitation.

Velveteen Mind Most of my readers read Megan's blog I'm sure, so I don't need to explain why I'm giving her these awards. If you're not reading Velveteen Mind - you're missing a treat. Check her out, I guarantee you'll be back for more.

Playgroups are no place for children Jennifer has posted lately on a lot of issues that I have faced as a stay at home mum, and I feel her frustration, exhaustion and her exhilaration, often all at the same time.

Braveheart does the Maghreb Lady M's wonderful accounts of life in Morocco are hypnotic. Morocco isn't somewhere I thought I'd like to visit, but reading her stories makes me want to pack my bags and go there, now.

Not wrong, just different This is a British lady living in the States. She writes about some of the same adjustments I've had to make, and the oddities I've discovered here, and she does it with a great sense of humour, too.

Poot and Cubby Andi and I are living parallel lives and our daughters are eerily similar that I could literally cut and paste her posts as they apply to our lives.

Absolutely Bananas Jenny is one of the first bloggers I read regularly when I started and I still read every single post. She is absolutely bananas, and a whole lot of fun.

Up in the Night I don't remember how I came across this blog, but I love Shauna's accounts of the crazies of family life. Her blog is a nice mix of fun and serious stuff, of the lighthearted and not so lighthearted aspects of living in a modern family.

Flamenco Mom Flamenco Mom's is another blog I've read since I started, and she helped me with some of my novice blogger questions. Another inspiring mother and one that has her share of parenting challenges. She has also been great in encouraging me as we deal with the unknown on Baby J's hearing.

There you have it - my shiny new blog awards, my round up of awardees, and with that I have to split since I have a big birthday party coming up on Saturday, and guests arriving tomorrow and I am not in the least bit organized for it all. Ah, well - I laugh in the face of deadlines, and do my best work under pressure!

Me-me meh meh, doo doo de doo doo!

It's been a while, and I've done these memes before, but since I have some new readers, and have been asked so nicely, I'm going to do them again. I'll change the answers up a bit so as not to give anyone deja-vu.

Doodaddy has tagged me for this Ten Questions Meme.

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was working in Marketing in a large bank and feeling surprised and not a little delighted that the guy I met on holidays a month ago was keeping in touch with me. This guy is now my husband.

2. What were you doing one year ago?

I was lumbering around, large and lovely, expecting Baby J to arrive any day. Countless bouts of contractions and two scares with premature labour had me believing he'd have been here by now. I was also feeling very sad for the Amish mothers in Lancaster, PA who were all over the news after a crazed gunman executed their children in their schoolroom. I thought of them a lot when I had Joseph, and talked with the nurses about them, and the scary world I'd brought my son into.

3. What are five snacks you enjoy?

Chocolate (is there anyone who doesn't enjoy this?)
Ice cream
Edamame (a very newly discovered snack for me and I'm thrilled that it's healthy!)
Chips and Salsa
More chocolate!

4. What are 5 songs you know the lyrics to?

Unless you count nursery rhymes, there are aren't many songs to which I know all the lyrics (well, at a pinch I could belt out all of Don Maclean's 'American Pie', but there has to be beer involved.)
I could also make a fair stab at the title of this blog post, a la The Muppet Show

5. Five things you'd do if you were a millionaire?

Pay off debt.
Share it with family.
Donate to charity.
Buy a new closet full of clothes (if I could borrow Stacey and Clinton from 'What not to Wear', all the better, again there might have to be beer involved to save me from hurt feelings - they're very blunt aren't they?)
Move house.

6. Five bad habits.

Blogging when I should be doing housework, or starting the dinner!
Letting clean laundry pile up so I have to iron it all (see first bad habit).
Getting to after 12pm and thinking about lunch, only to realise I have not yet eaten breakfast.
Dropping four letter words when I shouldn't!
Shouting at bad drivers (this involves some of those four letter words that I shouldn't be using).

7. Five things you like to do.

Walk around this beautiful lake.

Read with my children.
Read without my children (and preferably books without pictures.)
Welcome visitors to our home.
Make people happy.

8. Five things you would never wear.

Leggings - oh wait, too late - I wore them in the 80s, and bought them again in May when in Ireland - not sure what I was thinking, either time!
I'll probably never wear a bikini again.
A Celtic shirt at Ibrox (only a select few readers will get this!)
Fur.
'Mom' Jeans.

9. Five favourite toys

My computer.
My ipod.
My new camera.
Miss E's lego and Miss E's puzzles.

10. Five things you hate to do.

Go to the GYN when I'm not pregnant. I'm overdue an annual, and hate the thought of going!
I hate doing the tax return. Each year I get better organized with the information and keep good records, but it is a hateful job.
I hate watching my husband's choice in TV shows - Cops?, World's Most Shocking Police Chases?, Dirty Jobs? Anything starring Clint Eastwood years ago?
I hate cleaning up after mealtimes these days since more food seems to land on the floor, than in little tummies than seems reasonable to me.
I hate running late for appointments, or playdates, yet we do, every.single.time!

Phew - that was harder than I thought. Now if you're still awake, I'd like to remedy that by presenting yet another list of oh not so fascinating facts about me. Momchatter tagged me for a 'Five interesting factoids about me' meme. She also awarded me some very nice blog awards which I'll post separately.

So Momchatter - here are your 5 facts about me, I hope you're not sorry you asked ha ha!

1. I was born in Zimbabwe (it was known as Rhodesia when I was born). - I've mentioned about being born in Africa, not sure if I've ever revealed exactly where. My parents lived in Zambia, and crossed the border into Zimbabwe where I was delivered by a doctor in his private clinic. Apparently this clinic wasn't far from here:


2. My Mum and Dad brought be back to Zambia when I was a day old. That was when I crossed my first international border. I lived there with them until I was almost 2 years old. I would love to travel back to Zambia and Zimbabwe some day - but not while Mugabe remains president of Zimbabwe.

3. At University I had no clear idea of what I wanted as a career. I took my career teacher at school's advice and chose subjects that interested me. This is why I graduated with a Major in Economic and Social History, and a Minor in Psychology. A bit of an odd mixture, but a perfect combination as I later found out, for a career in marketing.

4. I had long labours with both my children and pushed for 3 hours with Miss E, and 2.5 hours with Baby J. My OB has no idea why it takes me so long, just lucky I guess! Baby J was born facing upwards and this combined with the length of time I was pushing left him with huge bruising on his wee head that took 2 weeks to disappear. His pediatrician suspected that it wasn't bruising, and it was instead permanent birthmarking - so you can imagine how upset I was at that - and how relieved I am that he was wrong.

5. When I moved here to Central Florida five years ago, I was itching to move to South Florida where my cousin lives, so that I would be closer to someone in my family. D had worked there before so I thought it would be an option - it wasn't. I've spent the last 5 years getting comfortable here, and now he wants to move to South Florida and I don't!

*ahem*, *AHEM*, you can stop snoring now, and wipe that dribble off your chin - it's over now, all finished!

Thanks to Doodaddy and Momchatter for the tags. I'm not going to pass on the meme, because the one time that I did tag others for a meme (when my standard MO was not to tag), nobody did it! [Sticking my bottom lip out as far as it will go in true Miss E style]!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Five reasons to curse myself for forgetting my camera

1. We took our walk around the lake again today (well, I walked, kids rolled!). It rained this morning and the gorgeous big lily pads at the water's edge were covered in rain droplets that would have made for fabulous photos. They looked like semi-spherical crystals floating atop their vibrant green platforms.

2. I don't have a picture to show you of Miss E and her traveling companion Miss Minnie Mouse, all strapped in, enjoying their stroll.

3. A mama duck, and her two babies walked right up to us as I stopped to give the kids their water bottles. Two gorgeous little ducklings and I couldn't take a snap of them (I'm really bummed about that, but fear that mama duck might have taken a snap at me perhaps if I'd gone shoving my camera at them, but still).

4. I missed capturing the looks on the faces of passersby as I sashayed my way along, pushing the stroller and humming to the beat of Michael Buble's 'Save the last dance for me' (I defy anyone to listen to that and not want to go all Dancing with the Stars right there on the spot!).

5. Video might have been more appropriate for this, but I missed getting Baby J's reactions to the sounds he can so clearly hear, the birds and the cars, and turning to the source of each noise as it happened.

And why did I forget my camera? Because I took it out of my ready prepared diaper bag to take a shot of this:



Miss E thinking she's ready for the off and saying 'Let's rock and roll, Mommy!'. I did of course change her out of her nightdress and put some clothes and shoes on her, but the rest of the outfit and accessories stayed the same!

There are some days when I question my sanity in deciding to stay at home, then there are others, like today when I know there's no place I'd rather be.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Florida Fall



It is here, at last! Some cooler weather. It's still hot, but the breeze we've had in the last few days has brought nothing short of ecstasy to those of us craving some outside time down here.

Summer in Florida is not a pleasant time for me - I can't stand to be outside for longer than it takes for me to get from the front door to the mailbox and back. The heat, the humidity, the sweating in the hot searing sun. All of it is disgusting.

But now? Ahhhhhhh!

This morning I took the kids on a walk around a local lake.



This is part of my jumping back on the Makeover Monday bandwagon. A commitment to walk around this lake at least 3 times a week. This is a beautiful time of year to do it and goodness knows after reading this, and this I know I am a big time slacker in the fitness department.

As a secondary goal, I think I should study up on some ornithology so that when Miss E asks me 'What's that bird Mommy?',



Or, 'What are those birds Mommy?',


I won't have to answer 'duck' and hope for the best!

Pushing these two*,

three miles around this lake three times a week in their trusty chariot will do wonders for our health and our appreciation of wildlife (unless a stinkin' 'gator comes outta that there water!**) With some great music and perhaps an audiobook loaded up on my ipod I'll be racking it up to five times a week in no time!



*I promise you I do fix my daughter's hair, but as much as I like to brush and style it, her standard procedure immediately thereafter is to wreck it. I didn't bother to battle with her before this photo, and I got a smile. Smiles, and pretty hair are generally mutually exclusive concepts in our experience.

** Let's hope this doesn't happen before I have built up the strength and stamina to actually run with that stroller at the sight of any emerging reptiles!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Anniversary!

This time of year is full of markers in our lives apparently.

Yesterday marked five years exactly since I came to the USA! When I arrived here I had a mental goal of 2, maybe 3 years before we'd move home to Ireland. Then I put a 5 year maximum on it. And here we are 5 years later, still here!

We both miss family, a lot. Thankfully they've been able to visit frequently, and we've made it back to Ireland a couple of times in the last 5 years. And, the wonders of the internet and webcams make this distance seem not so far.

With the global economy being the way it is, and as I've mentioned before the exchange rate being so far against us, it would literally cause us financial ruin to move back to Ireland right now. I doubt we could afford a cardboard box to live in - compared the security we have with our nice house here that's a move we can't make right now.

So even though we miss out on being close to family, and feel our kids are missing out, we do our very best to keep connections with family at home as strong as possible, and they do the same. There are also a lot worse places than Florida to live that's for sure.

I qualify for my citizenship soon. Two benefits of citizenship over my current Green Card status are that 1. I can vote (ahem, Miss Megan - don't let me get there before you!), and 2. I could work for the government. (I would definitely like to be in a position to vote for a better government, before I would consider working for it ha ha!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Letter to Heather

Dear Heather,

This week marks six years since you left.

Six years since D, your brother and my husband, had to get hold of your Mum, Dad, and Sisters late at night to tell them how you left.

Six years since D had to take you home, his heart breaking and burdened with the guilt he felt at not being able to protect you while you were in Florida. He still blames himself you know, that if he hadn’t been based in Florida, you would never have come here searching for something better for yourself.

Many times I think of you.

We met only on two occasions. Not enough time to really get to know each other. I do know though from my chats with D, and from what I saw on my visits to Florida when we did meet, that you were at times a troubled soul. Searching always for that which would make you happy. Looking for validation and approval from the wrong kinds of people. Putting on the mask of bravado, and displaying that ‘devil may care’ attitude for which so many had come to know you. Some of us could see past the mask, and know, that like all of us, you just wanted to love and to be loved, and that you had the same fierce sense of loyalty to your friends and family as the rest of your clan have.

In these six years I’ve come to know your family so well, but I feel like there is something missing. You were my husband’s sister, are my husband’s sister and you are gone.

We missed you at our wedding, so acutely aware of your absence. D and your family found it painful not to have you there to celebrate such a happy occasion with us. We had flowers in the church in your memory and I carried sprigs of heather in my bouquet, to have the ‘spirit’ of you there in some way.

I look at my children whom you’ve never met and I feel sad that they do not know you. I want to talk to you, to tell you about them. How Miss E resembles all of her paternal Aunts in her outgoing and headstrong nature, which pleases me and terrifies me all at the same time. I want to tell you about Baby J and his sweet nature. His smiles and his giggles and his cheeky expressions. I feel bad that my only way to talk to them about you is through a small number of photographs and very limited memories.

I think of my husband and the rest of your family and I get angry. I feel bitter that they’re cheated out of more memories with you. I get annoyed at you for making poor choices the night you died.

I want to scream at you not to be so stubborn. I want to plead with you like your friends did that night, not to go off with some drunken loser you’d just met. To beg you to wait until someone you knew would get you home safely. I want to ask you what in the hell you were thinking getting into a car with a drunk driver, on a night with what could possibly have been the worst rain seen in South Florida? I want to reach into that river and fight to get you out of that damn truck, to do what the drunken loser wouldn’t try to do because he was too busy saving his own hide. All because I don’t want you to be gone and because I don’t want D to have this pain and guilt that he has carried since he lost you, his baby sister.

These feelings of mine pale compared to what D feels, what your Mum and Dad feel, your Sisters, your Nieces and Nephew in Ireland, who knew you so well. Who love and miss you so much. I’ve seen D work his way through the major stages of grief, and then go right back to the start and work his way through them all over again. I’ve seen his grief bubble up at obvious times like birthdays and anniversaries, and at less predictable times in response to the tiniest reminders of you and my heart breaks for him. I do not know the depth of his hurt, but I do know that when I try to only imagine what it would be like to lose any of my siblings, a searing pain cuts right through me.

I see your Mum turn to God, and draw comfort from Him. I see your Dad withdrawn, and weary. He misses you, and lately he has said he wants to be where you are. I see your Sisters bottle up their grief, and their refusal to talk openly about you – something that saddens and frustrates your Mum. She has lost one baby, and she is watching her other babies struggle with this loss, too. She wants to help them but feels powerless to do so since they won’t talk to her.

While I feel like a fraud to say that I mourn for you, since I didn’t know you well, I do mourn. I mourn for not knowing you. I mourn for what could have been. I mourn for the fact that you never knew the joy of being a wife and a mother – the two things your Mum says you wanted most in life. I mourn that my children will never know you, and that D will never have the pleasure of seeing them interact with you.

I trust and pray that your family and my D can know a time when the raw pain of losing you eases a little bit more. That they can hold on to their happiest memories of you and in them find comfort.

I also trust and pray that you are in a better place now, Heather. That you now know a love beyond your imagination and that you are with us in a very special way.

Love from

Annie

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Random Weekend Roundup

I literally rushed out of the house on Thursday to make it in time to Starbucks for their Read for the Record presentation. I was a little concerned that we'd be late, and there would be no room for us in a small crowded coffee shop. HA! We were the only people to show up for this event.

I felt so bad for the lady hosting it. She looked at the door expectantly each time it opened, but no more kids showed up. It was a bit sad really. Such an opportunity to promote reading and literacy, wasted.

As a parent I was disappointed that there weren't more parents there with their kids. As a marketer I was agitated that it was so poorly promoted! I stumbled across this event on The Goody Blog and followed their links to determine if there was a local event in our town. The host at Starbucks confirmed that there were no other communications locally about it, other than what was on the internet. How they expected to draw people in I'll never know! I guess they'll learn from it and try harder next year.

I learned something, too. Never take a not quite 3 year old to a coffee shop at 4pm - a shop full of juices, chocolate milks and cookies, and expect her to sit quietly for a story. Clearly our lessons on patience and using inside voices need a little more work.

At least I came away with a White Chocolate Mocha, so it was an entirely wasted trip.

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I recently discovered PBS Sprout On Demand - a very nice collection of American and British preschool programs, available any time of the day or night.

This makes me very happy - because on days like yesterday when Miss E decided to fall asleep at 5pm, and wake again at 8pm (grr), and then proceeded to have the mother of all meltdowns because Dragon Tales was over (this is part of her winding down for bed routine), I did not stress nor panic because lo and behold, after she'd been fed and changed for bed, I took up my trusty magic wand (aka cable remote) and hey presto! Dragon Tales appeared and all was good.

There is a show on the line up called 'Jakers' - some of you may be familiar with it. I'd heard of it but hadn't actually seen it until last night. My husband and I enjoyed it more than Miss E did - we were killing ourselves laughing. This show is about a little Irish pig, and his Irish farmyard friends. It is a very cute program, but please don't be mistaken that all Irish people talk like these characters! Such an assumption would be akin to me saying that all Americans talk like Larry the Cable Guy! (Although, my husband does say 'jakers' on a very regular basis.)

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I'm still a little anxious about my son's hearing testing. We are no further on in terms of answers. His CAT scan came back normal - which is good news in that there are no physical abnormalities or developmental anomalies that would cause hearing loss, however that still leaves the question of what exactly is causing this moderate hearing loss that he has?

His blood tests were done on the same day as the CAT scan - on August 29th. We still have no results. The lab technician I spoke to that day (she was there because the lab screwed things up and poor Baby J had to have his blood drawn TWICE!), told me that these results would be back in 7-10 days. Two weeks later we called - they had no results. The nurse told my husband, 'these tests can take 2-3 weeks'.

Yesterday, more than 3 weeks after the blood was drawn, I called again and was told that these tests can take 6-8 weeks. So, not sure who's bullshitting whom here but I am getting a tad ticked off at the runaround we're being given and will pick up the pestering again next week. The nurse I spoke to yesterday mumbled something about 'it say's the blood draw wasn't done' and that she would look into it and call me back - I haven't heard from her. I can tell you this, if they have screwed this up again, and Baby J has to have more blood drawn, I will raise merry hell over it.

Baby J is using 'Mama' and 'Dada' appropriately, and has started saying 'No, no, no', albeit more randomly - so I am taking these as positive signs, and using them to reassure myself that whatever is going on with his hearing, it's minor and I pray it stays that way.

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I had a little fire in my oven this morning - just a little one! I was baking bran muffins, and apparently that's one batch of muffins too many since it's been cleaned last, so my oven objected and combusted a piece of long ago dripped muffin batter. It's on the self clean cycle right now and it's heating and stinking up a storm in my house. Time to take the kiddos and go outside for a little fresh air. Hubs can stick it out with the oven!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Read for the Record Today

Today is Read for the Record day.

Check out the campaign, and find out where the closest event to you is happening today.



My local Starbucks is taking part this afternoon and is offering freebies for parents and kids - whoo hoo! Literacy and caffeine, a happy combination I'll take any day.

Who knows, maybe The Story of Ferdinand will be just what it takes to get Miss E to stop asking me to read this book to her a million times a day?



I don't read it anymore, we recite it together without even looking at the pages! But, whatever keeps her interested in books and reading I'm all for it.

Hopefully you'll be able to catch a Read for the Record event today, if not, you can join in online.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Society! You need to grow up!

Much has been said about the Bill Maher debacle on nursing in public, I won't rehash it since it has been covered extremely well by other bloggers, here, here and here to mention but three.

What amazes me as much as the idiocy of Bill Maher's comments are the debates that rumbled on in the comment sections of some posts on the issue. It is so sad to see that so many people, including many women are so against nursing a baby in public.

Comments I've seen made on the issue in blog comments and elsewhere are:

"I don't want to see anyone's blue veined engorged tit at my dinner table"

"A baby doesn't need the distraction of a busy restaurant, go take them somewhere quiet to eat"

"I can't stand to hear the sound of a baby slurping at the breast" (and a bottle fed baby doesn't slurp, right?)

"I have the right not to have to see you breastfeed, as much as you have the right to breastfeed"


Then there are people who have obviously made assumptions that when a woman breastfeeds a baby they must need to be half naked to do so?

I have nursed both my children, my first for 17 months, and Baby J is still nursing at 11 months. I have no doubt that some of my family and friends had some level of discomfort over my choice to nurse for this long - but I don't care. I know I did and am doing what is best for my babies.

I have paid attention to other people's comfort levels, and when it was possible I would nurse in another room so as not to make people uncomfortable. If it was not possible I went ahead and fed my baby anyway. I've nursed on planes, in restaurants, at the Mall, at the park, during playgroups and in stores. I have done so in the most discreet way possible. I have never received disapproving looks, nor have I received any comments on what I was doing. Perhaps I live in a more enlightened part of the country? (I doubt it, I live in the redneck capital of Florida *snort*).

Maybe I have a different take on this since breastfeeding was demystified for me by seeing my own mother breastfeed. I hope so, because then there is hope for my kids' generation - that they will not carry the same prejudices or distaste on the subject.

'So, what's your point Annie? You said you weren't going to rehash all of this' I hear you say.

I guess my point is this. If you have a problem seeing a mother care for and nurture her baby. In the way that nature intended, with the best possible substance available. And if you have a problem with a mother providing that nourishment on demand, which is the best way to provide it, meaning that sometimes yes, she'll have to do it in a public place, then they are most definitely exactly that. YOUR PROBLEMS.

Mothers should not have have to justify themselves on this issue. We should not have to respond to the Bill Mahers of this world. We should not have to be asked to cover up in a restaurant, or be escorted off a plane for feeding our children. Who would do any of these things to a mother bottle feeding a baby? It's the same thing - feeding a child, involving a different vessel - plain and simple.

Society - you need to get over this prudish misplaced discomfort you have with breasts being used for their intended purpose. It is unnecessary, juvenile, and downright irritating!

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's confirmed. I'm 'Just a Mommy'!

Conversation between Miss E and I in the car returning from the weekly grocery shopping.

Miss E: Baby J is a boy.

Me: That's right. Who else is a boy in our house?

Miss E: Daddy!

Me: Good girl. Are you a boy?

Miss E: *chuckles* No, I'm a girl.

Me: Good girl, that's right. Who else is a girl in our house?

Miss E: Hmm, I don't know.

Me: Is Mommy a girl?

Miss E: *chuckles very loudly* NO!

Me: Well, then what am I? Is Mommy a lady?

Miss E: No!

Me: Is Mommy a woman?

Miss E: *laughing uproariously* No, you're not, silly.

Me: Well? What am I?

Miss E: You're Mommy!


Bang go any notions I have of proving myself to be witty, intelligent and worthy as an individual beyond motherhood. At least in my daughter's eyes!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Please use and check your children's car seats!

Two small children, involved in separate accidents in my city have had to be airlifted to a Children's Hospital in Tampa with serious injuries. One was a 6 month old infant involved in a head on collision on a road with a 30mph speed limit. The other was a 3 year old sitting unrestrained in the passenger seat while her mother turned into a side street into the path of oncoming traffic which could not avoid hitting her. The car was hit exactly where the 3 year old was sitting.

There are no reports of how the infant in the first accident was or was not restrained - it has me wondering though. The second accident happened in a not so good part of town, and the mother/driver refused a blood test. I could make many judgments based on these facts, but will avoid doing so since that's not the point of my post.

As responsible parents, many of us research safety ratings of equipment we use for our kids. There are many expensive car seat options out there. None of which are any use whatsoever if 1. they are not installed, or 2. not installed correctly.

The statistic in my county is that 95% of car seats are installed incorrectly. So, 95% of kids traveling around are not adequately protected in the event of an accident. In addition, poorly installed car seats can be the cause of injury in an accident where the child is injured by the straps or the chest buckle for example.

We read our owner's manuals for our kids' car seats - the infant seat, and later the convertible car seats. We followed the instructions to a 't'. Wanting to be absolutely sure they were installed correctly, I have had them checked by a certified car seat technician each time. Each time she has helped me improve the installation - so despite our best efforts, the seats were not in fact installed 100% correctly.

For a few minutes of my time, I have the advice of a specialist, and have her overview my technique in installing the seats, and importantly, in positioning the child, and the straps in the seats. With this comes the peace of mind that I have protected my children as well as I can by restraining them appropriately in the car.

Please have your children's car seats inspected by a qualified technician. You can find one in your area by contacting your local hospital, or your County Sheriff's Department. Do it today! You can check out Safekids USA for information on your State's specific safety laws and requirements.

You should also ensure that every adult traveling in your car wears a seat belt. Adults not restrained by a seat belt can become a deadly missile in the event of an accident, further endangering your children in the back.

As my Mum has often said to me, people wouldn't dream of transporting their breakables when moving house or after buying some expensive item, without wrapping them in bubble wrap and securing them appropriately. People need to afford the same duty of care to their kids!