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


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.


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.)


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.


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!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thank You for thinking I'm Nice!

Although I don't feel 'nice' many days, especially when errant drivers, stubborn children, or any combination of irritating miscellany conspires to drive me nuts, Jennifer (Playgroups are no place for children), Jessica (A Bushel and a Peck), have presented me with the Nice Matters award. Andi (Poot and Cubby) also awarded me the 'Nice Matters' award via email.

And, if you can stand it - I am also the very proud recipient of the Big Fat Wet Kiss Award generously bestowed by Jenny (Absolutely Bananas). This is all the more cool for the fact that Jenny made this herself, crafty photoshop hexpert that she is!

Thank you ladies - these awards will look 'nice' hanging on my new blog!

I'm pretty sure that most of the bloggers to whom I would pass these awards, already have them, but I'm going to share some more anyway.

I would like to pass the 'Nice Matters' blog award to the following bloggers who have been great in their posts, emails, and in their comments:

The Good Woman (My Wee Scottish Blog)

Kimberly (Temporary?Insanity)

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Deborah (The Humble Housewife)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Looking forward to a day at Disney's Magic Kingdom, my Sister and I, on one of my many trips to Florida, were traveling up Interstate 4 towards Orlando.

Full of plans on which parts of the park we could go to first, where we would eat lunch, where was best to shop, we thought nothing of the outside world. We thought nothing much of the break in the radio to inform of a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NYC, besides declaring it a terrible accident, and feeling for anyone injured or killed.

We processed through the entrance to Disney - eager to soak up the atmosphere, to feel that magic that even at almost 30, still made me tingle with childlike excitement. I was keen to see parts of the park that I had missed the first time I visited, so we decided to move around in a counter-clockwise route. We had managed to take in all of Main St USA, and some of Tomorrowland and had made our way back to the Cinderella's Castle when the great booming voice came over the public address system:

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Walt Disney Parks are now closing. Please proceed immediately to the nearest exit".

My Sister and I, as puzzled as everyone else, waited a few moments. The message was repeated and we knew we hadn't misheard. We made our way to the exits - so disappointed and very confused. Yes there were clouds in the sky, but nothing threatening. No mention on the weather reports of a looming hurricane that might shut down the parks. What on earth could cause Disney to close?

On our way out through the gates, I asked a security officer what the problem was she said 'I can't tell you much Ma'am. All I can say is that America has been targeted in a terrorist attack, and I mean a major terrorist attack'.

Heading back to the car park on the ferry it dawned on me that this was probably something to do with that plane crash. Nothing could have prepared us for the news we heard on the radio as we both traveled to what is now my home, stunned.

Stunned at the enormity of this heinous act - on hearing that a second plane had hit and one building had collapsed. Stunned at the fear, panic and loss suffered by those in those buildings. Fear, panic and loss echoed by loved ones not in the buildings.

I cried for most of the rest of that day as we sat with the rest of the world and watched coverage of what happened. As I thought of families scrambling for news of their fathers, sisters, mothers, daughters, brothers, my heart was breaking. How much worse must it have been to be those families?

On this, the first time that September 11th has fallen on a Tuesday, as in 2001 I remember all those people setting off on a day like every other. I remember the men, women and children who died at the hands of evil in those buildings and on the planes. I remember the sacrifice of heroes setting out to save them. I remember the families left behind to pick up the pieces and carry on without them.

I remember, too, my responsibility as a parent to raise loving, compassionate and tolerant children. To instill in them a respect for all human life and ensure that they carry no extreme religious or political baggage. To ensure that they are part of a better generation in which they can continue to pursue peace in this world, and make sure that this never happens again.

I remember.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ten Years

Ten years ago today something happened that tipped my world upside down.

Something that was to open my eyes, my experiences, my heart, my love.

I came to America for the first time, arriving to join other family members for my cousin's wedding. I got to experience the closest thing to tropical paradise I'd ever seen when we stayed in the islands of Sanibel and Captiva in the Gulf of Mexico, where the wedding took place.

I sat on white shell beaches, watching sandpipers dot in and out of the foamy surf. I marveled at pelicans diving for their lunch a little way offshore. I swam in warm green waters and felt tiny fish brush against my ankles. I felt like I was on a travel show and 'Wildlife on One', all rolled into one.

Among white egrets, and lush hibiscus, the Bride and Groom finished all those last minute preparations. We gathered in the small white church and watched them celebrate their love, and join their lives. Little did I know sitting there in that church, that two days later I was to meet my own future husband, the day before I flew back to Ireland.

Who would have believed that this Irish guy whom my cousins counted among their very good friends, who wasn't at the wedding due to previous boozing with his buddies Gaelic Football commitments in San Fransisco, would come into my life and change it, completely?

My practical, rational side dictated that the odds of ever seeing this man again, having met him the night before my vacation ended were negligible. My heart and my gut however told me something different. As I looked out of the airplane window into the dark, watching the grid-like pattern of the street lit city of Miami grow smaller as the plane climbed, I knew something was different and I wondered had I just met someone important. Pipe dreams? Delusions? Maybe - but I am living proof that some dreams can come true.

Through our unconventional, separated by 4000 miles and the Atlantic Ocean, courtship, we had many phone calls when we chatted about all the usual getting-to-know-you stuff. We engaged in frivolous chatter, and serious discussions where we'd be the ones to set the world to rights. I had many more trips to Florida to visit him, and he came home to Ireland several times, too. Many times I'd ask myself 'where is this going?' and once we did try to end it, both agreeing that living a half a world apart wasn't exactly conducive to a thriving relationship. I did at one point try make my peace with the fact that we were not 'meant to be' and however much that hurt I stopped calling him. He continued to keep in touch with me however, and so we hovered for a while in a limbo of not moving forward and not breaking off completely either. Then he blessedly survived a very serious accident, and his attitude to 'us' took on a more serious and determined slant. Knowing that he could have died in that accident also made me realise that deep down where I didn't even want to admit it to myself, I really, really loved this guy. He's the first and only man I've ever loved, and will be the only man I will ever love.

Five years after meeting him, I moved to Florida to be with him - five months after our engagement. We got engaged while I was on vacation here, and I flew back to Ireland alone, two days later - I like to keep running themes in my life like that.

We are so different in lots of ways. I am college educated, my husband is more of a graduate of the school of life kind of guy. He is an extrovert, and I am more reserved. He is a risk taker, I am not! (He's a good housekeeper, I am not, but he's taught me a lot and I'm getting better ha ha!). We are the same in many ways. Our values and family upbringings are very similar. Our morals, dedication to our families and attitudes to our own little family and parenting are virtually the same.

Here we are 10 years, a transatlantic courtship, a wedding and two babies later. I still miss home, but I can truthfully say that I am very happy. I am up to my ears in Fisher Price, afraid of the outcome of my son's medical tests, and today dealing with our first kiddie puking experience if you can believe it since Miss E was born nearly 3 years ago, but I am happy.

Here's to meeting you 10 years ago D, I love you and am so glad you happened to me!