Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas!

I know most people here say 'Merry Christmas' - but I'm sticking with 'Happy' - as it's what we've always said.

So, Happy Christmas from all of us, to all of you!

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Busy but Benign"

That's what the surgeon said to me yesterday!

I have no breast cancer, and nothing to worry about!

He told me that I have Fibrocystic Breast Disease and the pathology findings were consistent with that condition.

The calcification they removed is benign.

You have NO idea the huge relief this is for me - aside from the obvious.

On Wednesday, I got a phone call from the Radiologist who did the biopsy procedure. Her information was slightly different.

She told me the calc was benign, but they found another area of 'disorganized cells' which in 30%-40% of times becomes 'something bad'. She also said it wouldn't show up on a mammogram until it was 'really bad'. Her recommendation was that I go ahead and have a surgeon do an excisional biopsy.

You can imagine what that did for the old stress-o-meter!

I went to my surgeon's appointment then waiting for him to tell me all of this too. He simply read the report through with me and told me I was in the clear!

I told him what the Radiologist had discussed with me - and he again went through the report telling me it said nothing about disorganized cells, no evidence of atypia at all - just healthy, albeit lumpy, tissue! And, under no circumstances did I need an excisional biopsy. He was quite irritated that I'd been told otherwise.

This surgeon is a very nice, very no-nonsense kind of guy. I trust him 100% - and happily take his diagnosis!

So a weight off my mind to be sure.

Now if I could just get my little man a clean bill of health we'd be good.

We were back with Jay at the doc's today - fifth time in 3 weeks. I think I'm due my own parking space there at this point!

Poor little mite after three weeks in which he's had croup, pneumonia, croup again, congestion and a bad cough (which I was paranoid was a pneumonia relapse) - now has an ear infection!

Please, please let this be the end of it!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mean is Mean is Mean!

Driving towards school the other morning I got rather irate at an elderly driver in front of me.

Ever mindful that I have two little parrots kids in the back I try to keep my verbal abuse of other road users to an absolute minimum.

Understand though that we are in mid December - the season of Snowbirds. So my patience is tried on a much more regular basis than it would be say from April through October.

If you are a Snowbird reading this, or your parents or grandparents come fly south to Florida for the winter - let me give a friendly suggestion. Advanced driving courses, a map of the local area, or at the very least, the absolute minimum - a quick scan over your vehicle's owner's manual to reacquaint yourself with the turn signal - just sayin'.

Anyway - this other morning I was particularly frustrated at the slow egress through a left hand turn (with lights LONG in his favour) of an elderly driver in front of me.

Trying to keep Miss E from understanding what I am saying at these times - I generally revert to a rather exaggerated version of my local accent - Norn Iron Spake as it is known. I uttered the words

'G'on ye bye yeh'

in order to will the driver in front to discover the gas pedal and apply it accordingly.

Immediately Miss E pipes up from the back 'Mommy, why are you being so mean to that man?'

Apparently mean is just mean, whatever the dialect.

Suitably admonished I now try to keep my dislike for others' driving habits in check. My tongue and inner cheek are suffering terribly though!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No Answers Yet

Once again - very kind readers have been asking for updates on this ongoing biopsy saga. Thank you so much for thinking of me, and taking the time to email me.

I had the biopsy done last Wednesday. Not one of the most fun experiences of my life that's for sure!

The calcification they were after was very far in, right at my chest wall. And, it was very tiny. For these reasons - it wasn't so easy for them to get, and it took three attempts before they were successful.

Add to this that the local anesthetic didn't work and I wasn't numb when they started everything - ugh!

Anyway - a few more shots of lidocaine I was comfortable enough for them to continue. They got what they needed and I expect the results sometime during the week. I have a follow up appointment with the surgeon on Thursday - all I can do in the meantime is pray that the results are benign.

I do look like someone who had a boob job though - but could only afford half a boob job. The swelling is taking a little longer than I expected to go down.

I haven't had much time to blog, or read blogs for that matter in the last couple of weeks and this is part of the reason I haven't been posting updates.

My two year old, has been keeping me on my toes again. Two weeks ago he woke at 6:30am with that tell tale barking cough. Croup. Again.

He was given steroids at the doctor's office that morning -and the barking went away in a couple of days - but he did have a persistent cough for the rest of that week.

By the following Saturday (last weekend) we were back at the doc's office with a very high fever, coughing and a very unwell baby. We had to go to the ER for a chest xray, and lo and behold, pneumonia had settled in. IV fluids and antibiotic at the ER kick started his recovery and he was thankfully a different child by the next day. He's still taking antibiotic for the pneumonia - but his follow up appointment on Monday was good, and the doctor was very pleased with his progress.

Fast forward to this weekend, after a week of almost running at 100% - my boy gets another fever on Friday evening, and wakes up yesterday with the croupy cough again. He is also very heavily congested - so it looks like we're dealing with another viral respiratory infection.

I haven't decided yet if I'll be taking him in tomorrow to the doctor. He's eating and drinking fine, and his breathing is good - he just sounds like a seal when he coughs! So he'll be getting adhoc steamy bathroom visits for the rest of the day - and his humidifier is doing overtime in his room, too. After that we'll play it by ear.

Just that time of year I guess when these kids get slammed with abrupt changes in the weather, and germs. Lots of germs!

We're doing our best to get ready for Christmas. We have a rather anorexic looking Christmas tree - a pre-lit job I bought at Target in the sales after Christmas last year. I hate it. Plus, a whole section of lights at the bottom keeps flicking on and off. How come these things look great in the store, and look crap in your house? I haven't altogether abandoned the idea of dumping it and going back to a real tree - but we'll see.

We were supposed to have my Parents in Law for Christmas, but sadly they can't come now since my Father In Law suffered a heart attack last weekend, and is still in hospital. His Consultant (Cardiologist) has said 'NO WAY' to the prospect of him flying to Florida anytime soon. In light of his troubles, a Charlie Brown-esque Christmas Tree doesn't seem that much of an issue really.

So medical drama simmers on - I don't mind telling you though - I'm ready for it to be over!

I'll post when I get the result of the biopsy - and would love you all to say a prayer like me that it's the result I want.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quest for Peace of Mind

Some kind readers have been asking for an update to this post.

My original appointment was rescheduled to today - so I had no news to give until now.

I met with the surgeon this morning who was very nice and gave me concrete advice - which to be honest, hasn't been all that forthcoming in the medical arenas that we've been dealing with in the last while. It's like they (as in the collective, medical 'they') are afraid to give advice, in case it proves to be erroneous and you sue them!

This medical/legal fear is not a helpful environment in which anxious patients (that would be me) are able to make sound decisions on their own medical treatment.

I went in to that office with a 'just tell me what to do' mentality - and I'm happy to have left with a clear plan.

The surgeon considers me low risk for anything sinister (I can't bring myself to type it, but you know what I'm talking about). This in itself is reassuring, and is something that nobody else was prepared to say.

However, he was very mindful of my level of anxiety over this whole thing. That's not to say I spend every waking moment in fear of it - I do not - but it does take over my thoughts several times a day, and sometimes at night.

Evidently I don't do not knowing very well.

I will go ahead and have what is called a stereotactic biopsy. Even though it's unlikely to be malignant - I need to know one way or the other. If it's not - then I've got my peace of mind - and I continue with regular mammography checks. If it is, then I haven't let it fester for four additional months. I feel better either way - that I'm being positive and proactive about it.

So, more waiting and a weird procedure on the horizon - but if it helps preserve my sometimes fragile mental health (and I'm only half joking!), then it's a good thing.

Thank you to those of you who asked about this, I appreciate it.

Will keep you posted.

In the meantime - if there is any woman reading this, who is over 35 and has not yet had their first mammogram done - go get the phone and make that appointment now. If you are overdue for an annual mammogram - again, get calling your docs office. NOW!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So, I gots ta see a surgeon!

November 10th I get the pleasure of sitting down with a surgeon to discuss my options regarding the micro calcification that is evident on my mammogram as mentioned here.

Can we say 'UGH' ?

I had that mammogram over a month ago. I've already done the 'freak-the-hell-out-feel-scared-what-if-it's-something-horrible?' routine.

I've emailed with The Laundress, had emails from other great women who know about these things either from first hand experience, or from working in the medical field - and I had calmed down nicely thankyouverymuch!

My head was firmly planted back in the sand, pretending that everything was just fine and we'd not talk of it again until April when the radiologist wanted to have another look and see.


It turns out that I have a very proactive, concerned about me (and maybe a bit concerned about herself) OBGYN whose nurse called me today and discussed my 'options' - ending up with their solid recommendation that I go ahead and see a surgeon to discuss a biopsy, or complete removal of the 'micro calcification'.

I had actually had thoughts along these lines back in September - my gut reaction was 'what do you mean calcifications? Get them the hell out of there!' - but passed this off as my overly active (read negative) imagination and complete over reaction on my part.

Once again we're back to the rational part of my mind telling me to 'calm down', and the emotional part saying 'how the heck do you expect me to calm down?'

I'll endeavour to remember my pact with JJ - and stay positive.

I'll probably see if they'll take whatever it is that's concerning them out - and get rid of it completely, hopefully never to be heard of again.

Ladies, if you've had experience of this - or had any biopsy type stuff done - spill it - please and thank you!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Neurotic Mothers Can't Blog

At least that's the best excuse reason I have for being absent from my own blog - and from pulling my weight, er I mean, dropping my weight, over at this blog.

I've talked before about the guilt that seems to come hand in hand with motherhood. I've also written about what can happen in the blink of an eye, when I should have been a more careful mother. What I haven't written about until now is the neurosis that this guilt feeds which has a tendency to take over my mind and life at times.

Slackermommy* has a great phrase 'Freebies from God' in relation to the little reminders we get as mothers to be more vigilant. I used up yet another 'Freebie' in August with Jay - I'm not going to get into details because I can't - I can't deal with the tears, the images that haven't left my mind and the GUILT! Suffice to say that a blind cord was involved and we had a very, very close shave.

I read today that I'm not the only mom this has happened to recently - and I have had chats online recently with another blogger who had her own version of the blind cord story - but I will leave that story for her to tell.

These little incidences, because they literally can mean life or death - sharpen those nervous anxieties that every mother has. They have us chastising ourselves for not having every eventuality covered. For not acknowledging that our smart kids will out manoeuvre us on our childproofing efforts, (or that those efforts were not as thorough as they should have been).

My days now consist of running around the house keeping the little man out of trouble. If 30 seconds goes by where I cannot see him, or hear him - I nervously go looking for him, and retrieve him from whatever mischief he's getting into - and as any toddler mother knows - there's mischief aplenty going on!

Add to this that Jay has fluid in his right ear that meant his latest routine hearing check couldn't be completed. I shrugged this off as either the potential start of an ear infection, or the residue of his first ear infection that he dealt with while we were in Ireland in June which was treated with anti-biotics. My preferred approach to this would have been 'wait and see' - if it develops into something - we'll have it checked, and since he was due for his two year check up soon anyway - I saw no need to take him to the Pediatrician's before this. The Audiologist disagreed, and proceeded to make me completely paranoid that this was the sign of something that could bring further deterioration in his heretofore very minor hearing issue. So off to the Pediatrician we went - and were told - 'both ears look great - very slight amount of fluid in the right ear - but nothing near an infection, and certainly nothing that requires meds'.

A couple of days later we get a phone call from the ENT doc Jay saw last year. He received the report from the Audiologist on his latest test that there was a little fluid, and suddenly the ENT doc wants to see Jay? Even the Audiologist wanted to wait and see if the fluid issue resolved itself over six weeks - but this mother's nerves are already jangling about the ears, and a phone call from a specialist is almost enough to send her over the edge. More phone calls with the Pediatrician who as always is the voice of reason, and reassures me that we have the luxury of six more weeks - and if the fluid hasn't resolved itself, then yes maybe and ENT consult is prudent.

Throw into this mix that I had my first mammogram a couple of weeks ago. My baseline mammogram. Expecting to have it done, and sent on my way not to return until I turn 40, I was shocked to have to have extra pictures done of one side, and later be told that I have to come back in six months to have another mammo because they want to keep an eye on calcification spots.

The rational part of my mind is fully capable of recognizing that this is proactive health care and it's a positive thing. That being careful is the right way to approach this. That what I have is 'probably benign'.


The emotional part of my mind goes NUTS at news like this. The 'what if it's not benign?' thoughts run rampant and squash out all the rational thoughts, and the result is a blubbering mess.

My great blogging friend The Laundress, has been through all this, and has been wonderful in helping me gain some perspective.

It was, and remains though, another thread of anxiety that's going on with me right now.

In a welcome distraction from medical thoughts, appointments or worries, we prepared and enjoyed a great joint birthday party for Miss E and Jay, last Saturday. (My Miss E turned FOUR yesterday!). We had a fantastic day complete with a bounce house, lots of delicious food and a great semi-homemade cake (ahem!).

I had two cousins here with me, with their families. One lives in South Florida and came up for the weekend, the other lives in Ireland - but is currently on vacation with her family in Orlando and since they were relatively close by, they came over for a while on Saturday evening. It really was like having a mini family reunion, Stateside. The kids all had a blast getting to know each other, and we enjoyed meeting (and cuddling) my cousin's newborn.

All in all, a busy but fun and relaxing weekend.

As you can imagine, many photographs were taken. And once I loaded them up on my computer and viewed them, the neurosis settled back in full force. In one photograph, one of Miss E's eyes is showing a very strange white reflection.

(I can't post it because several of my cousins' kids are in the picture and I know not everyone is comfortable with their kids'photos being put on the internet so I'm not risking their wrath).

Every morning I sit and eat my breakfast, and catch a little of the Today Show. When I saw that picture of Miss E, a segment I'd seen on a kid with a white reflection in their eye showing up in photographs being diagnosed with retinoblastoma came to the forefront of my mind and, I panicked.

See what I mean? NEUROTIC!

I wanted to brush the reflection off as a weird trick of the light, something to do with the camera. The odds of it being nothing were high since retinoblastoma is very rare. I can tell you that meant nothing to me - it goes back to that emotional part of my brain that completely overwhelms the rational part and so I was a blubbering mess once more.

Another trip to the Pediatrician's office, this time we were seen by a Nurse Practitioner who thought Miss E's eyes looked just fine but referred us to an ophthalmologist just to be sure.

We had that appointment yesterday and Miss E has 20/20 vision, and 100% healthy eyes. In this regard, I have peace of mind once more, even if it did mean enduring a bit of a condescending lecture from the eye doctor on what reflections are normal from a camera with a flash - whatever.

This is what's been going on with us lately - which combined with my borderline obsession with all things political, means I haven't had time to either process thoughts into coherent blog posts, and to my shame, means I'm not reading or commenting as much on the many blogs in my reader.

Once my nerves stop jangling a little, and (maybe) after Nov 4th, I'll be back in the swing of things, and embracing the blog world once more.

In the meantime - all you calm mothers, who take things in your stride - all and any recommendations for me on maintaining a more even keel, are most definitely welcome.

(*Sadly I can't link to Slackermommy's post on this because she's had some difficulties with her blog and has taken it down.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Handy Man For Hire

Incredibly handsome handyman, with very reasonable rates. No job too big or too small. Chatting and singing on the job a specialty, no extra charge!

My little man is Two today!

Happy Birthday Jay! Love you all the way around the world, through the stars, to the moon, and back again!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blubher here I come!

I have just signed up with the great ladies at OurBlubherOverhaul in an effort to help me get my backside in gear. To exercise more diligently, eat right, lose some weight and above all get myself FIT!

If you're struggling with weight loss, and like me need some way to keep yourself accountable (to yourself!), why not check it out and join in!

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Daughter's Preschool Teacher is Psychic

A photocopied sheet Miss E took home from Preschool today was one of the most reassuring, and yet scary pieces of parenting targeted information I've read in a long time!

That Miss E's teacher sent this home this week in particular is such a coincidence, and one for which I'm very grateful.

For fear of contravening any copyright laws, I can't reproduce the text here, however much I wish I could because I know there are readers who would benefit from it. The only reference to a publisher I can find is 'Totline Fun Just for Threes' - you may turn something up via Google if you're interested in exploring more.

Basically, the information outlines typical three-and-a-half-year-old behaviour and highlighted that this is often a repeat of what parents see in the 'Terrible Two' stage.


That's exactly what we've experienced here, and has been the major source of my frustration because I kept saying to myself - 'we've been through this -we've made progress - why is it happening again?!'

[Such a misnomer anyway. 'Terrible Twos'. In this house it started WAY before two, and we're still waiting for it to end!]

So this information is reassuring because it tells me that the challenges we have felt with Miss E of late are not particular to her, or to us, they're typical. It's not that I never expected to deal with challenging behaviour once we'd got a grip on the tantrums and moved away from them, I just never expected that it was normal for the full blown, scream your head off, throw yourself down wherever you may be, hissy fit, to come back.

This information sheet has highlighted a couple of other behaviours that Miss E has that we've noticed, such as nail biting, and stuttering, or really just taking a long time to say what she has to say because she's starting the same sentence multiple times. While these didn't concern us too much, it's reassuring all the same to understand that these are not unusual for this age.

The sheet also gives advice on how to help your child in this phase, and it focuses on the parents' attitude rather than on techniques specifically - but parental attitude could probably be the answer to a whole heap of child rearing challenges I suspect.

Reading this piece also gave me affirmation again that we haven't caused or contributed to these challenges through ineffective parenting. Aside from comments and emails from readers, and one local friend - I have to tell you not one other parent I know has admitted to me that they went through the same thing. Anytime I'd talk about how frustrating things can be here, I'd get sympathetic looks, and 'gosh, I don't know what to tell you, we never had to deal with that', or I'd only hear reports of how fantastic their kids were, never any of the negative stuff. Now I wonder, are their kids really as angelic as they lead me to believe? Or is it they chose not to talk about the more challenging aspects in parenting their preschooler for fear that I would then learn that they aren't the perfect parents they project themselves to be? Maybe they just chose to highlight their kids' good aspects because that's the more positive thing to do? The latter is something I vow to do myself, and it is much easier to commit to this in the context of understanding that we're doing okay on the parenting front and that we have a perfectly normal three year old. (No doubt you'd all be glad not to read about me bitching about having a hard time managing my kids, right?)

I'm scared though, because nowhere on the sheet does it say when it will end! You know, you hear a lot of 'this too shall pass' in relation to this kind of stuff, but that doesn't cut it when you want to know when? Will it end when she's four? (by which time her brother will be hitting two, Lord help me!), will it end when she's four and half, or will I have a whole new set of issues then? - (don't answer that!!)

I know, I know, I'm hard to please and always looking for the impossible answers. What can I say? I'm goal oriented - I can work better when I know there's a definite end in sight and I develop my coping strategies accordingly. Funny how kids don't make it easy to have things so clean cut, huh?

Back to the Psychic Preschool Teacher - She's great!

I have blogged before about my concerns with Miss E's previous Preschool experience and was anxious that she'd have a better year this year. With no disrespect to her previous teacher, I can say that I am very impressed with Miss E's new teacher, who is also new to the school this year. She is very organized and focused and her classroom is so well set up and geared towards three year olds having fun. I think this bodes well for the year ahead and I couldn't be happier.

Between the responses I got to my recent posts, and the information sheet that came home today, I have to tell you I'm breathing a big old sigh of relief here, and am a WHOLE lot less anxious about how Miss E will behave. If she misbehaves? I won't sweat it - I will learn all I can about handling it, and about helping her handle things - but I won't be embarrassed or harassed about it anymore. I am much more relaxed about the whole thing, and without the aid of alcohol or pills (okay, I might have lied about the alcohol.)

This first week back at Preschool has also brought much calmer days in our household. Back to a structured routine and a bit of a break for all of us means a much better mood all around. Again, I trust that this is a sign that all will go well for the year ahead.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I can be a Good Mother Without Reality TV

Blooming Marvelous Reality TV Star?

No thanks!

Nothing brings into sharper focus your perspective on your life as a sometimes frazzled Stay at Home Mother, than an invitation to apply to appear on a Reality TV show.

'Supernanny' to be precise.

Yep - that's what I got for my whiney post on Monday - an email from the casting producer of the ABC Show Supernanny that basically said 'You don't like Supernanny's book? Well, then come on our show'.

Yeah right!

In asking if Supernanny offered refunds, I was kidding. I have had success with Supernanny techniques. They're simple, and they work. We're just having a bumpy patch right now and I was facetiously looking for someone to blame, you know, because that's a better option than having to admit that it might be my fault!

Despite my apparent frustrations in parenting a spirited child, I know we do a lot of things right. Lately my mommy ego took a bit of a bashing, and I was reaching out for tips, advice, and solidarity and I got all three. Thanks to all of you who responded in comments, and via email. It is so reassuring to know I'm not the only basket case challenged parent out there!

Vanity had me bashing on my keyboard demanding to know how I could get this right, and pride drove me to seek the magic answer that would suddenly turn me into a perfect mom.

Reflecting about this whole issue, and reading your responses two things are crystal clear:

  1. There is no magic wand that I can wave, and make things better in an instant (damn!)

  2. I don't have to be a perfect mom.

I'm willing to bet that the Supernanny producer didn't read beyond the first paragraph of my last post, nor did he read any of the other posts in my blog. But, I have to admit, after initially laughing about receiving the email, I did feel a little defensive.

We are not a train wreck family - our kids are by no means out of control. They are completely normal. Miss E in particular is testing boundaries lately, in other words, she's doing her job and she does it well.

What she also does well however, are things I have blogged about before, and feel the need to do so again in the interests of balance, is show us love unfaltering. She makes us laugh, makes us proud, and makes us unbelievably happy that she's in our lives.

Miss E is most definitely a feisty child. She has been this way since the instant she was born, announcing her arrival with lusty cries, letting us know she was not happy to be so unceremoniously evicted from her cosy cocoon. Who could blame her? (I on the other hand was mighty relieved ha ha!)

In her infancy and toddlerhood, Miss E commanded attention from all around her. She is a thoroughly engaging child who regularly amazes all who meet her with her articulate conversation and the depth of her feelings. She has always been extremely affectionate, and repeatedly tells me 'You are the best Mommy in the whole wide world' and 'Mommy, I love you all the way to the moon'.

As a big preschooler, Miss E is now exercising her independence, which is thrilling and sad all at the same time, but it's wonderful to see. She is teaching her baby brother so much, is so playful with him and is undoubtedly his protector. She has come a long way since for the first months of his life, she was the one he needed protection from!

Miss E is creative and a very fast learner - she can pick up concepts in a heartbeat and has a memory for facts and conversations that blows me away. This of course means that we can't pull the wool over her eyes on any matter. She keeps us on our toes.

This is Miss E's first day back at preschool. I am excited for her that she has a wonderful new teacher. That she will make new friends, and catch up with some old ones. I am happy that she's in a loving and supportive environment where her little sponge like mind is going to learn even more. Despite all of this, and even though we've had our challenges lately and will be glad of the break some days, today, I miss her.

Being a stay at home mom in general, and a former career woman specifically, I think I have made the mistake of setting the expectation that I need to get everything right. I excelled in my job and my achievements there were a direct reflection of my skill. It's hard then for me not to take the challenges that we're not doing well with here, as a reflection on my skill as a mother.

I know now that this is wrong. Trying to get everything right is going to cause more problems than it solves, and so my motto from this day forward is in the words of Jill Churchill:

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Does Supernanny do Refunds?

Does Supernanny, or the authors of my other go to parenting book "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" offer any kind of satisfaction or your money back guarantee?

I think I'm due one.

We're struggling here, big time. I should rephrase that, since I am at home with the kids all day, it's me, ME.

I'm struggling, big time.

I need help - otherwise in years to come Miss E is going to stumble across this blog, and if between now and then I haven't broken her spirit with ineffective parenting, reading about the trials I felt in her young years just might.

Almost four years into this parenting gig - and I feel like I have no more of a clue now than I did when Miss E was an infant. Is this the norm? Is this what parenting feels like always, as each new phase arrives, and each new challenge faced? Or, do we ever get to say 'yeah, I think I know what I'm doing?' Even for a short time?

Maybe I have too high expectations of myself, or of Miss E? A good friend called me the other day after reading an email I'd sent her whining about not being able to manage my child and said 'don't be so stinking hard on yourself'. She knows Miss E well, and has seen many a full blown strop from her. She assures me that other kids do it, including hers.

The thing is - I rarely, if ever, see a child Miss E's age act out in public as much as she has done lately.

My feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and in truth, frustration of the tear your hair out variety, comes from the fact that we had conquered the tantrums and were successfully dealing with behaviour through lovingly, and consistently applied discipline. I told everyone who would listen, 'All Hail Supernanny', seriously!

So why then, now, when we apply the same techniques, consistently, the only consistent result is utter rebellion?

In "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" the authors recommend a series of steps to bring about better behaviour (in five weeks they say, ha ha ha ha ha ha!) and they focus on giving your child undivided attention for specific periods. To engage in play with them and let them direct the play - allowing them to instruct you in their imaginary sessions.

I get the premise behind this, but I hold my hands up and admit - that I am not good at it. I tend to give half hearted attention - while I'm doing something else - it's bad, I know it is, and I've been doing better in this regard. That's not to say I think I'm a complete failure as a mom, I don't. And it's not that I never give my kids undivided attention - of course I do - but I do have my fair share of times when I'm playing Candyland and trying to take in an episode of Divine Design at the same time.

In an attempt to have time with just her and I, lately Miss E and I have baked, we've coloured, painted, played outside together in the kiddie pool, in our neighbour's pool, and on the swingset. And, today we made homemade playdough. However, rather than giving Miss E a boost and then buying myself time where she will play independently, all these activities seem to do is create the expectation that I will be there, at her side, in her face, every waking minute. With another child, a house to keep up with and ,a blogging addiction,this isn't realistic.

Miss E was spoiled with lots of attention for five weeks at home in Ireland, and I accepted that there would be an unsettled period when we got back. It's been seven weeks since we returned to Florida - and all the challenges we faced and overcame before, are right back with us. The not listening, the tantrums when she doesn't get her own way, the demands for things NOW, from snacks, ice cream (over and over and over again!), to 'prizes' from every shop we go into. We have enforced all the tried and trusted Supernanny rules, and we've tried reasoning with her - to no avail. We're not making progress here, at all.

To use that all American phrase, 'Miss E! Get with the program already!'

I am now at the point where I am on edge any time we have to be in a situation where other kids and their parents are. Now that school is back this week - you can imagine how that goes for my stress levels. And there I go feeding into the whole situation - I know this, yet I feel powerless to change it because I feel like I don't have the tools to help me. I seriously need someone to tell me what to do (or what not to do). I feel like managing this effectively should be instinctive, and so I feel like my instincts are failing me.

I talked to my family and a friend last week about feeling guilty that I sometimes talk down about Miss E. In my efforts to forewarn people about my child's feisty personality I fear I am giving a completely negative impression of her. I did this at parent's orientation for preschool last week. I told the teacher that Miss E is 'stubborn and has a tendency to be bossy'. I told the other moms that she was a 'firey redhead'. What I didn't tell anyone was that she is beautiful, articulate, smart, funny, happy, compassionate, and very, very loving. And so, that mommy guilt that I'm so familiar with, plagues me once more.

This is why Jennifer's post at Playgroups are no Place for Children struck such a chord with me this morning. That, and the fact that the meltdown her son had, is one we managed to avoid at Miss E's preschool orientation this morning but only because by this stage, I can sense it coming, and we said our 'goodbyes' before the fuse was lit, so to speak.

I didn't entirely escape the terror of my almost four year old's tyranny however, she unleashed it in Target on the way home, throwing herself down on the floor for good measure, twice. I don't know how I did it, but I did not raise my voice and I remained completely calm as I steered her (firmly) out of the store. Sweat may have been involved however, along with a voice a few octaves and decibels higher as I reigned her in after she dashed out from behind our car into the parking lot. Thankfully there was no traffic coming, but neither Miss E nor I knew that. Another source of frustration, because no matter how many times we've had the conversation about roads, driveways, parking lots and DANGEROUS cars, it's not even close to sinking in.

I realise this is the second post that I've made a short period of time about my frustrations in parenting Miss E. I know that part of this stems from my innate dislike for doing anything that I'm not good at. I don't feel like I'm good at being a good parent, and I hate that! My standard routine when I don't know how to do something is read up about it, educate myself, find out what's worked for others and go from there.

So, once again I'm asking - what works for you? I know I have more experienced readers with older kids who've survived the preschool stage. Tell me where to go to find help! Tell me I don't just have to resign myself to 'that's just the way it is' - there has to be a way to make this better.

We are now getting the outer rain bands of Tropical Storm Fay - she may strenghten to a hurricane and is forecast to go right over our area. Schools are closed tomorrow and Wednesday. For those of you inexperienced in storms like this - this means we ain't goin' nowhere for the next few days. We'll be stuck inside - so hopefully this makes you appreciate that I need your help and answers, STAT!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dear Fay

I don't know what kind of funny business you have planned for Florida for next week, but I'm writing to tell you to just put it out of your mind, right now!

This is a big week coming up for many mothers in this lovely state. It is the week that we send our little darlings off to school so we can get some peace so they can receive wonderful educational enrichment.

We have spent the last weeks reading newsletters, buying school supplies, and generally psyching our kids up for this overwhelmingly exciting event in the hopes that the transition back to school will be a smooth one - don't you dare cause a mandatory closing of all schools in the area!

Furthermore, only today at Casa Blooming, we've been congratulating ourselves on our ability to stay way within budget this month - no small task given the current economic climate (and the fact that this is a five week month). We've enjoyed the slightly lower gas prices recently, but don't you MAKE me bust this budget by having the unplanned expense of having to fill up our two vehicles as part of the routine run on gas that comes with storm preps. Don't you dare have me running around hedging my bets while you fickle meteorological systems figure out if you're going to take aim at us or not!

You need to understand that part of our budgetary success in this latter part of the month has been achieved through using up small stockpiles in the pantry. I don't plan on replenishing these items until the end of this month. You shimmying up the West Coast of Florida, with all your fancy lightning fireworks, and breezy buddies, would be inconvenient to say the least.

Truth be told - I dread the thought of the grocery store at the best of times, I'm not sure I can handle it out there - me and all the rest of the last minute merchants scurrying to get supplies in and loading my cart up with a billion cartons of water. So please, bear my brittle mental state in mind when weighing up your route options, pretty please? Surely it wouldn't make much difference to you to take a sharp right turn now that you're finished with Hispaniola? Why don't you just head off out into the Atlantic and fizzle out into the blue beyond?

If you absolutely insist on paying us a visit, please obey our rules. Play nice, don't make too much of a mess, and don't bring any uninvited guests, oh say, like power cuts or flooding, okay?

Yours ever hopefully,

Blooming Marvelous.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Heartache and Healing

This week marks a sombre anniversary for Northern Ireland, my home.

Many readers will know and understand that Northern Ireland has a deeply troubled past. Troubles borne of sectarian hatred, distrust, unease, and intolerance. The province has endured over three decades of bombing and shooting campaigns. Physical destruction, economic decline and human loss.

Some of you will not understand, because more than thirty years of mindless violence, countless deaths of, for the most part, innocent people, is absolutely incomprehensible.

I have lived there for most of my life, and have yet to understand any of it completely.

At the risk of producing a history lesson, let me briefly explain that Northern Ireland is geographically part of the island of Ireland, but is politically part of the United Kingdom. In its simplest form, the root of the conflict played out in Northern Ireland stems from the fact that certain, extreme, factions staunchly protect their British identity (Loyalists), and other equally extreme groups work by whatever means they consider necessary to bring about a United Ireland (Republicans), free from British involvement. Each side claims their version of history as the reason their position should prevail.

I use the present tense because, although peace has been achieved to a large extent in Northern Ireland right now, it is uneasy and delicate at times.

A mistake often made by outsiders is to equate Republicanism with Catholics, and Loyalism with Protestants. To do so is naive and ignores the position of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, more moderate in their views and whose priority above all others is peace and an end to violence and suffering.

The political environment in Northern Ireland is extremely polarized, and the vocal minorities on both sides historically impeded progressive compromise attempted at many junctures by more moderate politicians.

In 1994 a ceasefire was called by the Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) – followed not long thereafter by a ceasefire proclaimed by Loyalist paramilitary groups. Hope abounded and a collective sigh of relief was released by those of us in the North as we watched political talks actually produce results, accompanied by the promise of a departure from the bomb and the bullet, a brighter future ahead. This political process attempted to put into action the will of the moderate majority in Northern Ireland, those of us who wanted to co-exist with our neighbours – whatever their creed, or political affiliation, in peace. To live normal lives, without fear.

The peace process gained impetus through hard work and negotiations between local politicians, assisted in no small part by the Irish and British governments, and by George Mitchell, sent to mediate the negotiations by President Bill Clinton. There was a palpable excitement among the ordinary people of Northern Ireland that we would emerge from the dark days of violence, and we would do it soon. President and Mrs. Clinton’s visit to Northern Ireland in November 1995 was further proof that we were leaving the sorry past behind, and that Northern Ireland was somewhere worthy of international focus.

In the background however, dissidents, unhappy with what they saw as the ‘sellout’ by Republican politicians plotted and attempted further attacks. Calling themselves ‘The Real IRA’ and ‘The Continuity IRA’, they pushed to carry on the paramilitary bombing campaigns in their pursuit of a United Ireland. They bombed town centres, injuring many and damaging property and local economies. Security forces were successful in thwarting some attacks.

I, like many others, did not consider the Real IRA to be a credible threat. I believed that the Provisional IRA, who by this time were supporting the political process, would keep them in check and that the security forces would have the intelligence and resources to prevent them gaining enough traction to become a credible threat.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

On Saturday August 15th 1998, the Real IRA succeeded in perpetrating the single most horrific atrocity in the history of the troubles. In the process, 29 vibrant, happy, oblivious and some of them tiny, lives – as hopeful as the rest of us for a better future, were obliterated.

Evil, cowardly people without the vision nor the respect for humanity to engage with the people they claimed to represent and work for the greater good, rose once more and attempted to force ‘British withdrawal’ from Northern Ireland. They wreaked havoc in a busy town centre, Omagh, Co.Tyrone. They achieved nothing, except mass destruction and widespread human devastation.

During the troubles, the ‘normal’ protocol for a terrorist attack was a warning to the police, a radio or TV station. You should also know that over the course of the troubles, many hoax bomb threats were also made. People have been evacuated from public buildings and streets - only to learn later that it was a hoax. I've been through it several times myself.

Warnings were called in for the Omagh bomb but the message was either deliberately misleading, or it was misunderstood – I’m not sure it’s ever been determined which. The target mentioned was the courthouse at the top of a hill in the main shopping street in Omagh – [so chosen because it was a building representative of the British Establishment]. In a frantic attempt to usher the public away from the courthouse and evacuate the area – police directed people down the hill, away from the courthouse as fast as they could.

A car packed with 500lbs of home-made explosives awaited them at the bottom of the hill. Unknowingly, in attempting to shield the public, police instead shepherded people toward certain death.

Fourteen women, six men and nine children, two of them babies of 20 and 18 months old, were killed. Not included in the numbers reported, but two little lives I always remember when I think of the Omagh bombing were the twins that Avril Monaghan, one of the women killed, and mother of the 18 month old, was carrying. She was seven months pregnant. All told, 31 lives lost. Catholics, Protestants, a Mormon schoolboy, and visitors from Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, and Spanish exchange students perished.

Hundreds of people were left with horrific injuries, their lives changed forever, along with the lives of those who lost their loved ones. Broken families – their existence left in the same tatters as the buildings of that busy Omagh street.

I was on the first of many return visits to Florida just after this bomb happened, and I brought with me the newspapers to share the story with those whom I was visiting. I shed many tears looking at the 29 faces in those news reports, and I shed them now as I look at them once more. Each one someone’s mother, son, father, brother, sister, daughter, baby… How many more tears have been shed in homes in Omagh, Donegal, and Spain over the last ten years? And for what?

Although the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack, no group or individual has been successfully prosecuted for this crime. Families of the victims have fought tirelessly to have the perpetrators brought to justice, but thus far the campaign has been fruitless.

Civil actions have also been brought but no satisfying result has given these families the sense of closure that one would imagine necessary to help process what has happened to them. I think this adds to the enormity of the tragedy.

The wider implication of the Omagh bombing coming four years after the paramilitary ceasefires was fear once more. The province as a whole was worried that this tragedy would bring more pain and destruction in the form of retaliatory attacks, which was the normal modus operandi of paramilitaries on both sides following such attacks in the past. Mercifully, this did not happen. The Omagh Bomb did not derail the peace process – something which had it happened would have made all the more pointless the lives lost that day.

While there is no doubt that the outrage felt by so many at the scale of the Omagh tragedy accelerated the journey towards lasting peace, ironically, the families of those who died, and those injured are somewhat victimized once more by the peace process. By virtue of the fact that politicians are focused on the future, and leaving the legacy of violence behind, the support from the police, elected officials and government agencies that these families need to secure justice, isn't there. They are pretty much left to push for justice on their own.

This week, ten years on, my thoughts are with the families of the 31 people lost in Omagh on August 15th 1998. I pray for them, and for those so severely injured, physically, and emotionally. I draw inspiration from those who have triumphed over their injuries and loss, and trust that those who still struggle will find the help and healing they need.

I continue to pray for healing in Northern Ireland, where just today three firebombs have been made safe by Army Bomb experts , like I said, peace is uneasy, and delicate.

I pray for the rest of us – that in this age where bombings in foreign lands are reported with alarming frequency, and sadly often as a side story to the ‘main event’ of a sordid Politician’s affair, I pray that we never become blasé about such stories and that we never fail to be outraged by them. To maintain our sense of justice and protest to those whom will listen and take action…

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ten Lessons from a Day at the Beach

1. Assuming the camera is where you *thought* you last saw it in the car is a big mistake. Always double check before you leave that you actually have the camera and can take photos of your sticky, sandy kids and don't have to rely on a measly blog post to preserve the memories!

2. Shaving your legs an hour before you spray on sun protection and get into salt water is a BAD idea - of gargantuan proportions.

3. While taking meticulous care to spray on sun protection all over your arms and legs, and asking your spouse to ensure that your back is adequately covered - it is always good to remember that your neck and the top of your chest area could also benefit from said spray. Otherwise you may spend the rest of the day cursing and dousing yourself in aloe.

4. Maybe you need to go to the beach more often so that your three year old kid can correctly identify the dusty, granular substance on her hands and doesn't have to tell you 'Mommy, my hands are covered in sea dirt'.

5. Don't assume that your normally quiet younger child is the shy timid type. Revel in his willingness to be knocked over by waves, laugh and pick himself up and brace himself for the next round. Enjoy his socializing with neighbouring beach goers, and his loud enthusiastic 'BYE's to them as they leave.

6. A navy one piece bathing costume is totally unflattering - time to buy a new one Annie (preferably one that you didn't last wear when you were six months pregnant!).

7. If you're squeamish about swimming in seaweed littered ocean - don't stand like an eejit trying to throw eleventy billion little pieces of it back towards the shore (only for the retracting waves to pull it right back at you), or certain Irish ladies standing at the water's edge with her kids might just split her sides laughing at you.

8. Don't expect that there are working toilets in the beach bathrooms, or that there will be a clean square inch of floor on which to stand and change out of your wet, sandy bathing costume. Although contorting yourself in all manner of positions to do so, while holding on to your clothes and towel - without bare feet or garments touching this floor could earn you a spot on the US Olympic Gymnastics team.

9. One plastic trash bag is never enough when you have two adults, two kids, diapers, wipes, and lunch leftovers.

10. Count down the minutes until next week when you plan to do this all over again. (Packing the camera, now!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Too good not to share!

I made this luscious lemon and lime confection yesterday and had to share the recipe.

I have [at last] joined Twitter (late to every fad, I figured why break the habit of a lifetime and that's why I'm only getting around to it now.) and, having chatted a little on Twitter with Deborah, of and Spicendipity fame I got a baking bug and poked around in my recipe books and found this simple recipe and gave it a try.

This is the lightest, tangiest, most delicious cake I have ever made. It's super easy to do, too - so go get the stuff and make it, today, k? I PROMISE you'll be glad you did.


This tangy loaf is known by lots of different names, but Love Cake is particularly appropriate since everyone who tries it finds it impossible to resist.

Makes 1 Loaf

6 tbsp butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
Grated peel of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
Grated peel and juice of one lime

Preheat oven to 325oF. Grease and flour a 9x5in loaf pan. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Put the butter in another bowl and add 3/4 cup of the sugar. Beat until pale and creamy, then gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little flour if the mixture shows any sign of curdling. Gradually add the remaining four, alternating with the milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon and lime peel.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and level the surface. Bake 40-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Invert the loaf onto a wire rack, then turn it right way up.

Mix the citrus juices with the remaining sugar*. Put a tray underneath the rack and spoon the sugar mixture over the top of the loaf, letting it run down the sides slightly. Allow to cool before slicing.

Taken from 'Pig Out: 60 fab recipes for sweet indulgence'.

*(next time I'll use powdered sugar instead of regular sugar for this as my glaze was slightly gritty and I would prefer it more smooth in texture.)

This one's definitely going into my regular baking repertoire.

Friday, August 8, 2008

What am I doing wrong?

Miss E is testing every last ounce of patience I have these days.

She will be four years old in October, and yet we are seeing hissy fits and temper tantrums that would make any two year old proud.

We had turned a major corner in this regard months and months ago and I credited Supernanny with saving our sanity. Alas, my trusty Supernanny techniques are failing me now and I've got no idea what to do now!

Is it her age? Is it that it's summer and she's antsy and bored with just me to entertain her?

She's set to go back to Preschool on August 18th and while one might say 'great - she's going to school, a nice break for me, and some stimulation for her', I have to admit I'm scared! I'm afraid she'll give her teacher a hard time.

Miss E shows no discrimination in terms of where she throws a tantrum and it MORTIFIES me!

Last week I had great chats with her about how to make her feelings known without stomping, whining, crying, screaming or shouting - I had thought we were making progress. We discussed consequences if she behaved poorly or didn't listen to mommy - and last week I followed through with the consequences and she had no tv for a whole day, and no swim class the following day.

This bought us a week's worth of good behaviour and once again I was sure we'd turned a corner and that this regression to tantrumhood was a temporary glitch.

Ach - SO not the case. Yesterday she was the last kid in the pool at swim class for a good 5 minutes - she was huffing because she wasn't 'first' to do whatever task they were working on. In the end the teacher had to physically drag her out of the pool, and once she set her down on the deck she took off, having me run after her like a lunatic to catch her. Of course all the other kids and their moms are watching this spectacle.

It's all I can do to stop myself screaming back at this kid these days.

I feel completely helpless and inadequate.

I rarely see kids acting up as much as Miss E does in public, rarely. And if I do, it's generally a child much younger than she. This leads me to the conclusion that it's me - I'm doing something wrong.

So, mighty internets - tell me PLEASE how to fix this!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

They're only markers!

Dear Kate Gosselin,

I realize that you have eight beautiful children and can imagine the amount of work a family of this size generates, I really can.

I understand that a family of ten will generate mountains of laundry to rival the Rockies, I get that.

However, markers? You wouldn't let your kids use markers in the Crayola Factory (where I'd be willing to bet they use the washable markers especially for little visitors)?

Come ON!

My heart was breaking watching an episode of Jon and Kate plus 8 last night. Kids in the Crayola Factory - what could be more dream worthy than that? Excited to use the many different art supplies available and actually have FUN, these kids were jumping out of themselves and pumped to get to use markers when Jon let them do it. You didn't like this though and immediately put an end to it, citing interminable laundry and not wanting kids to be seen with marker on their clothes. The kids, especially Cara and Maddy were devastated.

Washable markers are magic, they come right out in the wash - even without pre-treating the stains. If this doesn't work, have wonderful and plentiful tips on removing stains from their products, should you encounter these. And if all this fails, and your kids went home after having a great day at the Crayola Factory with a few marker marks on their clothes, in the scheme of things, is this the worst thing that could happen?

If you're going to take your kids on a fun day out - let them do that! Have fun.

Oh, and never underestimate the calming, relaxing effect of colouring with crayons or markers yourself. Sit down at the table with your kids - get those colouring books out - heck be reckless, breakout the dreaded MARKERS, and try it yourself. Enjoy the therapeutic benefits of doing nothing but shading in your images. Look at the delight on your children's faces when they have you all to themselves, colouring with them. I promise, you won't regret it.

Yours sincerely,

Blooming Marvelous.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What a difference a year makes!

Roughly this time last year, we were gearing up to see a bunch of specialists about Jay's teeny, tiny, little hearing issue. An issue that didn't feel so minor at times, but that only very sensitive technology can detect. Despite my gut instinct telling me he could hear just fine, that the technology was picking something up was enough to have me worrying myself sick over this.

I'm happy to say that my frame of mind, and attitude has improved a hundred fold since I wrote this in August last year. It took me a while - but eventually I let go of the worry and left it all in God's hands.

At our last Audiology appointment, the Audiologist was very pleased that everything was still stable, that Jay was obviously communicating, and she said she didn't want to see him for six months, instead of the regular three month appointments we'd been scheduling up until then. His last appointment was when he was 18 months, and he'll go again in October when he's 2. I am thrilled with this, since she had previously told me that she wouldn't stretch the appointments out until after he turned 2. The Audiologist is obviously content that he's developing fine, and for that I'm grateful.

The Audiologist did tell me that she and perhaps a speech pathologist would see him in October - and, they'd want to know how many words he uses. I've been keeping closer track of his vocabulary and am proud to say that he has over 70 words at 22 months, and is adding new ones on a daily basis. He is quite the little chatterbox. He also loves to sing and can pitch perfect, recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and the ABC song.

We're on the countdown now to this little fella's second birthday - something I can't quite believe. A feel sad looking back that I spent so much of his early months worrying every time I looked at him - wondering what he wasn't hearing. I know now he hears plenty - everything he needs to hear - and I trust and pray that it stays that way.

(Blogger is being a pain - and it's not letting me post my picture of Jay in his supreme cuteness - hmph!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back, and busy.

Well, we're baaacccckkk! And, have been back in Florida for almost three weeks now which is very hard to believe.

Ireland was great - wet, and cold, but great!

Just like last year, it was so nice to be in my other 'home'. The kids had a blast - why wouldn't they, spoiled with attention and surprises every day? I also enjoyed the constant company, a lot of it with adults, too.

Coming down from this 'high' of familial attention and companionship hasn't been easy on the kids, or myself to be honest. I've pretty much had to detox Miss E from getting her way (anything for a quiet life, you know how that goes), and have employed many more of Supernanny's techniques than I've needed to in quite a while - but it's working, and slowly we're getting back into our groove.

I recently found myself slipping back into that 'funk' I described a while back. I could feel it happening, but didn't have the energy to fight it. This wasn't helped by the fact that I got sick last week with a horrible stomach flu - great for losing a few pounds though, which is never a bad thing. I'm focusing on my treadmill again and although the muscles are objecting, I'm feeling better.

The kids were sick a lot when we were in Ireland - Jay practically wasted away before my eyes. Miss E and Jay were bombarded with heavy colds, vomiting and diarrhea, Jay had the added discomfort of a simultaneous ear and throat infection - good times eh? My little guy is just that, little. He can't afford to lose any weight - at 20 months, he's not much over 20lbs - so when he gets sick and starts dropping the weight, I get very anxious. All my family reassured me that he'd bounce back, especially hubs Grandmother who's raised sixteen (yes, 16!)children of her own - 'he'll bounce back, they all do' and she was right.

We are fighting fit now though, physically and mentally, and ready to enjoy the rest of the summer, before preschool starts and we get back to that routine. We've all had to acclimatize once more to the Florida summer though. At 9am each day Miss E has a swim class - and Jay and I sweat our butts off watching her - at 9am! How awful is it that I'm willing on the weeks so we can cool down a bit? There's nothing like wishing your life away.

My sister's wedding was amazing. She looked absolutely fabulous. Her ceremony was wonderful and the reception was a blast.

Miss E was flower girl, and she did a great job, even if she couldn't quite be coaxed into all the photographs!

The weather was horrendous, but it didn't dampen anyone's enjoyment, at all. My sister and her husband, lucky things, just got back from honeymoon in Rome and Sorrento.

I'm still catching up with all things stateside. I've been keeping a close eye on the presidential candidate coverage, and am frustrated to say the least at the less than objective reviews each candidate gets depending on which source I watch. This is where I miss Tim Russert - I'm so sad that he died. I credit this man with helping me understand the whole electoral process here, the primaries, caucuses, delegates etc. I feel bad that he isn't here to see this election pan out. He had such enthusiasm for his job, and for the whole political scene in general. My heart goes out to his wife and son.

People are still complaining about the price of gas I see - and I can understand to a point, but after seeing that Northern Irish drivers pay the equivalent of $11 a gallon, I don't feel like I have a right to complain about $4 here. I also drive a very thirsty car, and while I wish it cost less to run, it was our choice to buy this vehicle, and now we live with it. Besides, nobody, not even dealers, want to buy SUVs around here, so we're stuck with it, what's the point in complaining?

With that, I've got to run, load my kids up into my gas guzzler and head right down for this swim class - I have the oddest feeling that we're going to be late, again!

Looking forward to catching up some more, soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Heading Off to the Auld Sod

This is where we are going next week:

You jealous?

We'll be away for a LONG time. Hubs is staying here for the first few weeks and joining us later.

See you all when we get back!

Photo credit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

Thirty Six is the new Twenty Six, right?

That's what I keep telling myself today.

Not sure it's working!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Preschool Dilemma - advice please?

Despite my embarrassing rant about Miss E's school, I do like it there. My gut reaction to the place was that it was warm, loving, safe and very child centered.

On the whole, I like Miss E's current teacher, but...

I have been concerned at the frequency with which Miss E comes home with worksheets, or colouring sheets. Lately, Miss E has not put a single mark on these sheets.

Miss E's school is a parenting co-op - so each morning a parent helps out in the class. I have my co-op day once a month and I see how these worksheets are used.

They are presented to the kids - either as the first thing they are instructed to do in the mornings, or after they have been told to tidy everything away.

Some kids sit and meticulously colour them and trace the numbers or letters or whatever they may be. Other kids (including Miss E) get restless, are not interested in the sheets, and try to break loose and do something else.

This is a group of 3 and 4 year olds.

I've voiced my concern to the teacher herself who told me not to worry - that these were presented as an opportunity for the kids to do them, they don't have to if they don't want to.

I recently took my concerns to the director of the school who simply responded by saying 'mmm hmmm' to my every sentence. She informed me that Miss E would be in a different class with a different teacher next year - and hoped that that would make things better. Time will tell I guess.

Miss E will be in this school again in August for a full school year and I am hoping that she will still enjoy it as this school has an excellent and highly recommended Voluntary Pre K (VPK) program (state funded 5 morning a week Pre Kindergarten). Good VPK programs are hard to find.

However, the more I talk about these worksheets and my concerns about them - the less comfortable I'm feeling with the school.

I have had feed back from other parents at the school whom have raised the same concerns, and from friends who are in the education system who are pretty much disgusted that colouring sheets or worksheets are being used with kids this age.

My gut instinct at this point is to 'let's see how it goes'. Miss E will start with a new teacher, and will be in a new room. I intend to talk to the teacher before the term starts and offer any practical help I can in terms of helping her prep materials for art sessions or whatever she may need to help her gear up to let the kids have FUN - and learn through that fun.

I don't want to presume to tell a qualified professional how to 'teach' my kid - but I'm not really interested in her being actively taught anything at this point. I want her to go and have fun. To make friends. To learn through her play and above all things - to think of school as a fun and exciting place to be.

She has many years of formal schooling ahead - I don't want her being switched off this early by being bored with worksheets!

The advice I need from you - especially those of you whom have been through this stage - is how would you approach the school, and/or the teacher. Proactively? Would you raise the issue of worksheets from the get go? Would you wait and see what happens?

I want to do the right thing by Miss E - if that means finding her a different (better) school - I will.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Happy Mudder's Day"

"Happy Mudder's Day" - the happy greeting that Miss E has given me almost every day this week - she knew it was coming up and I guess she was covering all her bases by saying it every day to make sure she got it on the actual day itself.

Her Daddy had conspired with her and although she did very well in keeping secret what goodies were in store for me, she managed to let slip that there were lots of them, and they were all in Jay's closet - "Ret's go see Mommy!".

Last night when I kissed her goodnight for bed I said 'I'll see you in the morning - when it's Mother's Day' - she gasped, hands flying to her mouth. She went straight to Daddy and said 'Uh Oh! She telled herself! Daddy, Daddy, is it okay if she telled herself?'

I'm still giggling.

See my salute to all mothers, here.

Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Why I hate being a stereotypical female

I know nothing about vehicles. I mean, it's like how I am with computers. I know how to drive one, and how to get it to do what I need it to do (except maybe reverse park, but we won't go there). But, with cars (or computers), whenever something goes wrong, or something needs tweaked, fixed or serviced - I have no clue. Not a notion.

Yet, since I am the person in this house with all this free time (ha!), it's me that gets to take the family vehicle for its servicing appointments and the like.

Yesterday I took the car to get new boots. Four spanking new tyres (or tires for my US readers). Once I steadied myself at the counter after seeing the bill (ouch!), I spoke for a few minutes with the guy in the shop. I told him that the steering had been pulling significantly to the right, and that oftentimes I would have to pull pretty hard to the left just to keep my trusty truck on the straight and narrow.

He told me 'that is most likely due to an alignment problem, we can look at that for you'. I asked how long, and how much? 'Forty five minutes and sixty bucks'. Hmm - I had to pick Miss E and her buddy up from Preschool, and didn't have the time - but I don't want misaligned wheels either!

So, the conversation continued. I told the guy that at the last service, Ford told me the truck was pulling to the right because of how the tyres were wearing and it would most likely rectify itself with new tyres since these ones were about ready to be replaced. The guy in the tyre shop says full of disdain 'They ALWAYS do that, tsk. Instead of taking people's money, they just say "it's only the tyres". It doesn't make sense!'.

I'm standing there in this shop asking myself do I need my wheels aligned or not? I'm so confused. Shop guy says 'your tires (since he's American he says tires, not tyres), wear for two reasons, one is that the pressure is wrong [our pressure has been fine, at least no wee lights were on to tell me otherwise!], and the other is that your wheels are out of alignment' Okay, I think, this makes sense to me. But wait a minute. Didn't this guy just tell me that Ford were dumb for not just taking my money and doing a wheel alignment? Does he really think my wheels are out of alignment, or is he just trying to cash in on the (correct) assumption that I don't know any better, and do the alignment whether the truck needs it or not?


What did I do? I took it for a spin. I drove straight down a straight road and the car did not pull in either direction - I even did it with no hands for a few seconds. Straight as a die.

Shop guy told me to bear in mind that 'since your tires are all new and flat [huh? I don't want flat tyres, especially not after the megabucks I just gave you!] that the car is going to want to go straight'

Okaaaayyyy! None the wiser, but happier to be driving straight and not having to over correct steering in any way, I picked up the kids from school and merrily drove home.

Hubs can take care of the big metal baby from now on - he can sniff a spoofer from 100 yards, and he knows what they're talking about into the bargain.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Uh Oh! We've discovered IKEA

We've been meaning to take a trip to the IKEA store that opened not long ago, about an hour from here. Today was as good a day as any so off we went.

We got there not long after the store opened - and it was kind of busy - by the time we left there was no room available in the parking lot, and we had people queuing up to take our space when we pulled out!

Of course, a few minutes into our browsing - I could totally understand why it was this busy. (Either that, or the weekend many people have their fists around their economic stimulus funds was maybe not the best one to venture out to check out IKEA).

Getting out of town was a tonic in itself, a relaxed drive (all the better for the fact that I was not the driver), gorgeous weather, a complete change of scenery. Little did I think I'd be positively bursting with excitement once I got inside those doors!

Zone after zone of beautifully pulled together rooms, many of which are not to my specific taste, but I can certainly appreciate that those with different lifestyles (probably without kids, judging by the number of white sofas!) could completely furnish their apartments or homes, in great style, without going bankrupt in the process.

We spent a good couple of hours browsing the showroom upstairs. Miss E and Jay content to play in the little staged apartment areas and people watch from the stroller, respectively. This in itself is a testament to how great this store is - because every other store we go to causes both kids to instantly morph into starving, whining, 'I need to go potty', 'This is boring', 'WHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAA' demons!

We've fallen for a dining room table and chairs - we hate our current one which is far too big for the space we have. The IKEA version is very much my taste, and seems to be of decent quality. Not exactly what you'd call an investment piece - but, with two kids the ages that ours are, whom have a tendency to scratch, chew, scrape, draw on any level (or unlevel) wooden surfaces we're thinking investment pieces are not the way to go for us for now. However, I need to deliberate over this one a little more to make sure that I really like it enough, and am not rushing into a decision simply because I want rid of our current set, stat. (Plus, going back to buy the table and chairs gets me another go around this paradise. Bwahahahahaha!)

We chose a great kids' table and chairs, and picked up a cute little wooden train set for Jay, and a darling ceramic tea set for Miss E (for half of nothing I might add). We rode the elevator (which was enormous and had me wondering if the Swedish population indulges in too many Swedish Meatballs?), down to the ground floor where I thought all we'd do would be to pick up the table and chairs and pay for our purchases.

HA! Those elevator doors opened and I think I might have squealed a little bit - a whole Aladdin's cave of goodies - housewares, storage, textiles, plants, basically everything you never even knew you needed, and more! Good job we'd stopped by the cafe and fueled up because you know that was another hour's worth of browsing. Thankfully Miss E's little legs were tired and she gratefully hopped into the shopping cart sans protest of any kind (again, this NEVER happens at any other store).

We're lucky we came away with as little as we did, and we're lucky this store is an hour away!

Looking for a fun family day out? Go to IKEA - seriously - you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Things that make me smile.

I was going to do this as a 'Thursday Thirteen' - but they seem to have a theme going on this week, and I'm not in the mood to follow rules right now!

Thank you all for your responses to my last post by the way - they help, a lot!

Feeling the need to focus on the positive at the minute - and not yet in the frame of mind to write anything of real substance, here are some little things making me smile these days - and look - there just happens to be thirteen of them!

1. Our new treadmill

It helps me start each day early and refreshed, with a nice endorphin buzz after I've done a 30 minute program, and showered, all before my kids get up.

2. All this exercising business not only helps my mood, but I'm losing weight, too. Four pounds down in 10 days. It would be more, but I have yet to manage tempering my desire for chocolate, chips, butter and all things fatty with anything resembling restraint.

3. We got our economic stimulus payment yesterday. This will help me with spending on our trip to Ireland later this month (not that it will go far once I convert it to local currency - thanks weak dollar!) I'll technically be stimulating a foreign economy - I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intent of the payment - oops!

4.I have kicked my Diet Coke habit.

I have wanted to do this for a long time - a can full of chemicals is just BAD!

5. I have fewer migraines lately. There is a direct correlation with number 3 - no Diet Coke equals WAY fewer headaches. I had to prove it to myself - after two weeks of no Diet Coke - I had two cans on a Saturday and was rewarded with a migraine that lasted 4 days!

6. Coffee and La Croix Pure Sparkling Water, lime flavour.

I have to substitute the caffeine and carbonation with something, right?!

7. Miss E is in bed, and fast asleep before 8pm every night.

A MAJOR, major breakthrough for us.

As you can see, she may not always fall asleep in the part of the bed one conventionally would, but I'll take it.

8. Supernanny!

We used Supernanny's techniques for Miss E's bedtime and they've worked a treat. She still protests bedtime, and still employs all the tried and tested stalling tactics that all kids use (I recognise many of them from my own childhood!), but the whole process is much smoother and faster - and hubs and I are not frazzled, agitated and spent at the end of it.

We have the Supernanny book, and it has been great for general discipline advice also. The combination of better bedtime, more sleep, and consistent discipline has made for a much happier Miss E, and fewer 'grumpy day' reports from her preschool teacher!

These are the small victories I alluded to here, like I said - pretty basic parenting approaches that just took us longer than many to implement effectively.

9. Jay at 18 months, has more than 30 words, and is already combining two and three words into phrases like 'all gone' 'where are you' 'I don't know' (he's picked this one up from his sister who uses this as an automatic answer to almost every question I ask her!) Speech and language acquisition is one of the things we've been asked to keep an eye on following Jay's numerous hearing tests, and his itty bitty, teeny weeny, hearing loss. We think his language acquisition is coming along just fine.

10. Jay's Audiologist had said to me in January at a routine hearing test that she'd continue to see him every 3 months until his second birthday - and after that she'd stretch the reviews out to every 4 or 6 months. We had another hearing test in April, and she's happy to stretch it out to 6 monthly reviews already! YAY!

And really - is there anything about this face that would not make you smile?

11.My new specs! I got them yesterday.

(If you click that pic and make it big please ignore the grey hairs and the pimply skin. I'm workin' on it!)

I feel much more up to date although they take a bit of getting used to - I kind of feel like I have blinkers on because I can see the arms in my peripheral vision. The best thing about these new ones is that I can actually see through them - there are no scratches or grimy fingerprints. I vow to clean them only with the cute little cloth that came in the case so that I won't be tripping back in a few months with more scratched lenses. (Forgot to ask for the protective scratch coat on my last pair, duh!)

12. My new yellow house. The house isn't new, but the colour is. Hubs took time off last week and painted the whole house. If that colour doesn't make you happy, don't know what will.

13. My aunt is coming in just over two weeks for a ten day visit. The main purpose of her trip is to be here to help me take the kids back to Ireland at the end of the month. Hubs is coming later, and there is just no way I'd tackle that journey by myself. I'm so happy and grateful to her for doing this - because I get to be at my other 'home' for a while to see family - and help with preparations for my sister's wedding.

Things are going to be busy around here for the next few weeks, then I'll be in Ireland for five weeks - so posting will be sparse, I'm sure - but I'll still be reading all of your blogs, and I'll try to post every so often.

Enjoy your May Day - and I hope the weather's being nice to you all!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hormone Junkie

Hello, my name is Annie, and I am a prolactin addict.

Four years of being pregnant and/or nursing ended for me at the beginning of February. I was two months pregnant with Jay when Miss E eventually weaned, so I have not had any 'break' from pregnancy or nursing in this time.

At the time, having weaned Jay was a bit of a non event. He was ready and so was I. It was a gradual process that I really didn't realize had finally happened until I took stock one day and realized it had been a few days since he'd nursed. He was done and that was that - life went on as normal.

Except it wasn't. Normal.

I have felt progressively gloomy over the last couple of months. To the point of asking myself 'what the hell is wrong with me?'. Constant tiredness, lack of motivation for the simplest things. Doing the bare minimum to keep my kids fed (and not very nutritiously so!), poor appetite, headaches, not sleeping great, and the crying, a lot of crying.

About a month ago I did briefly let the thought wander around my mind, 'what if this is the start of depression?' Not knowing what depression is like, and certainly never thinking this could happen to me, I dismissed it after a short while and told myself to 'shake it off'. This happens to all mothers.

Except, I can't shake it off.

I have worried my poor husband, who knows that I am down in the dumps, but can't understand why. When he asks me 'what's wrong?', I talk in circles, and I can't explain why because I didn't understand it, either.

I would never win any housekeeping awards, and I am totally okay with that - we keep the house pleasantly 'lived in' - it's clean but rarely tidy - and I may have periodic laundry backlogs - but nothing that couldn't be fixed catching up one morning. Now? My house is trashed - and last minute laundry is my specialty.

I've spent a few weeks mentally chastising myself for being lazy. I have had to force myself to stay off the computer realizing that time spent here was time away from my kids - and that made me a bad mommy. So I backed away from my blog, and sat on the couch - pleading with my kids to entertain themselves because 'mommy has a sore head', 'mommy's tired', 'just let mommy watch something that isn't animated and full of music - just for once, PLEASE?!'

My self confidence has nosedived. My skin is breaking out like an unfortunate teenager - and since I never was that unfortunate teenager, this is the first time in my life that I have felt self conscious about my skin.

I compare myself unfavourably to others and let myself feel inferior to them. I know nobody can make me feel this way - only if I let them! I know the theory of not letting people make me feel a certain way - yet putting that into practice is a different ball game.

This all came to something of a head last weekend when after a wedding on Friday where I felt so out of place compared to all the 'beautiful people' in attendance - I cried with my husband about how bad I felt. Once those floodgates opened, I spent the most of Saturday in tears and he patiently and supportively listened while I talked in more circles and tried desperately to make sense of this.

Then the penny dropped and I figured that I could pretty much pin the start of this downward spiral to the time that Jay was finally, and completely weaned. I struggled to understand if this meant anything in terms of how I felt and dismissed any sense of loss at the end of the nursing relationship. As I said - I was ready for him to wean (at last!) and so was he. But maybe I shouldn't be so hasty to dismiss the weaning as an emotional issue. I've spent four solid years nurturing a child - be it as they grew inside me, or as I breastfed them. These were done by me - all me. These are confidence boosters - it's amazing to think that I had that capability and I executed it beautifully. And now it's over.

More than this though - I think the hormonal adjustments that my body is undergoing is what is really messing with me. Prolactin has been coursing through my veins at varying levels for four years - and now its presence has significantly dropped. That feel good, 'happy hormone' was giving me a maternal high, and I'm going through withdrawal, I'm sure of it!

I have been reaching out to various individuals over the last couple of days. Seeking validation that my suspicions are correct - and looking for advice on what to do about it. I have had amazing feedback from La Leche League - and from friends.

I have received great advice on steps I can take to help me get out of this 'funk' and I'm working on them already - exercise being the top of my 'feel better' priority list. Maintaining the motivation to keep at it though is going to be my challenge, as it always is where exercise is concerned.

Ironically - at a time when I had taken a step back from blogging - several people advised journaling as a positive outlet and something that could help me feel better. I have always felt cathartic benefits from writing through certain things on this blog - but I struggled lately to articulate anything about what I was feeling, and figured it would be too depressing to read so I stayed clear of discussing any of this before. But writing through it may be just the thing I need to do - and if I can carve in time to do it before the kids get up, and after running on the treadmill - I will do just that.

A La Leche League leader, who also happens to be a therapist, spoke to me at length this morning and I feel so much better after speaking to her since she not only agreed that a hormonal shift is definitely involved in how I feel right now but she also suggested looking into herbal supplements - Kava Kava, and 5 HTP - so - now I'm reaching out to any of you who understand these, or have used them? I've never heard of them and what I'm reading online is mixed - any feedback you have would be appreciated.

Also - if you have weaned, particularly after nursing for an extended period - did you go through this weirdness? And, how did you get yourself out of it?

I feel better today than I have in the last couple of months, better for knowing that there is a reason for me feeling this way and that I'm not just quietly going nuts here.

I don't expect to feel better overnight - but I will do whatever I can to help myself and make myself feel happier - for me, and for my family. I don't want to feel this way - and I don't want to have Miss E frequently ask 'Why you sad Mommy?'.