16 November 2011

Boys Room Project

My son is obsessed with superheroes, not one in particular but all of them. I'm becoming quite the authority on superheroes and super villains.

One a recent trip to Jo-ann he found this fabric he really liked, for obvious reasons, so I made him some bunting, a pillow case and a cushion cover for his bedroom. I though you might like to see the fruit of one of my current obsessions. I'm not a particularly talented seamstress but I tend not to let a thing like not knowing how to do something properly stop me.



Please excuse the quality of the photos, I used my cell phone camera and sometimes I just can't quite get it to focus :)

13 November 2011

Creativity and Hyper-Focus

I've experienced a return to creativity lately. It began at the end of the summer when I threw myself into the preparations for my daughter's Harry Potter-themed birthday party. I busied myself making paper bag owls, milk bottle owls, flying keys and banners. My neighbor and I spent many happy hours painting and brainstorming and I was overwhelmed at how much I enjoyed myself. I have also been sewing more, I volunteered to make signs for a recent renaissance carnival at my daughter's school, I've been knitting and finally I am writing again.

One of many things I have learnt about  myself this summer is that I tend to hyper focus on things. On mentioning this to my other half, he rolled his eyes, to him it's a complete no brainer, "of course you do". Let me explain...

When I first started writing my blog, it became a complete obsession. Every second of the day I would be thinking about things to write, new design ideas, taking photos, looking for inspiration. I learned how to monetize it in different ways, how to increase readership, I shared ideas and feedback with other writers. I spent hours changing the layout of the blog, i taught myself basic html, learnt how to design functional buttons and banners, all sorts of things. Then all of a sudden, I didn't know what to write, and I just stopped. For about 5 months I have barely written a word or even checked in on my beloved blog, though it is still very precious to me.

Again when I started sewing, i got into making bunting and just churned them out. I would study different fabric patterns online constantly looking for the best designs. I even got 80% through setting up an Etsy store and decided what I would sell things for. Suddenly my sewing machine wouldn't work properly so instead of doing anything about it, I stopped dead and didn't sew for about 3 months.

Recently my husband gave me a kindle and I began reading a lot more. At first I read books that had been recommended to me by my now beloved therapist.  Soon after, I began to read for leisure, but then before I knew it, hyper focus kicked in again, BOOM, in the past ten days, amongst my usual activities of running a busy home, volunteering at my daughter's school and looking after two young children I have read all 4 of the Twilight saga books, Wuthering Heights and have started Frankenstein and Madame Bovary. I am fully aware of how ridiculous this is and unfortunately it leads to self-loathing as I can't feel like I have accomplished anything when I know other areas of my life aren't getting the attention they need.

As a natural reaction to rediscovering my creativity I have begun to miss dance intensely again. This time, now that my tummy has had a whole year to recover from being repaired, I am finally in a place where I can actually pursue it again. I have found a class locally that sounds great but have not taken the extra step to actually attend, and I have also made a date this week to meet with the student's from my neighbor's class so that I can start planning a dance workshop with them in the near future. This is huge for me. If I can pull this off it will be a major step forward as far as self-confidence and escaping inhibition goes. I've even found a circus class that I am very excited about, I just don't know if our budget can stretch to all this.

So that's where I am. I hope I can manage to balance my loves a little better and to enjoy them without the resulting feelings of self-loathing and selfishness. For now I am  happy to get back into so many things I enjoy so much.

14 September 2011

The Petulant Inner Child, The Pain in my...


OK, so I'm just going to continue as if nothing ever happened and I haven't been gone for absolutely ages, just bear with me :) (I do like a good smiley face, it can say a thousand words…or something).

As someone who prides herself on supposedly being a strong woman, I have said as much on here before, it is a difficult thing to finally admit to actually not being OK, not being happy… having a thousand un-dealt-with issues shrouded in this "I am a strong woman" faux identity. Since we last conversed, I have started seeing a doctor and a therapist and am hopefully on the road to feeling a whole heap better.

An interesting concept I am ruminating on this week is this extremely petulant, rebellious and pretty miserable inner child I have lurking inside me who is so bolshy and bossy that she overtakes any attempts at self control or self-care I make. She makes me eat a donut when I don't even want one, she makes me stay in bed on my lie in day twice as long as I really want to, she makes all sorts of counter-productive decisions for me which leave me with poor nutrition, bad habits and plenty of self-loathing. 

I am working on pausing and having a conversation with her before I make these decisions, on questioning why I am making  the decisions. When I was a kid, even if I was just about to start my homework, if my mum told me to do it or even reminded me gently that it had to be done, I would get angry and I would no longer be able to bring myself to do it. That child is still alive and kicking but hidden behind this facade of mother and wife.

Take this scenario, I have some vitamins and fish oil supplements that I need to take twice a day as part of my plan towards feeling better. So the inner dialogue goes like this; "you need to take your supplements now, no f#@ck you, I don't want to take them, don't tell me what to do" and I don't take them. It is beyond ridiculous. I wonder if any of you do this or if it's just me…

More soon I promise.

Here's my inner child, she is wearing an awesome haunted tree t-shirt 

12 July 2011

Writing from the heart

I write from the heart. When I just let my thoughts take over and write exactly what's inside of me, that is when I am at my best. If I pre-meditate a post or plan in anyway, it stands out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately sometimes I do not want to share what is my foremost in my mind, and this is one of those times.

So I have been left with a sort of writers block. The same thing happened when I wasn't able to to write about Littlest Bean's birth and operation. Whilst it was on my mind and I knew I had to get it out, I just couldn't bring myself to write anything else. Once it was out and on my blog I felt immense relief. So for the time being I'm afraid I'm going to be a bit quiet, when I get up the courage I hope I'll be able to share a little more with you.

Don't worry though, I'm not getting divorced or suffering from a nasty illness...and I'm not pregnant.

06 July 2011

4th July Parade 2011

Oh I do love a good parade, I thought I'd dedicate this page to the awesome phenomenon that is the parade, don't ever rain on my parade.


Woof!


I love this food cart, isn't it beautiful.
 LMU celebrates 100 years, roar!


Give me a V, give an E 


This guy made Cuddles' day. The guys in the background were drenched by the sprinkler system of that house coming on suddenly!




How breathtakingly beautiful are these horses?

03 July 2011

Old Friends in New Surroundings

I just dropped my friend at the airport. A dear old friend from back home. It was so great to see her, it had been four years. For the first hour or two, we gradually got to know each other again, by the time the kids were in bed and I had made us a couple of frozen margaritas, we pretty much shared with each other a concentrated version of our lives for the past six years. Then I think we felt all caught up and like nothing had ever changed.

The weather was beautiful and we spent the weekend playing in the garden, eating frozen yogurt, picnicking in the park and strolling on the pier. Luckily she has a nephew and niece the same age as LB and Cuddles so she was prepared for the hyperactivity of a weekend with an excited 5 and 3 year old. Sometimes people are overwhelmed when they experience how tiring it can be when you are not used to it, but she took it very much in her stride.

It went by ever so quick, the kids are missing her already, my son even deigned to remember her name now that she is gone instead of insisting on calling her "mummy's friend". It was great to have the company too as G is still in the depths of his big work project and not home for entire holiday weekend.

I am exhausted. :)

28 June 2011

Perpetual Embarassment

Yes, I seem to live in a state of perpetual embarrassment. As the years go buy, I hope that at some point I will cease to care quite so much. But now, just as when I was a teenager, I just always seem to be embarrassing myself.

I had an article I wrote featured on the front page of a website I write articles for, chosen out of thousands of others. At first I was delighted but when I read over it this morning I noticed a stonking great big grammatical error in the second sentence. As if that isn't bad enough, I now have to wait for their admin to approve my edit, it could be another 24 hours, so until then everyone who sees it on the front page and clicks on it can see what an awful writer I am. Here is a photo of the error so that you can share in my embarrassment long after it gets corrected (why am I posting this?):

And this is the article in question.

G is working a lot as he has a massive project going on at work. On Saturday he left  for work early and it was just me and the wee ones again. We'd had that ridiculously hectic week of talent shows, beach party and much more and the house was looking pretty much like a bomb hit it. On any normal day, I would have got my stuff together before heading out. On that day I was feeling quite down and thought it would cheer us all up to just get out of the house and try a new playground close to us that we had been meaning to go to for ages.

We had a great time and when we got back I decided to start my chores by vacuuming sand out of the car. I had just plugged the vacuum in when a neighbor I had never met  walked past with her two children. We got to talking about all sorts of things and the kids were enjoying playing together. To my horror Littlest Bean took my neighbors daughter into our house to play. This was quickly followed by everyone entering the house and going in EVERY ROOM. I wanted to crawl under a rock, I felt so humiliated. I don't think the house has ever been in such a mess. There were clothes and cheerios on the floor, and every room was upside down. I usually try to keep things pretty much in order and always try to rush around before G comes home, but he has not been here very much. I was so embarrassed I couldn't sleep that night thinking about it. I'm still not really over it, pathetic.

Yesterday when we were walking home from a friends house we bumped into some other neighbors we are friends with. Cuddles proceeded to lift my knee length skirt up and climb underneath it. I was holding wet kids paintings in my hand (or course I was) so really couldn't do much about it. Yes, that was embarrassing too. It's not the first time either, last week it happened with a mercifully longer skirt at the supermarket in front of an old man.

It's not just these one off situations that embarrass me. I get embarrassed when I go into LB's school and don't know where to stand, I get embarrassed speaking in front of a group of more than two people. I get really embarrassed when talking to someone about my blog or any other online venture. I would usually rather say I don't do anything than risk being thought of as an idiot.
Here's to the day I get over it.

Secret Project

Coming soon my latest project, because I can never not be coming up with something...BUNTING!









That's right. I'll make you some, it's gorgeous. Adds a little je ne sais quoi to any room :)

I have made some for Littlest Bean for her room. She has a relatively new obsession with Harry Potter, especially the character Hermione Granger. She decided to graduate from her pink and purple girly room to a wizard room. My friend recently came home from a trip to Singapore and gave me yards or beautiful sari silk so I have used a small portion of it to make very "wizardy" bunting for the wizard room. The silk was actually pretty difficult to work with but it's so soft and pretty.

OK so here's the wizard bunting. This isn't really the style of what I intend to make more of. I just had the tassels in my cupboard so used what I had.

25 June 2011

Surfing Dolphins

Firstly I did promise I'd let you know how the talent show went. Littlest Bean did great. She was a little nervous and rushed through it a little but she did look like she was enjoying herself and I am over the moon that she was brave enough to get up on the stage all on her own and do her act, twice in one day. (She doesn't think she is brave but we know otherwise).

Yesterday was the last day of Kindergarten, I can't quite fathom this, someone said she's now officially a first grader. Cuddles and I spent most of the day hanging out at the school, there were lots of games, a pizza party and (shock horror) another talent show put on by the first grade. Don't get me wrong, the talent shows are incredibly sweet and I often have a tear in my eye as I watch the performances but that is 3 in one week with Cuddles squirming on my lap. After the marathon of the last day was over and we had said our goodbyes to LB's beloved teacher we headed down to the beach for the end of year party.

It was a beautiful day for the beach, the sun was hot, there was a light breeze and the waves were CRASHING down, even the dolphins were surfing. If it had just been the three of us I'd have probably sat down and chilled a little on my beach blanket while i watched the kids playing but this was altogether different. I'm not saying it was unpleasant, it was exciting but a bit frightening. The waves were huge and crashing with a lot of force, the sand slopes steeply into the water making it more dangerous and violent. Imagine 40 five and six year olds with their younger siblings high on the last day of kindergarten, on life and on sugar. We had to pen them in like sheep, all but one of us in our regular clothes having had no intention of getting wet (the Pacific is COLD). It was a little too scary really, although there ended up being about as many adults in the water as children so they were being very well supervised and limited to where they could go. One mum stood in the water being smacked in the back by the waves, fully clothed, for the full 2 hours we were there.

Today my task is to vacuum the sand out of the car, we'll see if I get around to it.

22 June 2011

The Mime

(warning: this posted is heavily-hyphenated)

Today Littlest Bean is performing in her Kindergarten talent show. She is going to be a mime, I'm full of all sorts of pride, mainly I am delighted she isn't following blindly in my footsteps and doing ballet. She chose something that isn't particularly girly and nobody else is doing, and pink for once is not making up any part of her outfit.

The outfit, prrrrt. I couldn't decide whether to buy her something or make do right up until school pick-up yesterday. I picked her up after school with Cuddles in tow and had this stroke of genius, go to Khols with your 3 and 5 years olds, who are hungry AND tired, and shop for clothes. The shop thankfully is visible from the school so we were there quickly and nobody ever goes there so there was loads of parking. Cuddles actually wanted to sit in a cart and everything was going swimmingly.

It quickly transpired that Littlest Bean thought we had come shopping for a bikini for her to wear to the end-of-year school beach party (yes she's 5 not 15), so I had to take the wind out of her sails a little. We couldn't find quite what I wanted for the costume but LB's eyes became wide at the endless rails of drop-waisted, synthetic, faux-cardiganed, black and neon dress-things. Whilst i found these dress-things vulgar to say the least she obviously couldn't believe her luck at the beautiful and extremely grown-up dress-things-a-six-year-old-would-wear at the end of every aisle. Crap. She is shy and timid at school (at home and with close friends the complete opposite) and had just been telling me about playing on her own at lunch. I want to boost her self-esteem and make her feel good about herself so I didn't want to veto all her ideas if a zebra stripe with neon pink faux cardigan dress-thing would make her feel good about herself. Here is the actual dress-thing LB fell totally in love with. According to the site I think I should be calling it a mock-layer dress-thing but that seems overly complicated. Her argument was that it had white and black horizontal stripes, she is right,  but I've never seen a mime dressed in one of these.

Now I hadn't slept well the night before last, which severely hampers my ability to make decisions. What followed was a huge parenting fail, two trips to the changing rooms, circuits made around and around the children's section, me flitting from saying maybe to making her choose between getting what I wanted her to get AND a new swimsuit or her mock-layer dress-thing only. We had tears, almost from me, I put things back on the rail, I put them back in the basket several times. I almost gave up and just left. I realized the price of the dress-thing was really high, especially as the material was not nice at all. I would have bought it for her in the end, but whereas everything else in the store was about half price, these were two for the price of one. Two mock-layer dress-things? No thank you. After about 45 minutes of sheer ridiculousness with two actually surprisingly well-behaved but bored kids I managed to make a decision and bought her a tshirt with horitzontal zebra stripes (closest I could find), a matching skirt (because I'm THAT weak) and a swimsuit, it all came to $25 so not bad. I don't want her to wear the skirt for the mime but she is going to anyway. I am split between laying down the law and helping her confidence at school. She has a black hat to wear and I'm going to paint her face like a mime so I'm sure she'll look fine and it will be great.

I need to go and buy some red lipstick to paint a little heart on her lips and then head to the school to help get her ready. Hopefully Cuddles will reign it in a little today, he has to attend the talent show twice, that's asking quite a lot of 3.5 year old boy. I'll let you know how it all goes.

16 June 2011

June Gloom, May Gray and a Rainy Day

Today is a gray drizzly day in Southern California. This is not too unusual for June as we have what is called June gloom. Unfortunately there is also such a thing as May gray so by July we are really ready to have our sunshine back. We usually visit family in the UK that time of year and get rain for two weeks. Rain in the UK is good because it makes leaving easier!

This afternoon I am heading to Littlest Bean's school for a parent conference. Rather than being spoken to by her teacher it is Littlest Bean who has prepared a presentation for me. She is pretty excited, as am I, apparently I get a snack! I just have to get past the Spanish tutor first though as she has after school Spanish and I both forgot to have her do her Spanish homework and forgot to pack her Spanish folder in her backpack. Mummy had a girls night out last night, what can I say. I think we all turned onto summer break mode about a week ago even though they have a full week to go yet. Even her kindergarten teacher has stopped bothering to send them home with homework, which is just fine by both me and Littlest Bean. One of the last efforts to be made this school year is to put together an outfit for her mime she will be performing next week at the school talent show. I am very excited for her, I don't know where the idea came from but I am over the moon that she chose to do something so original, and she's really very funny. I need to find a stripy black and white top and a black beret. Black ballet shoes would be pretty awesome too. We have black leggings already, several pairs. Let me know if you have any cool suggestions for the outfit.

A couple of weeks ago they did a school-wide project called Living Museum where all the kids researched a historical character and dressed up as them and made a poster board with a head cut out. They positioned themselves all around the school and they all had a button you could press and then they gave you a speech about who they were. LB was Martha Graham, she dressed up in a long dark dramatic skirt and had her hair in a bun. Then last week we had the "Spring" (I think that term is debatable) Concert. It was beautiful. LB's class sang Stand By Me and Tarantella. It is really moving listening to a group of young children singing.

12 June 2011

Littlest Bean gets her own blob!

Sorry for my longer than usual silence. Writing The Story took up all my will to write and I haven't had a lot to say for a while.

Yesterday I helped Littlest Bean make her own blog. She is beyond excited. She loved making it, choosing the background and text and all the different colors. She would have stayed up all night filling it up if I hadn't limited her to two posts before bed. She was literally bouncing up and down on the sofa (she is not allowed to do this) screaming about "my blob my blob". For the record, she knows it should be called a blog but thinks "blob" sounds better. When she was tucked up in her bed she asked me to sneak into her room in the middle of the night and take a photo of her sleeping so that she could put it in her blog in the morning, i didn't.

When I woke up this morning there was a note next to my head which read "get up so we can go do my blob".

I have been enjoying practicing making blog buttons, I have made one for me and one for Littlest Bean. Click on the "All About Sessie's Life" button and it will take you to Littlest Bean's blog. My next task (apart from fielding the constant requests from my daughter to work on her blog - she's as bad as me) is to work out how to provide the HTML so that anyone can add my button to their blog.

I was very touched when at the end of her first post, my daughter said I had made her the blog because she is special. I didn't say that to her, it is just what she understood, I am so happy I was able to make her feel special. I don't need to tell you how special she is :)

PS. Sessie decorates all the photos she puts on her blog with this great free online photo editing site called Picnik. I also use it to make the blog buttons.

31 May 2011

The Story

This is the story of how my daughter came into the world. You should probably read the Prologue first if you haven’t already. Some of you may find it a bit heavy going.

My mum had turned up in New York a few days previously. We celebrated my 27th birthday on the Sunday, I remember being very uncomfortable, G and my mum bought a lovely strawberry and chocolate cake for me from a Brooklyn patisserie and I had trouble eating my piece having so little space in my stomach.

A few days later, early on Thursday morning my mum accompanied me on the subway up to Manhattan for a scheduled appointment with my obstetrician. I used the bathroom at the doctor’s office and when I turned around about to leave noticed water on the white toilet seat. Wondering how on Earth I had managed to shake water from washing my hands that far across the room, I cleaned it up and thought nothing of it. I went into the doctor’s room and was hooked up to the monitors as was the routine. The baby and I were attached by a twin vessel umbilical cord. This was discovered early on and I had lots of extra scans and monitoring especially towards the end of the pregnancy to make sure the baby was developing normally and growing well. Normally there are three blood vessels in the umbilical cord. I had researched the condition when I first found out about it in England and had predictably got very upset and worried. So I printed the research I had done and buried it somewhere not to be looked at till after the baby was born. All the scans however had reassured me that there was in fact nothing wrong with our baby girl.

The doctor gave me an internal examination and immediately noticed some fluid she believed to be amniotic, it was. This meant my waters had broken, but in a small non-dramatic way. I was told the baby would need to be delivered in the next 24 hours to avoid infection. It was only a week before my due date so no problem there. The doctor left me with a few hefty sanitary towels and told me to go home and wait for the contractions to start and if they didn’t to meet her at the hospital at 8pm. She left the room and my mum turned to me and held my hand. She was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said she couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to be her little baby any more. I looked at her and got a lump in my throat too. I had never felt more like her frightened little baby in my life. We took a cab back to Brooklyn rather than risking the subway. I called G when we got home and told him not to panic (ha ha) and he met us at home by the early afternoon. We waited and waited but nothing happened. Mum made us a nice meal, I can’t remember exactly what it was but I do remember that it was nutritious and light. I guess she was trying to help me in the only way she could.

We waited the whole day till it was time to go to the hospital and that evening got a cab to Manhattan and booked into the hospital. Nothing much was happening except for my waters breaking a little more. It felt like a lot to someone who had never experienced their waters breaking before. It wasn’t till much later that night when I didn’t start contracting even after being given some drugs (I forget what now) that they investigated to see how much my waters had actually broken. They found that there was a whole lot still not broken so they broke the waters. Then all Hell broke lose. The baby was back to back so that, instead of facing backwards, which is the norm and the best, she was facing forwards which makes everything a little more awkward. The contractions started but what I actually felt was just a back pain so overwhelmingly painful I couldn’t even feel the contractions. Eventually it was just too much to bear so I asked for an epidural. As the nurse hugged me to her whilst the anesthesiologist stuck the needle into my spine I tried to warn her that I could feel my waters about to flood on to her and finally break completely but she mistook my spluttering for nervousness and shushed me, just as I drenched her from the knees downwards. Whoops. Well, it took my mind off the needle in my back slightly, and she assured me she wasn’t bothered by it, yeah right. Epidural, not pleasant at all, but the relief that flooded over me once the pain was gone put me on top of the world. Once I had finished celebrating I settled down to a really good night’s sleep whilst poor, G perched on the chair failing to get comfortable, didn’t sleep at all.

The next morning, although I didn’t realize it, I had progressed well and was dilating nicely. That Friday the time all merged into one and I’m not really sure when the action started or how long it lasted. My mum came in to be with us in the morning, it was extremely reassuring to have her with us. Unfortunately we hadn’t even gone through the hardest part yet and G already had one sleepless night under his belt.

My doctor came in and it was time to push. It was very difficult to feel the contractions as I was so numb from the epidural but she told me I was pushing well and doing a good job (later on when she was out you could see a angry red mark where she had been pushed over and over by me onto something hard). The pushing went on and on but the baby just wasn’t going anywhere. I don’t know how long I was pushing for. I do distinctly remember seeing Graeme looking fairly horrified backed into the corner of the room and reassuring him between the pushing that I was OK and I was yelling with the effort of pushing and not through pain. The doctor remarked she hadn’t seen anyone smile and reassure those around her when actively trying to push a baby out of themselves. I was worried about poor G though, he could have done with a shoulder to lean on, my mum was with me, I think she was holding one of my legs in the air for me. Anyway, the pushing went on, we tried a few different positions to try and help her out and then horror of horrors the epidural started to wear off. The back pain returned and it was overwhelming and sickening and just unbearable. I asked for my epidural to be topped up, after what felt like an eternity the anesthesiologist returned and gave me some more medicine. It didn’t work, no relief, not even a little. I started to vomit, and I couldn’t stop. It suddenly occurred to me that I might die. To be so completely defenseless and at the mercy of others was something I was not used to. It was pretty terrifying. My obstetrician walked in and said my name and looked me in the eye, she didn’t need to tell me what she was going to say, I burst into tears, I knew she was going to suggest a c section. By that point I was so scared that it was a relief. Everyone started to fuss around me and mutter about getting me in there quickly. We had already decided if it happened my mum would be the one who came with me so G was left alone while I was wheeled into surgery and my mum prepared to join me.

As they hooked me up to whatever they were hooking me up to I remember someone asking me to try to stop vomiting. Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve never been a great fan of vomiting, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t quite manage to stop myself. It was very weird vomiting where there was no retching of any kind, I just opened my mouth and out it came. The baby was taken out pretty quickly. The obstetrician remarked that the first thing she saw was the baby’s face looking up at her and she swore she smiled and that she had never seen that before. I felt nothing, no movement no nothing, they had to give me a spinal block because the epidural was no longer working so everything south of my arms was just dead. They took her away for quite a long time before wrapping her up and showing her to me. All I could see was her puffy little slits of eyes and her red face. They made light of the fact they just needed to pop her into the NICU to check she was fine and in my delirious state I didn’t think much of it. Later my mum told me she had been worried as soon as the baby wasn’t handed straight to us. Being sewn up takes an eternity, it’s such an anticlimax, it goes on and on and on, you wonder when it will ever end. I remember feeling like I was drifting into unconsciousness but being very scared to let it take me so flapping my arms around to get someone’s attention till they came to speak to me. I couldn’t speak only wave.

I was taken in to recovery and slept for a while, who knows how long. Then I heard the nurses muttering about another person coming into recovery, I remember them mentioning “him”. They started getting the bed next to me ready. I was affronted, they’re going to bring some random man in here when I’m recovering, what the Hell. So they bring the guy in, and it’s my husband. Two days and nights (it’s some time on Saturday by now) with no sleep and no food finally got the better of him and he was found sliding down the wall in a corridor by some nurses.

A little later on G and my mum are both sitting by my bedside in the recovery room and my doctor walks in accompanied by perhaps three other doctors. Hmm, I remember thinking this seemed a little official. They started talking, I could tell something very bad was happening, but I had to stop them. I was flat on my back, I couldn’t look into their eyes. I was insistent that I had to sit up, I had to look them in the eye while they told me the news they had come to break, I had to see the expressions on their faces to read how bad the situation was, I wanted to be part of the conversation. Eventually they conceded and let me sit up a tiny bit and then explained to us, without softening the blow in any way, that our daughter’s esophagus was not attached to her stomach but just stopped in a dead end after her mouth. Also, what esophagus she did have was attached to her trachea providing a direct route for any accumulation of fluid in her mouth, and there was a lot, to go straight to her lungs and make her very ill. All at once, they didn’t stop, they told us they would have to perform surgery as soon as possible but that her esophagus would probably not be long enough so they would fit a feeding tube directly through her tummy into her stomach. They said by the time she reached 18 months old to perhaps a few years old they would be able to go and harvest a part of her intestine and use it to make her an esophagus and hopefully attach her and finally take her stomach tube out. There was no reassurance that she would be OK in the end, just a plan of what was to take place. And then they left. We still hadn’t seen her, we had been apart for quite a few hours by then. What goes through your mind when you receive news like this? I think the first has to be a reality check, did that just happen? And then you pretty much descend into numbness. I don’t think you deal with these things till way after they happen. It was over 5.5 years ago and my heart is racing about 3 times its normal rate just typing these words into my laptop. The conditions are called esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula.

By the evening, twelve hours after her birth, we were finally allowed to see her. We went to the NICU, which in itself is fairly frightening, the size of the preemies can be just breathtaking. The littlest ones with the eyes taped over and just so skinny. We got to hold her for the first time, oh she was beautiful, with her big dark eyes, she was so alert just reading everything she saw in my face, soaking everything in, amazing. She touched us very deeply. She had one solitary tube taped to her face going into her nose and down into her throat to stop her saliva from pooling and going into her lungs. I think we didn’t really dare to get too excited about being new parents, we loved her for sure but it wasn’t a very good time to get attached. We knew we had a big operation looming sometime in the next few days and she looked too small and fragile to be put through that.

The first thing G did the next morning was to get the photos printed so that we could see her beautiful little face. Those two shots he had printed became very special to us. The first thing the doctors and surgeon needed to do was use imaging to find out how much esophagus was available. The results were a little inconclusive but they set up the surgery for the Monday when she would be 48 hours old. The surgeon warned us that there didn’t seem to be very much tube to reattach and that she may only be able to close off the linkage between the esophagus and trachea plus install a GI tube (stomach feeding tube) and another line for IV fluids that attaches to the neck, with time I have forgotten some of the medical terms. This meant she still wouldn’t be able to feed through her mouth. Monday was the hardest day. The surgeon (amazing wonderful woman) explained that our little bean would go into surgery very early in the morning and by about 6 in the evening she hoped to visit us in my room at the hospital to explain how it had gone. The three of us holed up in the hospital room and tried desperately to think of anything else other than what was happening to our baby. The evening mercifully arrived and the surgeon came to speak to us. She was very happy with how the surgery had gone and against the odds had just managed to attach her esophagus to her stomach and close off the link to her trachea. We just needed to wait and see if the repair would leak and whether she would need a secondary operation to fix that. We were able to go and see her in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). It was reassuring to see she was alive but what we saw was disturbing. Wires and tubes attached to every part of her body, bruises all over where needles had been stuck and her body was swollen to possibly twice it’s width. She wasn’t even able to wear a diaper with everything that was going on on her tiny little body. We weren’t allowed to touch her as they explained that with a newborn’s immature central nervous system, when they are in pain they can experience a light stroke of the hand as very painful. The next few days were hard, it didn’t help that after 4 days I was discharged so that I had a 90 minute subway ride to Manhattan’s Upper East side everyday from 5 days after my surgery. Some mornings we would go in and the news would be frightening, one morning we found out her lung had collapsed during the night and another morning she had managed to pull her breathing tube out. The nurses were amazing and always very pleasant and comforting no matter what time I called and asked for an update.

If I couldn’t sleep because I had a bad feeling I could call in the middle of the night and they would talk me through what was happening with the baby. Overall as the days went by the vibe got more and more positive. Still to this very day no one has reassured us that she will be OK, but she is now. It wouldn’t have hurt to have some reassurance at the time. We were eventually allowed to stroke her hand and then the day came when they lifted her wired up little body onto a pillow and let us hold her on that pillow. It was a very lengthy and complicated process lifting her out of her isolette and installing her on our laps but it was very reassuring to be able to hold out own child and encouraging to be making so much progress. One morning I had a call from the surgeon to ask me to rush to the hospital because they were going to give her her first ever meal of breast milk into her GI tube, I had been pumping for the day when this would be possible. When I got there the nurses excitedly told me how she had taken her first ever breast milk, I had missed it, there had obviously been a miscommunication between the nurses and the surgeon and the nurses didn’t know I was rushing in. But I really didn’t mind, nothing could spoil that day. Later on that same day they fed her again and I got to be there that time. The amounts of milk were miniscule as they were really just testing out her system to see if it could take it. Day by day she made more progress and eventually graduated to the second room of the NICU where the slightly less ill babies live. In here they finally let me try to breastfeed her. She didn’t catch on too well unfortunately but we got there in the end after a rough start.

Poor G had made the difficult decision to return to work so that he could take his 2 week paternity leave after she came home so he could only make it in the evenings when he would read to her. My mum accompanied me to the hospital every day, took me out to lunch and somehow managed to keep our home ticking along too.

Almost 4 weeks after her birth, quite suddenly, they announced she would be going to the third and final room and we’d be able to take her home. We were surprised and delighted although a little bit nervous about properly caring for her on our own. She still had her GI tube attached to her tummy so I had to be taught how to keep it clean. It needed to be left in for a while longer just in case something went wrong. We finally got to take her home to Brooklyn and be a family a month after I went into labor. About a week later that pesky GI tube was taken out and she has continued to make remarkable progress ever since. We are not aware of any lasting complications, she is like every other little girl now except only we know (until now) how very brave she is and how strong and valiantly she fought, never crying, and smiling though she was so tiny. I still feel bad for her when I think of those long hospital nights when she should have been cuddled up in her mummy’s arms. I am so lucky to have her and I will never forget that. About 6 months later we had rented a car for a day trip and we were almost home when the song “Wires” by Athlete came on the radio. The words just triggered something in both G and I and we both sobbed, that was just the beginning of us “dealing” with it I suppose.


30 May 2011

Prologue

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The story of my first child being born. I am working up to it. I realize I am a hypocrite. I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of sharing your traumatic birth stories and how cathartic it is and it led me to the realization that I do not talk about it anymore and when people ask me about it I shrug it off and minimize it. I will happily talk about little parts of it, but I can’t bring myself to tell the whole heaping pile of stinking awfulness (is that a bit much?) that was our experience of our first child being born. If I’m completely honest it’s probably never been told from start to finish. I think I’m a little afraid that if I tell the whole thing from start to finish, I’ll get lost in it and lose control.

And I always must remember, and always do remember, to make it perfectly clear before I start, that she is fine. She is more than fine. She is five, she is strong, she is curly and cheeky and full of so much cheekiness and mischief that sometimes I can’t comprehend that she is the same tiny helpless brave little thing with fluffy tufts on the tops of her ears, the tiny little creature I wasn’t even allowed to touch but just had to look at longingly for hours on end day after day. If it wasn’t for the scars on her body, I don’t think I would believe it really happened. I want you to know she’s alright, because whether I know you or not, I know the story might make you sad, and I don’t want it to, that is not my intention. It is a story of hope and miracles and just how incredibly lucky one family can be. So if you cry, please make sure they are tears of happiness.

The final straw was at a neighbors BBQ last night, my two friends told their dramatic stories, nail biting tales of shooting up the emergency lane of the 405 in advanced labor and being cut up by irate LA drivers. I wanted to join in when it was my turn, but all I could manage was this awful embarrassing statement about not really being ready to talk about it followed by a protracted and awkward silence, well done Chlo! Way to make a good impression.

So It’s coming, I think I may have to write it bit by bit so I can keep it together while going about my everyday stuff with the kids. They don’t like it when I weep.

It's done, I've written it all down, here's the story.

27 May 2011

Interview with the little people

I thought I'd talk to the kids about themselves, there's not much they like better. What I say is written in gray, what Littlest Bean says is in Pink and what Cuddles says is in blue.

How old are you?
I am five and a half.
I am three and three quarters (he is nearly three and a half)

I am in "kindergarden" almost going to first grade.
Do you like school?
School is the funnest thing on Earth.
What is your favorite thing about school?
Math.
Why?
Because I'm ahead of everyone else at Math.
What other fun things do you do at school?
Recess is fun.
Recess is when you get to run and play.
Can you tell me anything else about recess?
At recess we can have lunch and snack. Recess you get to play outside and play games.
Like tag, tag is when you get to run, Tag you're it! What's your tag day?
Are you really writing that on here?
Yes I am.
I have a cheese beard, can you see it?
Yeah.

What do you like to do when you're not at school?
I like to play water games.
Who do you play with?
My brother Cuddles.
Do you like your brother?
I love him, I even give him stickers.

Tell me something about yourself.
I like eating cheese. No, I like playing games with my sister.
Do you go to school?
No
Are you sure?
I'm sure. (he does actually, once a week)
What's your favorite thing to do at school?
Playing T ball.
I didn't know you had T ball at school.
[laughter]

Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?
England.
What do you do there?
When I'm in England I spend time with my gran and grandad.
What do you do with them?
Sometimes we go to fancy cafes or go in the paddling pool or make cupcakes.
What do you think about grandparents?
THEY ARE REALLY GOOD!

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a vet.
Why do you want to be a vet?
Because I really like animals and animals are sweet things.
Are you going to have any hobbies when you grow up?
When I grow up for fun I will go to the swimming pool.

Why are you writing in fancy writing?
Because I'm writing fast.
Is it fancy writing?
No it's messy writing.
I can write neater than THAT!
Anything else you want to tell me about yourselves?
I really like the movie Harry Potter.
My names is Mr Nosey but with a beard [walks in with fake glasses, nose and mustache on]

22 May 2011

Me and my shadow, a Sunday evening stroll in the garden

Little Olive the Cat accompanying me on my stroll.









Tiny baby lemons




Our first US flag






Newly planted flowers



...still there





A swing with a view





Olive the Cat decides to stay indoors

19 May 2011

Are my kids getting enough attention?

The answer is a resounding NO. Which makes me feels sad, guilty, an awful person... We moved house just under three weeks ago with only two weeks notice. Over the past 5 weeks they really haven't been getting all the parenting they could or should be. Somehow when you are right in the middle of a situation, you just cannot see it for what it is. They have been acting out A LOT. They haven't been listening to anything I say, I have to repeat myself 10 times, they are incredibly mischievous and their latest game is to steal things from me. They have stolen my jewelry box twice in the last 10 days alone, but I am so frazzled I keep forgetting if I have lost it or if it could have been taken.

It all came to a head in the last two days when we had friends over on two consecutive days and I was embarrassed by my kids behavior. I desperately looked online last night looking for answers, especially for my 5 year old girl who has been the hardest. And there it was in black and white, it could be that she isn't getting enough attention. Of COURSE this is the case. So why is it that instead of coming up with that solution myself I was racking my brain trying to think what it could be. I thought it might be that she is tired of listening at school so wants to act out at home, that it was a phase, that she was hormonal, having trouble adjusting to the move. Frankly I feel like a complete idiot, not for the first time in my parenting journey by any means.

Today was my new start. From the moment I got up this morning I was determined to give them all the attention they needed, not to mind about the household chores that needed to get done and to really just focus on the kids. Today coincidentally was the first time I had left Cuddles at Preschool for 4 straight hours, he only goes once a week now, so I had time to go and visit a really good friend who I have never managed to see without any of our kids being present. This meant that once I was with the kids I felt rejuvenated and in just the right frame of mind to continue my new program.

And it's working, it's working really well for today at least. I'm putting it on here so that I am beholden to you and to my new resolution. I'll never change the fact that they both have very cheeky personalities and love to joke and be silly, and really I never would want to. But this afternoon they were cooperative, I didn't have to ask them a million times to do things and now that it's bath-time we are all still in a pretty good mood.



17 May 2011

Parent Support Page

Because YOU are awesome and you deserve to feel awesome, I have added a parent support page with a new Parent to Parent support forum. Pop over and introduce yourself, you won't regret it. You can exchange parenting advice and tips with me and other like-minded parents who stop by.











"By Heart"
Paint + Feltpen on Canvas

by Lousise
2002

Meet Hedwig


This is Hedwig, I believe she is a baby snowy owl. There is only ONE of her in this household, she was given to my daughter when she was a baby by a very dear friend. This morning I realized that my kids think there are two of these owls, that they both have one. She gets taken from one bedroom to the next. Yesterday when I was tidying up before bath time, I moved her from Cuddle's room back to Littlest Bean's bed. They were playing "Harry Potter" this morning as is their new obsession, and I overheard them making a plan to find Cuddles' owl so that they could play with both of them together.

OVERLOAD


I'd like to apologize for all the changes in the look of this blog. I just discovered the joys of tampering with it and until such time as I am over it, this may continue. I promise I'll settle down to one look once the perfectionist in me is satisfied.

I don't want to give you sensory overload with all the new colors and fonts and places to find the different things on the blog. If this begins to happen to you here is a picture to illustrate how you can help prevent the overload from occurring. This is me on my 32nd birthday off to a mystery destination for the weekend. It was very sunny and the kids were whining and we were on the freeway, I was just on the brink of a migraine. Being my birthday my husband gave me the noise canceling headphones and I popped my shades on, listened to some tunes and revelled in my ignorance of what was going on behind and around me.


15 May 2011

"I'm Not Going to Hurt You."

We have a cat, her name is Olive. Here she is:
Olive is a sweet little thing most of the time when she isn't going mental out of the blue and biting your ankles.

The kids love Olive dearly, in fact their passionate affection for her can sometimes be a little too much to bear. She avoids Cuddles, who is 3, almost entirely, but she has a lot more patience and trust when it comes to Littlest Bean who knows, most of the time, how to be gentle.

One morning very early I heard this exchange between Littlest Bean and Olive the Cat:

LB: Ollie, Ollie come here Ollie...
OtC: [silence]
LB: Ollieeeeeeee, Ollieeeee, come here, come here Ollie darling, I won't hurt youuuuu
OtC: [more silence]
LB: Ollie, Ollie, come here baby, I won't hurt you...
OtC: MIAOW!
LB: Oh sorry Ollie I hurt you

14 May 2011

Help! They're All Losing It!

They’ve all gone mad. OK we’re all a little tired and under the weather but within the space of about 60 seconds my family has erupted into hysteria.

My husband has this old shirt that he wears constantly, I have been bugging him to throw it out as it had started to tear. He ignored me and continued to wear the dear old thing, until this afternoon when I noticed the back of it had lots of little holes, the fabric was falling apart. So I mentioned it to him and said if he pulled on it the whole thing would probably fall apart. Cue incredible hulk impression and, for an adult, what was quite an amusing display of ripping his shirt off. The kids looked to me for my reaction so I made a big show of laughing as their dad’s face was still contorted and in character. They laughed along nervously and with hesitation. Once he took the shirt off and came out of character Cuddles started to cry, “I don’t want your shirt to be ripped” he was beside himself in tears. Then Littlest Bean started too. It quickly erupted into out of control tired sobbing from both of them despite hugs and reassurance from both of us. I remembered the emergency happy formula, 2 kids on sofa + 1 YouTube Funny Cats video, it works every time. So G put YouTube on the TIVO and within one second both kids went from howling sobs to raucous laughter, like we had flicked a magic switch. They almost laughed a little too raucously and G seemed to enjoy ripping his shirt off and being The Incredible Hulk a little too much. They’ve all calmed down now though, we’re back from the brink of insanity for the time being.

08 May 2011

My Maman

My maman. She's a truly incredible woman. She is brave, fearless and strong, she loves with her whole self. As her child or her grandchild you know she will literally do anything for you. 

My maman grew up in 1940s and 1950s Quebec, Canada, in a working class family. She is the oldest of six children, 5 girls and one boy. In her twenties, looking for something new and different, she went travelling in Europe, she met my father whilst in England and didn't leave for over thirty years.

My mum unfortunately suffered in her marriage, the victim of emotional and verbal abuse for twenty years. She stayed for various reasons. As a victim of abuse and someone living apart from any family it is harder than it sounds to take your kids and leave. Now that I am a mother living in a foreign country I have a much deeper understanding of just how trapped she must have felt. 

She worked so hard when I was a kid, working full time from when we started school yet never shirking on her responsibilities to us. She exposed us to everything she could, art exhibitions, ice skating, horse riding, hiking, swimming, the ballet, classical music concerts. She was always there with a hug and a kiss to listen to any problem we had. My maman was my home, my safe place. She still is except for I now have a home with my family. At the weekend when my brother and I would lie in till late, at twelve o clock she would put loud French music on and sing and dance around the house. What a joyous way to wake up. We moaned about it but we loved it really. Basically a better, more loving, supportive and fully committed mother you couldn't hope to find. She never tried to push us, just encouraged us in whatever endeavor we chose, and the same is true today.

When I moved to the USA my maman finally retired and went travelling. Alone she travelled to India, Thailand and Malaysia, and on a later trip to Uruguay, Chile and Argentina amongst other places. It was like Eat Pray Love but on a much grander, braver and more ambitious scale.

When I became a mother myself, it naturally changed our relationship. We have so much more in common now and have a deeper understanding of each other's lives. All of a sudden I really needed her and she was REALLY there for me. She arrived in New York City about a week before our first child was born. When our daughter was born as I've mentioned before, she was extremely ill. My maman looked after my husband and I, she made sure we ate, held our hands, kept our lives ticking along whilst the bottom of our world seemed to be slipping away. Every single day for that first month she trekked to Manhattan with me to visit our baby in the NICU, she shopped, cooked and did all our laundry, she cleaned our house. She provided unending emotional support and never asked for any herself. I don't know how she did it but she was everything we needed and more.

Now my babies are not babies anymore, my mum is still there ready to listen every time I have an idea to share, a bug to bare or a tear to shed. And if I need her, if I really really do need her, oh she'll be here, she's done it before, she'll get on a plane, though her wallet may groan, all the way from Spain to Los Angeles. 

I'm proud to be a strong woman, I hope one day I can be as strong and brave and fearless as my own maman and I wish with all my heart that one day my kids will be as proud of me as I am of her.

Happy Mothers Day Maman, je t'aime Xxx

Big heavy buckets of tears

04 May 2011

The Undeserving


I am struggling with this awful thought. It keeps coming back to me over and over again. I don’t deserve this nice house. It’s ridiculous I know, I mean it’s not even like we bought it. Without wanting to come over as unnecessarily mushy, it’s all I ever really wanted for my family and me. It has the three bedrooms I thought would give the children some independence and privacy as they grow and the garden they can frolic in and discover the beauty of mother nature and all her squirmy, wriggly creatures. It has the laundry facilities I have longed for ever since becoming a parent, an eating area in the kitchen so I can spend time with my children or husband whilst cooking or cleaning (I might ACTUALLY do these things now) and I can park outside the blooming front yard or in the garage and not lug two kids and shopping across a busy parking lot and up in a lift every time I get home. Another thing I have always craved is a window to look out of at the kitchen sink, not only do I have one here but I have a breathtaking view of a sundrenched wall covered in delicate pink climbing roses.

So whilst I am enjoying an idyllic first week here in the midst of a heat wave, afternoons spent in the backyard having water fights with the little ones, I am plagued with fears about money (it’s not more than we were paying, this is irrational) and even worse this undeserving feeling. I’m hoping I’ll get used to it and soon be feeling like the Queen of Sheba. 

Moving House, The Trilogy - Moving and Unpacking

Friday April 29th
Moving day finally arrived. I woke up as per my new cough-riddled routine at around 5am. At 7am we got dressed and started gathering our vital belongings. I had packed a backpack each for myself and the kids so that we could take our clean clothes straight out and put our dirty clothes in without having to risk leaving anything or losing anything. Everything was going to plan, I had the box out ready to pack up the cat and was going to go ahead to the new house with her and the kids. At around 7.30am, as expected, the movers called to say they were about 10 minutes away. As I was helping Littlest Bean to get ready I noticed the sound of pouring water from our bathroom. I ran to see what was happening and found cuddles standing in a flooded bathroom, toilet paper everywhere, water up to the rim of the bowl and still coming. Arghhh. I got very angry at him and banished him from the room. The plunger was packed so I had no choice but to go elbow deep into the toilet and fish the wodge of soggy paper out with my bare hands. G threw a load of towels on the floor, I just had to get out of there, I packed up the cat, changed Cuddles’ clothes and took the three of them and three bags down to the carpark. By the time we got to the car the cat had already pooed in her carrier, I have always assumed she does this when she gets especially scared but I guess being a cat it could be that she is just really pissed off.

We drove off away from the apartment with the windows open because of the stink. It was a little chilly and the kids complained the whole way. It was a little strange leaving without G. We stopped off at the drive through as per the original plan and got some much needed coffee and fruity oatmeal. I considered not going because of the cat situation but figured we needed to grasp the opportunity to eat. Suffice to say we didn’t eat till safely in the house away from the smell. The journey isn’t long from apartment to new house, about 15 minutes.

When we got to the new house the kids didn’t really know what to do with themselves. They kept asking for somewhere soft to sit over and over. Eventually I found a quilt that G had brought over a couple of days earlier so I put it on the floor and they both lay on it. They were obviously as tired as I was. I imagined that being in a big empty house with lots of closets for hiding in would be immensely exciting to them but as it turns out, it wasn’t. After a little while when Cuddles wouldn’t stop complaining about being hungry, despite having eaten a pot of oatmeal and a big cookie, we decided to go out. We went for a little drive and finished up at Trader Joe’s so we’d have something for us all to eat.

It wasn’t long after we got back to the house that G turned up which was an immense relief. Shortly after G’s arrival the movers appeared. They were very efficient and within about 2 hours we were all set up.  I spent the afternoon turbo un-packing the kitchen and a friend came over with her daughter to help amuse the children. By the evening the kids had somewhere to sleep and the kitchen was pretty much finished. That evening when the children had gone to bed we reflected on both feeling a little sad about our old apartment. We lived there for over 2 years and in our 14 years together that’s the longest we have lived anywhere. We were also really pretty fond of it despite it’s inconveniences.

How could I forget to mention we even managed to keep half an eye on the Royal Wedding, it made both me and G feel unexpectedly homesick.

Saturday 30th April & Sunday 1st May


We really buckled down over the weekend and unpacked like absolute crazy. By Saturday evening I had both the kids bedrooms completely unpacked and G had sorted out the living room. He did a great job shuffling boxes around and removing empty boxes and packing materials for me. By Sunday evening we actually had the entire house unpacked. Our final room was the dining room which was quite heavy going as it had become the holding room for everything that wasn’t already placed. By 6 o clock we welcomed some friends over for dinner, a very basic dinner I might add and not cooked by me, to a tidy and relatively clean unpacked house. Sunday was Cuddles last day on antibiotics although we’re not out of the woods yet. We also had to get Littlest Bean Organized for her first day back at Kindergarten after Spring Break.
 
The kids are settling in well although they don’t seem to have quite got their heads around it all yet. They are still a bit reluctant to get their toys out and to play in their rooms. They mainly just follow me around and hang out wherever I am. Cuddles main activity the first couple of days was to investigate with his hands every hole, every wire, every nook and cranny, this makes for pretty nerve-wracking parenting. It’s his way of getting to know his new home, just like the cat who goes around sniffing everything. The cat is happy now, enjoying sprawling her furry body out on the floor in the hot sunlight and watching birds and butterflies out of the windows. We haven’t let her out to play yet, we will soon, just not quite yet.