Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Donor Information


I have always been of the mind that I would leave searches about Elena’s donor or donor siblings up to Elena. If, at any time, she decided she wanted to pursue this, I would help & support her. I had taken so many choices away from her & made choices for her that I wanted to leave this one solely to her. When Elena was born, I registered her birth with the sperm bank, pulled all the profile info I could off the bank website, I ordered Lifetime Photos of her donor & filed it all away for her.

I thought that would be it for at least 10 years…but I’ve been thinking a lot about it & yes, okay, obsessing just a little. “What if there’s info out there I need to know now?” “What if there are connections there now that will be “expired” when Elena asks?” Plus many, many other what ifs!

I decided it couldn’t hurt to at least register with the Donor Sibling Registry & with the sperm bank family forum. This way, if urgent info became available, I’d be in the loop & if Elena asks, I’ll be able to say, “Here you go, kiddo.”

Interestingly, her donor himself left a post on the DSR. This gave me some peace of mind & a sense of reassurance that I had picked the right guy. Mind you, that post was from 2009, but I was glad that if Elena wanted to make contact, she would be able to fairly easily…seemingly anyway. I mean, there was something about his profile when I originally picked him that made me feel like this was an altruistic choice, it was about more than money for him. He was 29 when he started donating, after all. There was a sense of maturity in his answers. There was a kindness in the answers to the essay questions that I didn’t feel with any other donor. This was important to me because I felt if Elena decided to make contact, she’d at least be encountering a kind man.

There are only 2 other posts; one on the DSR & one on the bank forum. The post on the DSR is just looking for more vials & makes no mention of offspring or success. The post on the forum mentions a son about the same age as Elena & just inquiring if there were any other children. This makes me just a little worried…only because, what if Elena has a deep desire to know half-siblings? What if that’s what her inquiries stem from? I’m afraid she’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, I guess it’s a bit comforting that she doesn’t have dozens a la Delivery Man.

I also feel…I don’t know…at peace that this is done. That I can, in good conscious, put it out of my mind knowing I have done all I can until such time that Elena starts asking questions. Who knows, maybe she’ll never be curious. I’m also comforted that it’s all in place in case something happens to me…but let’s not go there.

Friday, July 11, 2014

SMC Camping Trip 2014


Elena & I had the opportunity recently for a great adventure…we tagged along on a SMC Camping Trip in Idaho with 3 other moms & 4 other kids! And quite an adventure it was!! I am, by no means, a camper…the only camping I’ve ever done was in my 20s where I & hundreds of other 20 year olds would pitch tents for a long weekend, pack hot dogs & batches of Rice Krispies squares & drink all weekend! Not really the experience needed for actual camping. So I booked a cabin just to be on the safe side!

The first leg of our adventure involved flying to Boise, ID & shockingly, there are no direct flights from Toronto! Go figure! Elena & I would have our first experience with layovers & changing planes! We would also be renting a car in Boise, our first experience travelling with our car seat…for this, I am so grateful again for our amazing collapsible wagon. That thing is the best money spent when it comes to travelling with a child!


 
On all the flights except from Toronto to Minneapolis, I was able to upgrade our seats to the Economy Comfort…well worth the money to have the extra space!! I am so very lucky that Elena is such a good little traveler. We had to wake up at 2am to make our 1st flight! Elena was such a trooper & took it all in as an adventure. She wasn’t as impressed as I was when we got to see Air Force One on the tarmac in Minneapolis but she did think it was the neatest thing that our tray tables came out of our armrests!! She fell asleep mid way through the flight from Minneapolis Boise & slept right through the landing & didn’t wake up until almost everyone had left the plane. We were the last ones off which worked out great as our gate checked seat & wagon were waiting for us & by the time we got to baggage claim, there was our luggage just waiting for us!

Our good luck continued when we arrived at the car rental kiosk…they asked if I wanted a free upgrade. Of course I said, “Yes, please!!” & it was a good thing because we ended up with a Chevy Captiva. I’m not sure how I would have fit all our stuff in the Cruze we were originally booked for! We headed straight for the grocery store to load up on supplies then headed over to meet up with Claire, Fiona & Carys & head off to SilverCreek Plunge. I was very grateful to be able to follow her up as I was in awe of the mountains!! We just don’t have mountains like that here in Ontario!!

What an amazing site we ended up with! The cabin was nicer than some hotels I’ve stayed in!! Chryssa & Felix were there to welcome us & we got down to business of getting organized.

The Hill behind our site the kids like to climb

Elena waiting for fire!
 

Patty & Libby arrived not long after we did & we all got to know each other over dinner. Claire treated us all to Strawberry Shortcake to celebrate Fiona’s birthday…then we moved onto S’mores! This was Elena’s first experience with open fire & she was awed…but the long day & little sleep started to catch up with her, add in the sugar high & crash & she was ready for bed…except of course she wouldn’t settle down…& then the storm hit!! With the 1st clap of thunder, there was no way Elena was going to stay in the cabin alone to sleep which was a moot point once the rain started so we all called it a night.

We woke the next morning pretty early & I didn’t want us to wake the others so Elena & I headed out for a walk to check out the playground, hot-springs pool & surrounding area. When we got back to camp, Chryssa & Felix were up & the four of us took a little walk about until the others roused.
Elena & Felix warming up Saturday Morning

Carys & Elena giving Jayda some love

After a delicious breakfast we all headed to the amazing hot-springs pool! It was quite cold outside & it was hard to wrap my head around stripping down to a bathing suit…but oh how nice it was to dip into that 98 degree pool!


Later that afternoon we all went for a walk/hike & just enjoyed the afternoon.

The Gang!
 
It wasn’t long after dinner that I could see Elena was exhausted after a long day of fun & activity & I had no trouble getting her to sleep that night! We moms then spent the evening chatting & sharing stories until the fire burned down to just embers.

The next morning we were up early again & Elena & I took another walk around the park & visited the pool. I had promised her we’d go swimming after breakfast…but we all decided to head out earlier instead…I was feeling guilty for not letting Elena have a last swim but I didn’t really want to have to pack up wet towels & swimsuits…

On the drive back to Boise, we all stopped a little rest stop type place which had the best soft serve sundae bar Elena & I had ever experienced!!! This is where we all said our goodbyes & headed our separate ways with promises to keep in touch & already thinking of ideas for the next time!

I had booked a hotel by the airport to spend the night Sunday before our flights home Monday afternoon. We arrived early afternoon to check in & I was able to redeem myself to Elena for depriving her of a morning swim when we learned the hotel had a pool of its own!! On the way there all I could think about was a nice hot shower (the campgrounds didn’t have shower facilities!!) but upon learning about the pool, Elena & I jumped right into our suits & went swimming. I swear my kid is 1/3 fish!! After that we were famished so ordered in “Man Pizza” (this is what Elena calls pizza we have delivered) & she thought it was the most amazing thing that it was actually delivered by a GIRL!!


 

We had a great night’s sleep & woke early to enjoy another swim before getting ready & heading for the airport. Elena was not happy about leaving Idaho & insisted we should stay. When I asked her, “What about Gramma & Raina?” she said they should move to Idaho with us!!

On the way home we flew through Denver & we hit some pretty rocky turbulence coming into Denver. To the amusement of the other passengers, Elena enjoyed this very much “whooping” & “wee-ing” the whole time! We were delayed in Denver but were able to pass the time quickly as Elena made friends with a 6 year old little girl & they played until we were finally able to board. Elena was asleep within a half hour after takeoff & slept the entire flight home & like in Boise, didn’t wake up until the other passengers were almost all off the plane.

 

It was an amazing trip! It meant the world to me to get to meet & connect with 3 amazing SMCs…Elena loved getting the chance to play with 4 of the sweetest little kiddos & it meant a lot to me to have Elena see 3 other strong, amazing Choice Moms in action with their children.

We already can’t wait until next year!!
To see more photos, check our Claire & Chryssa's posts!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Day It All Began


Four years ago today, it all started, Elena started. I’ve said it before, it feels as though Elena, her little personality, has always been a part of me…it feels so surreal, even still, that it’s only been 4 years & at the same time that it’s just been 4 years. I love that we share this very special anniversary right at Father’s Day. It makes it easy for us to have something to celebrate even though neither of us have a father to recognize.

We continued our tradition, for the third year in a row, of going to the Teddy Bear Picnic. It was a great day as usual & with each year Elena gets more & more out of it, being able to understand & enjoy more of the activities offered.


Elena also experienced a first; she got her face painted for the 1st time!! While we waited in line, Elena insisted she wanted to get a Spiderman face, she loves Spiderman! In the end, after watching little girl after little girl get butterflies, when we sat down in the chair for our turn, she opted for the butterfly & a pink one at that!! She still looked adorable though!


Elena also had her gymnastics show Saturday morning. She didn’t have the stage fright she experienced at her school show. She did amazingly & graduated from the Toddler Stars program to the Junior Kinder Stars!

She also had her final swimming lesson Sunday. She really is doing so well & her coach thought so too. So much so that she graduated her from Splash A straight past B & C & feels she is more than ready for Splash A+!! I knew she would pass Splash B but had no idea they’d feel she was ready for Splash A+. Amazing!

Monday, June 9, 2014

200


I really dropped the ball on my 100thpost & didn’t want to make that mistake again as I saw my 200th approaching. My original intension was to have my 200th post coincide with my Blogaversary back in February…by life in February was…hard. As my anniversary passed, I even considered making my 200th post a good bye…Now that I can feel the weight of grief (slowly) lifting from my chest & I am making an effort to get back on the blogging horse it seems appropriate for my 200th post to be an update on Little Miss Elena…

Let’s approach this like a classic blog update…

Height: At 3 years & 3 months old, she is currently 42 inches tall…yes, at 3 feet 5 inches Elena is a very tall 3 year old!

Weight: She weighs in at about 37 lbs…so though she’s tall, she’s pretty skinny…& all legs!

Daily Routine: Well, let’s see…Mondays are an off day for Elena. Sometimes my Mom will take her swimming or maybe to the mall…mostly it’s a free day for them. I work, obviously…Tuesdays Elena has preschool then after a mandatory visit to the park beside the school (if weather permits) & usually a lunch out, she was off to music class. This girl LOVES her music! Wednesdays were play group at my Mom’s church but that is on hiatus for the summer (as is music class)…Thursdays are another free day for swimming or whatever…Fridays are preschool again. Saturdays I get to take her to gymnastics in the morning & the afternoons are free to do whatever, sometimes swimming, sometimes errands, often just playing at home…Sunday mornings is when we usually get our grocery shopping done…then she has swimming lessons before dinner…I think we’ve achieved a nice balance of structured, organized fun & freestyle fun…Elena loves going to the park, she is getting really good with her balance bike & will probably be ready for a two wheeler next summer. She’s still the little helper & loves working alongside my Mom at whatever chore needs doing. She has won the hearts of all our neighbours with her giggles & laughs.

Preschool: To elaborate a little on Elena’s preschool, I am still beyond pleased with this amazing place. I was worrying a little at first, I expected more communication & was feeling very disconnected until they realized I wasn’t on the email distribution list. Since then, they have lived up to & exceeded my expectations. There was a teacher change in Elena’s class & I didn’t feel as confident in her new teacher…not that there’s anything wrong with her, there’s just no…warm & fuzzy from her. But I’ve only met her twice so I didn’t want to jump to judgments. I notified them that I would increase Elena’s attendance in the fall…not long after that, they advised Elena would be ready to move up to the next class & asked if they could have her visit regularly between now & the fall to make a smooth transition. I am so over the moon that Elena will be in the new room in the fall as my two favourite teachers lead that class, one of whom is the owner’s daughter. Speaking of the owner, this woman is an angel on earth. She is one of the kindest, most nurturing human beings I’ve ever met. And boy does she have a soft spot for my Elena. I could burst with pride hearing all the great things she has to say about Elena. I know Elena is a super kid, but it’s nice to hear it from someone else, someone in her position.

A few weeks ago, they had their spring show. It was so precious…Miss Elena was struck with a little bout of stage fright…My heart went out to her but it was also a bonding moment for she & I. When she came out on stage, you could see the fear rising in her. She was scanning the audience & I purposely went to the side aisle so she’d see me. When we made eye contact, the relief washed over her & she tried to be brave & perform but when another little girl started crying, Elena was hard pressed to keep it together. She would search of me with her eyes & I would give her the thumbs up & she’d suck in her trembling lip. In the end, it was a precious show & I couldn’t be more proud of her.

I am also so very glad to have found such a great preschool for all that she’s learning. I can only imagine how much more she’ll learn when she’s going 4 mornings a week this fall. They are teaching her things, basic preschool stuff, but stuff that never occurred to me to teach her…she is so proud to be able to identify the letter E & knows that is the 1st letter in her name…she can identify her name when she sees it written…she also knows her colours, letters & numbers…I’m amazed at how much she knows now.

Swimming: And while I’m elaborating, I have to mention Elena’s swimming. The kid is a fish! Back in January she started her 1st lessons independent of me or my Mom…she did so well…but she was also bored. She was a bit more advanced than the rest of kids. The lifeguard would tell them they were going to do a back float, and then help one child at a time, well Elena would be doing it by herself while waiting for her turn. So for the spring session I splurged & got her private lessons. Half hour weekly one on one sessions has been great for Elena! She is swimming on her back unassisted & on the verge of actual front swimming on her own!

Imagination: Elena’s imagination is exploding. She has started pretend play & it’s fascinating to watch & participate with her. The other night she wanted to go to the mall (yes, she loves the mall!) but there was no way we’d go after dinner…so instead, I pretended we were at the mall. The look of awe & intrigue was priceless! We had such a great evening!

The Theatre: After taking Elena to see Toopy & Binoo last year I had this brilliant vision of Elena & I going to theatre productions for years to come…so I may have gotten a little overzealous…we have now gone to see Dora Live, The Wiggles, The Backyardigans, Mickey’s Rockin’ Roadshow & she & my Mom went to Disney on Ice Heroes & Princesses. We also have tickets to an upcoming show of The Imagination Movers. We may have a few years before we hit Broadway in NYC…but Elena is enjoying these shows. She’s not one of those kids that dances & cheers…she is much more reserved & wholly captivated by the shows.

Sleep: Now onto more mundane update details…We have a really great sleep routine going…it’s not flawless but it works. We’re still co-sleeping & I have no regrets there. We recently had a house guest that necessitated I sleep in the living room so my mom could sleep in my bed so the guest could sleep in my Mom’s bed…& though it was nice at first to have a bed to myself & get some uninterrupted sleep, I really did miss her & now that we’re back to our own beds, we’re sleeping better than ever. I start trying to hustle her into bed about 6pm, basically because she has become the queen of the stall tactics! I can’t blame her, we get so little time together from when I get home to bedtime & she doesn’t want it to end. After teeth brushing & book reading, she’s usually asleep by 7pm & will sleep until 7am most mornings…she does stir in the night & sometimes wakes as I’m getting up for work about 4:30…when she does wake in the night, sometimes it’s from nightmares. I wouldn’t call them terrors as they don’t sound as bad as I’ve read about but it breaks my heart to hear her screams & calling out for me & makes me so glad she’s right there beside me so I can comfort & calm her instantly. I had nightmares most of my childhood (I was a sleep walker too) & I know how frightening it is to wake up alone & scared in the dark. Funny story, I did have a nightmare myself not too long ago & was calling out & woke up to Elena saying, “Momma?” questioningly…I’d obviously been calling out for real & woke her up!

Feeding: Well, Elena eats pretty well…she’s not a very adventurous eater & doesn’t have a taste for vegetables but loves most fruits. At any given meal, if you ask what she’d like to have, the response will inevitably be, “Pizza!!” The funniest is when she requests, “Man Pizza!!” by which she means pizza delivered lol!

Favourite Colour: OMG, I cannot possibly explain to you the irony that Elena’s favourite colour is PINK!! What’s hilarious is that when I ask her why, she tells me because pink MATCHES her!! What a kid!

Haircut: Elena had her 1st haircut in April…I took her to the salon I go to & my stylist pampered her & she loved it! It was such a special day & one of those moments I dreamed about when imagining having my daughter.

Speech: The elephant in the room…it really deserves a post of its own…Elena has an expressive language speech delay…the temptation is there to say, “only a speech delay” but I think that minimizes the challenges we’ve had surrounding the delay but what I mean is that she’s been assessed & has no other delays other than speech. The number of words, spoken, understandable words Elena has in her vocabulary is probably 20-30…if you include the signs she knows, this would bring us up to 40-50…she still has her Elenaglish but we have gotten better at communicating. We got an app that teaches us basic signs & this helps immensely…except that she’ll go on it when she gets iPad time & teach herself signs then use them on me & I have no idea what she’s trying to say!! I feel so much guilt for not understanding her, she tries so hard. I tell her constantly, “It’s Mommy that doesn’t understand & I am sorry…but you keep trying” I am anxiously awaiting a call from our provincial services to get help…we were in that program last fall & it was amazing & then we were put on the waiting list…& have been waiting…3 weeks ago I got the call that we were finally at the top of the waiting list…but we’re still waiting for services to begin…very frustrating.
 
There you have it...if you've made it this far, thank you!!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Kite Festival

In an attempt to get back into regular blogging, I am going to try to post at least once a week about what Elena & I are getting up to on the weekends...because we're having some great adventures!
 
This weekend we went to our very first Kite Festival...I know nothing about flying a kite so thankfully my friend & her husband came along & he was more than willing to help Elena.
 
She had an absolute blast! She had as much fun getting the kite up in the sky as she did just running around the park with it flapping behind her.
 
 
 
Afterward, we went back to my friends' home & had a BBQ...& a big treat for my pizza-loving girl, friend's hubby & Elena made BBQ pizza! He let her help at every step...it was sweet seeing them work together in the kitchen!
 
I live for my weekends with Elena! We have such a great time!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Radio Silence


It’s been hard to find my blog voice again. I’ve been struggling with grief…I had said in my last post that it wasn’t excessive & I still don’t think it is…but I’m starting to think maybe even normal, healthy grief would benefit from counseling. Maybe it’s that I already have a propensity for depression…I know I suffered PTSD after the dreadful experience with the hospital & getting basic care for my aunt the last week before she died. That time in the hospital just prior to her admittance into hospice, it was a nightmare.

All this emotion has seemed to put up a barrier between my blog & myself…I don’t seem to know how to write anymore…because it’s such a personal topic that it makes it hard for me to organize my thoughts on it all…also because I resolved a long time ago to have this blog only be about being a SMC. I really want to just write about the great things Elena is doing…I want to share what an amazing little girl Elena is becoming…but it feels fake to share all that without you knowing my mental state, to have that context…& that made me realize this struggle with grief is related to being a single parent. It is affecting me as a parent as much as it’s affecting me as person, which of course means all of this is affecting Elena.

It’s all so overwhelming…I know Elena is very keen to my state of mind. She is such an affectionate, cuddly little girl. She seems to have such a deep sense of empathy & compassion. Even the Director at her preschool has mentioned that she is deeply empathetic. When I am home, she wants to be touching me, holding my hand, hugging me, sitting on my lap…it amazes me that at such a young age, she seems to sense that I need a little taking care of…& that makes me profoundly sad. She shouldn’t have to feel this way so young. It makes me wonder if it’s about comforting herself as well. We have talked about how Gramma Lee is gone in very age appropriate ways… maybe awakening a realization that any of us could be gone, making her fear losing me?

Another layer to all this is that I have pretty much the entire contents of my aunt’s house now in my house…you can hardly move in some rooms as it is piled with furniture & boxes. Her house sold so quickly & I just haven’t come to a place yet to let go of most of it. I am also overwhelmed by her friends’ constant requests for items & mementos of her. A lot of what they ask for are items that don’t have sentimental value to me personally…but they are things that were important to my aunt’s & it hurts every time I have to let go of something…but they are grieving too…they miss their friend & are grasping onto ways to be close to her. I have to remember to be sensitive to that & not react so selfishly.

I have this overwhelming feeling of not being able to keep up…I’m on a constant uphill run & never get a chance to even just catch my breath. All day at work I have to act & behave normally, stay focused & get my work completed. When I get home I have to be on for Elena. She deserves 100% of me in those couple of hours before bedtime. It’s the one area I feel like I’m actually succeeding in, being a good parent to her. By the time she’s asleep, I’m mentally & emotionally spent. I just don’t have the mental energy to return email, peruse Facebook, write blog posts. On the best of nights, I get the laundry folded, the dishwasher loaded & maybe some toys picked up…anything beyond that makes me want to cry.

I just have to keep going tho, don’t I? The path will level out sometime, won’t it?

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Weight


The Weight by The Band was my Aunt’s all time favourite song. It held significant meaning for her. The night that she broke down, she listened to this song over & over again & by morning she admitted she needed help & was admitted to the nut house, as she called it. I have always felt this was extremely brave of her. To admit she needed help, to reach out.

I have been grieving her loss deeply. It feels like a healthy grief, not excessive…it’s not a dark ugly grief. I know that kind of grief; I experienced that when my Dad died. I’m talking about it…I’m reaching out…I’m processing. It’s a long road for sure. As my friend wisely pointed out, you don’t lose someone all at once, you lose them in pieces over time. I know from experience that the hurt lessens. Right now it’s right there, just under the surface. The hard part is I also know from experience that I won’t ever miss her less.

The time spent caring for my Aunt, & the time since her death, has been the single greatest external parenting challenge I’ve had to face so far…at first balancing my time between my Aunt’s needs & Elena’s & now balancing my need to be alone with Elena’s need for me to be present with her. It has also been a challenge navigating how to explain this all to a 3 year old.

Of course I have spent a lot of time evaluating & reevaluating my life. Through this all, I have gained a strength I didn’t have before. I have found confidence through having faced this hard time & come out the other side…scarred yes, but also tougher, stronger. I have learned valuable lessons about priorities & limits.

I have learned when to carry the load, how heavy a load I can bear…& when I need to take a load off…