Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 In Review


The days are flying away from me. I have had every intension to post about Christmas & now here we are December 31. I didn’t want to miss my tradition of this post, my fifth one!

I would characterize 2014 as a year of loss & growth. It feels surreal to be here, at New Year’s Eve again. As time passed this year, it didn’t feel as though it was passing quickly. At many moments it felt like it was passing incredibly, unbearably slowly. This was the type of year that would have broken a past version of me. There were many moments I thought I might crumble, that I wanted to crawl under the covers & never come out. That wasn’t an option though; I wouldn’t do that to Elena. Somehow I found the strength & resolve to pick myself up, dust myself off, put one foot in front of another, on auto pilot a lot of the time. Being here now, coming out the other side of it all, the crushing grief has been replaced with satisfaction & self assurance. My first thought in difficult situations will no longer be, “I’ll never get through this” but instead, “I will get through this…somehow”. I have grown into the woman I had hoped I could be.

I wasn’t the only one growing this year. Elena has come very far herself, having started the year with a vocabulary of less than 30 words to now speaking in full sentences & having a countless vocabulary. Gaining this ability has allowed Elena to let her personality shine through. Just today, while shopping, I was looking at discounted wrapping paper & Elena said, “We don’t need wrapping paper. Christmas is over!” A simple, logical response but for me, it was hearing the words & knowing what she was thinking because she TOLD me that was so meaningful! A phrase I am constantly saying these days is, “Did you hear what she just said?!!?” I never tire of hearing what she has to say, her endless questions about dinosaurs & why the sun rises everyday & how the birds fly & most of all to hear her say, “I love you, Mommy”. It’s…magical to me. I can’t think of a better word to describe it!

Lately I’ve just found myself marveling about how, after such a hard year full grief, I can come out the other side loving life so deeply & fully. I love my life, even the hard bits. I’d rather have the hard parts amidst joys than the alternative my life could have been.  If 2014 can come off seeming not half bad, I have high hopes for 2015.

 

Happy New Year, Everyone!!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Stuff It!

Well, it had to happen sometime...I think we did pretty well making it 3 years & nine months before a visit to Urgent Care...& leave it to my kid to make it for a ridiculous reason! 

I got home from work the other day & my mom let me know Elena was complaining her nose hurt & it was bleeding just a bit. I was thinking she was stuffy from a cold & the blood may be from dryness...but Elena tells me there's something in there. I'm still thinking boogers or something until she says, "No Mommy, a flower!" Wait, what?!?

She explains that it is a flower from a hair elastic. I'm not exactly sure what she means but I'm thinking it's a flower bead. After trying to get Elena to snort it out to no avail, I called the doctor on call but she advised we'd have to go to urgent care. So off we went!

After two hours of waiting (which isn't bad, I guess. They said it was a slow night. I'd hate to see a busy night!) we finally saw the doctor & he attempted to pull it out with tweezers. Elena jumped though & he lost grip & then Elena wouldn't let him try again. 

At this point he advised we could transfer to the hospital & they would be able to sedate Elena so they could get it out. Wait, what?!? Sedate her just to get a bead out of her nose? I felt the risks far outweighed the necessity of that! He said the only other option would be to restrain her & pull it out but that would be very scary for her. 

It made my heart hurt to see Elena so genuinely scared & begging me not to let them do anything to her...but I also knew this would only cause minimal discomfort, not hurt her. I'm not sure how they sedate a kids but I'm guessing it involves needles. So I told Elena I knew she was scared, so so scared, but she'd have to be brave so we could get the flower out of her nose. 

The doctor called over two other nurses & they did what they called a bunny wrap which basically was them wrapping Elena up like a burrito in a blanket. I was able to hold Elena's hand & one nurse immobilized her head & the other restrained her body. Elena was fighting quite hard at this point. Then one nurse asked if she wanted a Popsicle after it was done, Elena relaxed immediately & the doctor pull the flower right out. It turned out to be a foam flower petal from a hair elastic we'd got in the Dominican last year.  Elena was given her Popsicle & no worse the wear except for a bloody nose. 

The doctor then says, "I sure am glad we didn't transfer you to hospital for that." Ya think?!!?!

On the way home I told Elena I hoped she wouldn't ever put anything in her nose again. She said she wouldn't...but then said, just her finger! What a kid!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Another Goodbye


My mother’s sister passed away in November just shy of her 60th birthday. I wasn’t nearly as close with her as I was with my Aunt Lee. She was born in January 1955 when my Grandmother was 36, five years after her previous child. There’s no way to know this for sure but I suspect the pregnancy wasn’t planned. She was born in an era where she was labeled “slow” or worse “retarded”. She was developmentally delayed. I wonder if she had been evaluated by today’s standards, if she would have fallen on the autism spectrum. Regardless, she grew up with many challenges.

Karen was the youngest of 6 children. She grew up being spoiled & having family do things for her & speak for her. In spite of this, she became determined to do things on her own. She was eventually able to attend a vocational school & learn skills that enabled her to secure a job in a factory. This also enabled her to move out on her own & live independently in her own apartment.

I don’t have many memories of her when I was young. She was 19 when I was born & not long after getting out on her own, she became involved with a man. Not a good man, an abusive man. She became estranged from our family during this time. As happens in abusive relationships, he isolated her. I can only imagine what life was like for her during that time.

Another Aunt, her sister, was married in 1982 (I think). I was a flower girl in that wedding. Karen attended & I remember going to her apartment. I didn’t know it at the time but her boyfriend was in jail then. I remember her being very proud of me & I remember her telling me about her boyfriend, who painted, & saying she wanted him to meet me. Another memory was a few years later, we “kidnapped” Karen so she could visit with my Grandma & Great-Grandma who were visiting. I wonder how she managed after going home to this man that day, if she’d told him where she’d been, if he’d found out on her own…

Her boyfriend died a few years later & she became a more constant presence. My dad would pick her up in Toronto & she would come stay weekends with us. I remember her being fun, always up to play games or put puzzles together. She loved her soap operas & it was with her I first watched Dallas & she filled me in on all the details.

In 1994, she was introduced to a man & they fell in love. You can imagine, with her past, my family was skeptical. But he was (is) a good man. Yes, he has issues of his own, schizophrenia, but he is kind & loving & the knight in shining she deserved! They were married. I got to be her Maid of Honour! They celebrated their 20th anniversary a few weeks before she died.

With all the challenges Karen faced in her life, she certainly was determined & proud. I admire her not passively letting life pass by. All she ever wanted was to be “normal” & she certainly succeeded in getting everything she ever wanted…except one thing. She had always desperately wanted to be a mother. She loved children so much & was so good with all of us nieces & nephews. To the day she died, it was her biggest regret. I remember having a conversation with her while I was pregnant & me saying she’d done so well in her life & she’d done one better than me, at least she’d gotten married & her reply, “Yeah, but I didn’t get to be a mother.”

In late 2012 she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with a tumour on her brain & mets in her liver & lungs. The doctors weren’t optimistic. She had radiation on the brain tumour in November that year & endured round after round of chemo for the next 2 years. There was no other option in her mind. She believed it would cure her. She didn’t understand or accept that she was palliative. I wonder if that contributed to her surviving for so long, that won’t quit attitude. Almost exactly 2 years later the doctors broke the news that they just couldn’t continue giving her chemo. To her that translated to them giving up on her, she just didn’t understand.

She remained at home for as long as she could but due to a fall she ended up in hospital & then transferred to hospice. Her life ended much like it began, with people doing everything for her.

Even though we weren’t close, I am feeling this loss heavily. It brought up dormant feelings of what I went through this past winter. Also her death has continued a disturbing emerging family tradition of passing just prior to a milestone birthday. My Uncle, my Dad & now Karen all passed within months prior to their 60th birthday. My Auntie Margaret & Aunt Lee both passed just prior to their 70th birthday. It’s been a tough year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?!!?

Now that I've caught you all up on Elena & her speech development, I want to start sharing some of our funny interactions. I mentioned that I understand her most of the time, but there is still a learning curve...
 
A month or so ago, Elena started saying the same phrase very often. It sounded like, "E-ma A-ba, E-ma A-ba" & she should almost sing it. I would ask what she means or if she could show me...she would smile but couldn't make me understand.
 
On one of the rare occasions I was home to take Elena to preschool, she started her sing song "E-ma A-ba, E-ma A-ba" & I asked pleadingly, "What does this mean?" & she replied, "S-koo" "School?" I asked...she replied, "Ya, own-ee Fi-day, no Two-day"
 
That's when it all became clear to me!!! You see, Elena's preschool is run out of a Jewish synagogue! The have Shabbat Party every Friday!! She was singing, "Ima" & "Abba"!!! When I told this story to her teacher, she explained that there is a Shabbat song they sing every time. What made us laugh is that Elena reminded us Shabbat Party is only Fridays, not Tuesdays!
 
This is Elena's 1st time getting to play Ima.
She was so very proud!!!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Say Anything


This post is a long time coming & far too long overdue…Elena’s speech. For those of you who have parented a toddler, remember when they were a year or so old & started saying words & then sentences…remember how exciting that was? In a nut shell, that is where Elena & I are now. A difference being that since Elena is so much older; her thoughts are that much more complex. It’s unbelievable what she comes up with. She has been a sponge these last 2+ years, taking everything in & now that she’s becoming able to express herself, it’s amazing to know what is going on in her head! It is so exciting to be able to understand (most of the time) what Elena is trying to say & she is really coming out of her shell as she gains confidence in her ability to communicate.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we were enrolled in a program through our provincial Early Words initiative that ran from last September (2013) thru December. Elena was thoroughly evaluated & identified as having an expressive language speech delay. The purpose of the program was really more about teaching me, as her parent, how to better facilitate her being able to develop her speech. I learned a great deal about speech development. I know I didn’t cause her speech delay but I realized how, in many ways, I made it so much harder for Elena.

In the program I learned many techniques. I learned that I needed to let Elena lead the conversation or play by Observing, Waiting & Listening. I realized how important it was for me to get down on her level & play face to face. I learned that I needed to identify objects in a way that made it easier for her to imitate. Me saying, “That’s a ball” was too much. She needed to hear, “Ball” so she could imitate that more successfully; then later adding descriptions, “Blue ball”. It was important for me to change how I spoke to her to. I knew she could indicate yes or no so I would phrase all my questions so she could answer this way. This did nothing to help her speech development. I had to make the conscious effort to ask open ended questions & also offer her choice so she’d have to articulate an answer. Every situation became an opportunity to encourage her speech development.

Because Elena had, on her own, developed her own signs & gestures to express what she was trying to say, I was encouraged to teach her signs. I will admit that when the pathologist made this suggestion, in my head I was extremely frustrated. I was looking for Elena to learn to speak & felt that teaching her signs would be a step backwards. Why would she try to speak if she could just sign? But I know I’m not the expert so I taught Elena the first 3 signs the pathologist advised, Milk, Juice & Water. Well lo & behold, didn’t Elena attempt to speak the words as she signed! I was hooked! We download the My Smart Hands app & were on our way. I’ve already mentioned how she would play with the app on her own & teach herself signs!

I was thoroughly amazed at the progress Elena made but I thought that we’d go through this program & Elena would be “cured” & we’d be on our merry way. That’s obviously not how this works…once the program ended, we had to be placed on the waiting list for further services. I was told we here near the top. We saw the speech pathologist, Ms. D, who ran the program, a few times after but her caseload was full & she couldn’t take on Elena for the amount of service Elena really needed. I am grateful, however, that Ms. D advocated for Elena to get the services she did need.

You see, I learned that you really have to be the squeaky wheel…but I really don’t like to be squeaky. I get really anxious when I have to “nag” people about things. I hate having to make repeated phone calls saying, “You said you’d do such & such…how’s that coming?” But Elena needed me to…I could see what a struggle it was for her to have so many big ideas in her head & have them blocked by her inability to express them. You could see the wheels turning as she tried to make you understand what she was thinking…then the look of utter defeat when she realized you just didn’t get it. What we had learned in that first program had taken us this far…but she needed more.

So I sucked it up…I got over myself & made those nagging phone calls. Every two weeks I would call Ms. D asking if there was any news on getting Elena services. She in turn would contact the powers that be & remind them that my little girl needed help. We’d be told that Elena was at the top of the list & I would receive a call back within a week. Then 2 weeks would go by without any word. I knew Elena was at a critical juncture. She was trying so hard but the frustration was building. I was very afraid she would just give up. So I kept calling…

We just kept getting the run around. Ms. D would call the program, they would tell her Elena was at the top of their list & they would call me, I’d hear nothing & call Ms. D…I cannot tell you enough how grateful I am to Ms. D because she got tired of the loop before me & went pleading to the other pathologists in her own department. Thankfully Ms. K had an opening. She could take us on for 1 hour a week & even had a 4pm time slot so I would be able to attend.

We started with Ms. K in July. Her program takes what we previously learned a step further. She breaks down the common sounds in speech & starts there. She combined those sounds with gesture cues. I knew this would be successful based on Elena’s previous progress with her own gestures & the signs we learned. Now that Elena has practiced & learned these basic sounds, she is able to combine them into words & those words into sentences. She has gone from a vocabulary of maybe 20-30 words in July to well over 200 now as well as 4+ word sentences.

Elena & I have our homework every night. Ms. K gives us flash cards with words & pictures & I use the gesture cues for Elena to say the word. Every week our stack of cards grows larger. We also combine the cards to make small sentences. Ms. K is as amazed as I am with Elena’s progress. Often now I don’t even have to cue Elena, she sees the card & knows the word. Ms. K explained that this is early literacy. Not only is Elena learning to say words & sounds, this is also a first step to her learning how to read.

I was also amazed & surprised to learn that Elena knows how to count! She just didn’t have the words for the numbers. She can now clearly say numbers one to ten, with just a little trouble with six & seven but those are more complex sounds.

It is remarkable to see Elena blossom in this way, to really get to see her personality shining through. I’m also so very grateful that we got this help before she enters public school. If we’d waited until then, who knows how defeated & frustrated she’d have felt by then. I am so thrilled to be witness to this wonderful little girl come into her own!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Do This!

http://www.stirrup-queens.com/2014/10/the-2014-creme-de-la-creme-list-is-now-open-for-submissions/


It's that time a year again...please take the time to review your archives, pick your best post & submit it to the Crème!
 
 
Thank you so much to Mel for doing this for the 9th straight year!!


Friday, October 10, 2014

1st Anniversary of my 39th Birthday

When I was turning 30, I did not want to acknowledge it...for a few years, I didn't say I was celebrating a birthday, instead I'd say I was marking the X anniversary of my 29th birthday. I didn't like who I was when I was 30 & I didn't like where I was in life. I had nothing I thought I'd have by that point in my life. I felt I had no purpose or direction. 

Now, today, I turned 40. I am glad to be forty....wait, what did I just say? Yup, you heard me correctly. I am glad. I feel like it's a huge accomplishment & I am proud to have made it here. There was a point in my life that I truly didn't think I'd see 40. And now here I am & I could not ask for anything better. I have a job that I enjoy, family & friends whom are priceless...& I have Elena. 

Today was an awesome day! I got to wake up to the smiles & giggles of my amazing daughter. After seeing her off to preschool, I got to go back to bed! And sleep for another THREE hours!! Talk about luxury!

Elena surprised me when she got home from school (with my mom's help, of course) with a bunch of balloons! And the most perfect card!

We then headed off to the Rockton World's Fair! Let me tell you, there is no better way to feel young when turning 40 than to ride a bunch of amusement rides with a 3 year old! It felt so amazing to laugh and scream with my little girl!

We then met up with some friends to watch the Demolition Derby...Elena had her first Funnel Cake & we got to ride some more rides (at night, in the dark! Elena was in awe!) before heading home. My exhausted girl was asleep before we left the parking lot & didn't even wake up when I carried her inside, put her into her pajamas & slid her into bed.

Today was the most perfect way to turn 40!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm Late!!


Since I am neither TTC nor engaging in sexual activity of any kind for that matter, this is only significant to mention because my cycles have been wonky for a while & I want to talk about it.

Before TTC in 2010, my cycles were very regular, like clockwork, 28 days bang on. Upon getting my BFP in June 2010, I didn’t have another period until January 2012. They started out pretty normal until last year. They started getting shorter, averaging 24-25 days. They were light & only mildly crampy with barely there PMS symptoms.

This was during a time I was trying to reconcile myself to being one & done. It was a factor in helping me get to acceptance as I thought my body was telling me that it wouldn’t have happened anyway. It felt like easy logic.

I started getting vicious PMS…I’m talking major hormonal meltdowns. I felt out of control emotionally, like a raging lunatic. It reminded me of when I was pregnant & when I weaned Elena. It felt more than PMS too. It wasn’t just in the days leading up to my period either. It seemed to rear up around ovulation. I couldn’t trust myself. I convinced myself I was heading into perimenopause.

Then my cycles started inching back to 28 days and for the first time since before getting pregnant, I started getting tender breast, tender being an understatement. I mean, my girls! Ouch! It all felt like my body was primed for conception.

For months now time feels like it is on fast forward. Time feels marked by my cycles. One just seems to end when another starts. Even though I’m not TTC, I feel this pressure like I should be. That each month that passes is a waste of a last chance. A monthly reminder of what could have been. It’s frustrating because I’m truly content now with it being Elena & I. I do feel our family is complete.

I am now 3 weeks away from the first anniversary of my 39th birthday…oh fine, make me say it! My 40th birthday! I am, for all intents & purposes, comfortable in turning 40. Turning 30 was extremely hard because I was nowhere near where I thought I would have or should have been. Now, I have everything I’d hoped for…well except for romantic love but there’s still time for that….Any-hoooo, basically it feels like I’m living the dream…my dream, & then every month I get zapped, testing my resolve. I blame the hormones.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Apart at the Seams - Book Tour


This post is in participation with the Book Tour Lori is hosting for Melissa Ford’s new book, Apart at the Seams.

http://www.amazon.com/Apart-at-Seams-Melissa-Ford/dp/1611945038/


I greatly anticipated this book by MelissaFord; third in a series that includes Life from Scratch & Measure of Love. Apart at the Seams can be read on its own but if you enjoy it (& I know you would!) then do give Life from Scratch & Measure of Love a read too!

The main character in Life from Scratch & Measure of Love is Rachel. Apart at the Seams is written from the perspective of Arianna, Rachel’s best friend. Apart at the Seams follows the events from Measure of Love but from Arianna’s perspective. For me, it was a brilliant way to remind us all to try to see life from the other side of the coin.

What I love about Melissa’s writing is that she immerses me in the story. I become emotionally attached to her characters & find myself thinking of them long after I’ve finished the book, wondering how they’re doing as though they’re old friends & not works of fiction.

~~~~~

Three questions from the tour group & my answers:

1) Marriage is one of the main themes in the story. Do you think it is possible for a couple to share a long-term domestic relationship without actually being officially married? Why is our society so keen on the expectation of marriage in a romantic relationship despite the high divorce rates?

It is absolutely possible to share a long term domestic relationship without being officially married. Just because a couple doesn’t stand in front of their friends & family & say vows & make marriage promises doesn’t make their commitment to each other less valid. A marriage in and of itself is a private matter between the couple, why do they need to make such a public declaration to make it valid in the eyes of society?

2) Arianna tells Rachel, "I think there are people we should be with at different stages in our life, and maybe those stages stretch on for fifty years or maybe they're over in a few months" as a reason for not considering marriage. Do you think not knowing the span a relationship may last is reason enough to not commit completely?

I feel we would do ourselves a grave disservice if we didn’t allow ourselves to commit completely to a relationship, whether romantic or otherwise, just because we don’t know the span the relationship will have. I can only imagine how shallow our interactions would be if we all applied this theory to our relationships. Knowing a relationship could have a short span feels like more of a reason for me to really put my whole self into it & get the very most out of it knowing our time would be fleeting as opposed to knowing a relationship will span fifty years & I know I have ample time to cultivate the relationship.

3) It feels as though Arianna would become irritated with Ethan for not doing things she needed him to do yet she often wouldn't verbalize clearly what it was she wanted or needed. Why do you think asking for exactly what you need makes you feel so vulnerable?

For me, admitting I “need” at all makes me feel like I’m failing, like I should be able to do it all & by admitting I can’t means I’m failing at it all. Feeling like I’m failing is a pretty vulnerable feeling. Which, logically, I find ridiculous because I would never think that of anyone who expressed a need to me or asked for my help. The last thing I would think of them is that they’re failing.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at LavenderLuz.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hot Fun in the Summertime


Okay, maybe not “hot” fun…this summer has been oddly cool but that has made our weekend adventures more comfortable than the usual 40 degree humidity (that’s 104 Fahrenheit).

We went to FaeryFest again & of course Elena insisted on having her face painted again. The artists were more pro this time & Elena’s turned out beautifully:


 
I really like this festival. It has a very authentic medieval feel. The majority of people who attend dress up & really get into character. They have many vendor booths, especially since moving to a new, larger location, & some amazing artists sell their wares there.

My favourite part about this festival though is the authentic jousting. These aren’t actors, they use real lances & suits of armour, and it’s amazing.

 

video
 

After the joust they announced that you could pay $5 for a ride on the horses. Elena right away says she wants a turn…I was skeptical that she would go through with it but lined up none the less quite sure she’d chicken out at the last minute. Not my brave girl!!

 

We had an amazing time…though by the end of the day, Elena looked more like she’d attended an Alice Cooper concert:

 

This year Elena has shown an interest in trains so we decided to go to Day out with Thomas. I had been twice before with my nephews so knew Elena was at a perfect age to enjoy it & she sure did!



 

All day long, what Elena asked for most was a Thomas balloon…not just a regular balloon but a large, train shaped one!! I thought they would cost $30 but they were only $15 so I promised Elena we would buy one when we were leaving. Throughout the day we would see these balloons fly away followed by cries from a child. Finally, when we were on our way out, I bought one for Elena & warned her to be very careful. We went to the car & I was loading everything into the trunk. All of a sudden I heard a blood curdling scream that made my heart stop. I thought Elena had been hurt but in the instant I looked up I saw it…her balloon flying away!!! She was heartbroken & I felt awful! I knew I should have put the balloon directly into the car. I’d planned to yet got distracted…I felt so guilty. I’d promised her this balloon all day & she’d been so well behaved & had really earned it!! So I ran back in & bought her a second balloon…I guess getting her a balloon cost me $30 after all!!

Another exciting summer event…I took Elena to the movie theatre for the first time!!


 

We went to see Planes 2: Fire & Rescue & she had a great time! There were a few scary parts but she just covered her eyes…she got a little bored mid way through but hung in there & can’t wait for the next time!!

Elena & I went to visit our close friends. The boys (10 & 8 years old) adore Elena & the feeling is mutual!! They had baseball tournaments & we went to cheer them on. Well the weekend started off with a bang, literally! As we were leaving the baseball park Friday night Elena was running ahead, she was very excited as were we heading back to my friend’s house to go swimming. She turned to look back at us & ran right into a TREE!!! The impact was so hard; she bounced right off & landed on her bum!! Oh that cry!! I thought it was bad when she lost the balloon!!! This was much worse!!

Thankfully she wasn’t badly injured & we knew she was okay when she asked between sobs if she could still go swimming!!

Just minutes afterwards

That night

The next morning

The day after
 

One of our best days this summer was at the Cactus Festival…I’m not sure why it’s called the Cactus Festival; I didn’t see any cacti but we sure had fun!


 

We went to a water park for my company picnic this year & Elena got to try Mini Putting for the first time! We made it a good 7 holes & that was enough! Lol! I couldn’t convince her to use the club correctly. I mean, she’s played hockey, sort of…we’ll try again next year!


 

It was an amazing summer! I can hardly believe it’s already September! Everything feels like it’s in fast forward!

And now today is Elena’s Half-Birthday! I wanted to get her something special & fun but wracking my brain, I couldn’t think of anything…until…

Let me tell you something about my girl. She LOVES to go to the mall! She is the ultimate window shopper & it’s a great way to spend a rainy, cool day. She makes me so proud that we can go into any store, including The Disney Store, & not have her asking for a single thing & when I say it’s time to go she does so with a wave good bye! What is hilarious is, when I agree to go, she insists on dressing up!

 

We have 2 fancy dresses that were handed down to us & Elena loves to dress up in them. She calls them her twirly dresses. When I was off on Tuesday, I was in the next town over from mine for some errands & had a brainwave!! This town is a bit higher class & has an amazing second hand children’s clothing store…I went in & hit pay dirt! I found these 2 gorgeous twirly dresses for just $6.50 each!


 

But the biggest score was this beautiful princess dress…including Tiara for just $20!!

 

Elena was overjoyed!!! She couldn’t have been happier with her half birthday present!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

1st Day of School

 
I took yesterday off work so I could take Elena to her 1st day of school, a tradition I want to continue for as long as she'll allow me. She's still in preschool but will be going 4 mornings a week this year to help get her better prepared for kindergarten next September.
 
I can't wait to see what this school year brings! Elena is blossoming into such an entertaining little girl & with her language explosion (must post about this!) it is amazing to see her personality emerge. She is such a clever, witty child!
 
 
Outside our house with her backpack.
Doesn't she look like she could be
going to kindergarten!!

Thumbs up outside her school.

At her new cubby, smiling at her new teacher.


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!!