Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chris is getting a lumpectomy tomorrow! Please send all the healing vibes you can. Consider her fabulous fundraiser. Thank you

We are all touched by cancer one way or another.  I wrote about the Hartfords here and asked for your help and support as they negotiate this difficult journey together, as we lift them up and send love and blessings to them. And soft, warm, restorative... cash. Which they need to help them through  and to provide the concrete things that we all need in our daily lives, plus help with medical bills and such-like.

Chris Hartford thanks us for our gifts and gives an update on her progress.

(Visit her fabulous fundraiser here!)

Hello Everyone!
I realize it has been awhile since I’ve updated everyone on my process, and wanted to reach out to share where I’m at these days.

After my experience at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, I set out to find someone who could be of better assistance to me in regards to overseeing my whole care.  After some research, I found a body of practitioners called naturopathic oncologists.  I wish I would have know about this field 2 months ago!  There are only 9 in Washington, and they train alongside medical and radiation oncologists to serve the population of folks who want to integrate individual holistic care with conventional cancer care. A Dr. named Leanna Standish was referred to me by a friend who is cancer free from Stage III colon cancer.  I met with her last week and I breathed a sigh of relief, feeling a great weight off my shoulders from managing this on my own.  She is very experienced, skilled and gracious.  She immediately sat down and said, “Well, it looks like you’ve had a little brush with breast cancer!”  We talked at length about all of my options and agreed to take it one step at a time, do surgery, get reports back and talk again,  She was very reassuring about my health, good prognosis, and has little concern there would be any surprises with my cancer. I left her office with a prescription for walking and journaling everyday. That’s much harder than I thought!

So, from a timeline point of view, here’s what it looks like. Surgery on the 15th to do a lumpectomy. I’ll be doing it here in Bellingham with a skilled surgeon I trust. He’ll remove the lump with 1cm margins and what’s called my sentinel lymph node and test it to see if cancer has spread there.  They will know that result immediately. The surgery is at 8am, will last 2 hours and unless there is lymph node involvement, I will go home the same day. They will send test results out and I meet with the surgeon to interpret them a week later. That’s when we come up with an initial follow up treatment plan, that may include a 7 week course of radiation.  I think my recovery time should be quick, but I’m not to lift for 1 week. We’ll see how that goes in my house!

I wanted to thank everyone for your warm wishes, prayers, and generous donations to help with costs. I can’t share enough how much your contributions are helping our family. This diagnoses came at an unfortunate financial time and we have been month to month with expenses and rising medical bills. While it can be an awkward and uncomfortable position to be in, asking for help, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know the extent that my friends, family and people I’ve never met are rising up to encourage and support our family.  Please accept my deep appreciation.  We will update everyone post surgery and hope to send good news your way.

Blessing on your Holiday Season,
Chris Hartford and Family

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November: white

Most of these were taken around Lake Michigan, Chicago side. Yesterday during gale force winds, the water was wild and white capped and the sky was gray and cloudy (upper right), today, the water and the  sky were blue, the wind was calm, but there were still white caps (center). Photo credits go to Tireegal and her lovely spouse Zagrepcanka.

Inspired by An Offering of Love's photo project 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pay it forward!

My friend, Melina is engaged in the fight of her life, for her friend Chris, her husband and their four daughters.
Please read her beautiful blog post and learn about mom Chris, their amazing daughter Madrona,
  and their need for our prayers, love, light and  financial support. Please share this with your family, friends, blog list, twitter peeps, facebook  friends, e-mail groups etc as you are able.
Chris and her four girls on a hike:)

This is a story of Hope with a capital H and you can be part of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The first birthday club!

Yes, it's true, Isobel is one! Even if I can't get the date stamp on Blogger to say October 17th, it is exactly 12.18am on October 17th, gosh darnit!

We celebrated her today by baptizing her at church ( where else, I suppose - except the big Lake M - but a little chilly for that I venture?) in very interesting but probably not literally holy water from Lake Michigan and some sacred place in Turkey whose name I have forgotten, in a font that came from England but is now ensconced ( or enfonted?) at the very front of our church sanctuary.

Isobel in her Halloween costume, as Blackie the Cat!
The only way to keep Isobel happy when she is out and about seems to be to put her down and let her make her way around by herself by her various modes of self propelled transportation - either the crawl or the one handed butt scoot. The scoot is very convenient for carrying objects around while moving forward. Recently she has scooted and crawled in a very busy and very loud Top Shop, Target, the Lobby of the Peninsula Hotel where a friend and I went for afternoon tea after the aforesaid Top Shop. No I didn't buy anything at Top Shop and I have to say it was very very loud and full of extremely trendy 12 year olds who were masquerading as shop assistants. They were actually very sweet but it was a bit much. When I was growing up in England, Top Shop was where you went for cheap, slutty clothes. I guess not much has changed except the prices. And the proclamation above certain clothes racks that this is "available in a size zero" which was never in evidence in my youth when I might have even fitted into a single digit size. But I digress.

Isobel has crawled in many places and cleaned the floor with many very cute pairs of cotton leggings, which are her parents preferred mode of dress for her, especially if they are on sale at Target.  She has also nursed in many places too,  which is just another exciting  list  that I am compiling, with the most fun and exotic location so far being the top of the John Hancock Tower.  But today Isobel crawled around in the sanctuary in her sweats and hoodie while we prepared for the service and rehearsed with the choir. Then when she had been changed into her pink corduroy pinafore dress ( jumper to you yankees) and white tights, she crawled around holding her new sensory nubby orange  ball for all to see. It bounces, it's tactilely interesting, it's a bright color. And it kept her occupied and unfettered until it was time to pick her up and hold her ( mostly squirm free) by said font where words were read, promises were made and water was splashed thrice upon her head. She didn't seem to mind the water a bit. She was  fascinated by it as well as the minister's beard, which though recently tamed and trimmed, was still quite substantial. She managed to hold it together until after she  was formally  introduced to the congregation - who also made promises.  At that point I put her back on the floor and she played with the microphone chord as the minister did his last  pronouncements. Phew. Sigh of relief. Now Isobel can go downstairs to the nursery and play with her tights off and her hair down ( figuratively of course - there were no fru fru bows  in sight).

So what is Isobel doing these days that is new and interesting, you ask? She is busy scooting, sorting clothes and putting them over and behind her head, playing peek a boo, trying to say my name and possibly Susan's. Her most recent interest is in toy strollers and the baby dolls that go in them. We actually bought her one for her birthday. She likes to put the doll into the seat head down and then pull the stroller over and wrestle with the whole contraption for quite some time. When we go for playtime at a local child development center she likes to play on the slide (trying to climb up it and smiling when I hold onto her and slide her down it), spend time in the library examining all the books - and often readin them upside down - I think we have a theme here. She loves circle time where the teachers take it in turns to roll the ball to each child singing a little song and saying each child's name, as well as rocking up and down, forward and back to the songs we sing. I think she has started to do the actions for Itsy Bitsy Spider a few times without any prompting. She can do bits of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. When she is with other kids she often wants to be with the big kids, or else by herself, carefully examining something, or engaging adults in flirting, conversation or peekaboo. She is quite partial to the toy work bench and tools at the play center too. At the park she loves the baby swings and giggles and smiles when she is being pushed.

Her new DVD favorite is Fifi and the Flowertots, which was given to us by one ofour Croatian friends.  It is actually a British Show and comes with Croatian or English dialogue. I found the US show online, but the version we have has a very quirky Jane Horrocks, of Mike Leigh films fame, playing Fifi with a lovely Yorkshire ( or is it Lancashire?) accent.

We are all very excited because Isobel's Grandma Margaret is visiting unexpectedly. We thought she wasn't going to be able to come until next spring,  but she is coming on Sunday for a week! We are really looking forward to showing her a good time -which mostly will involve hanging out and doing fun things with Isobel.

I am working ( with Susan doing all the clever stuff) on a post with pics from all twelve months of Isobel, but I-Photo did some nasty trick and ate our file and spat out lots of other pictures instead, so that will have to wait until we have more time and patience.

I am also working on Isobel's birth story post - only slightly delayed by the wonderful events of the last year. More anon. Thank you for watching and cheering us on. We love you all. Even those we don't know. xoxo

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September: Purple!

Clockwise from top left - Isobel McGorgeous wearing her purple headscarf and about to board the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry on the Isle of Tiree, Isobel in her purple outfit, the ubiquitous purple baby store, Isobel's auntie Chayley in an English country garden, a favorite rummage sale toy that plays Oh My Darling Clementine in short bursts as you punch its tummy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ten and eleven months

It's been way too long, and the longer it gets, the worse it feels. Posting, I am talking about, of course.
SO much has happened over the past two months and I had so much to talk about and now, where did it all go.
In my queue for posts at a later date - which I hope will come:
  • Scattering our parents ashes
  • Visiting our home town and taking part in a memorial service for my mum
  • Visiting our old house, which was sold three years ago, and peeking in through the front window to see what it looked like
  • Flying with Isobel plus, trains, ferries and automobiles, oh my!
  • Funny, weird and great things about being back in the UK, including beds AKA torture racks from HELL
  • Introducing Isobel to her 7 year old cousin, Murray. He and his mum christened her Isobel McGorgeous and doted on her the whole time.
  • Going back to work and leaving Isobel in the capable hands of her other mom.
And much much more...  ( I know, exciting isn't it?)

But back to the subject of the post: Isobel's last two months and the march ever forward to her first birthday!
There have been some huge strides forward. Mostly in engagement with the world, understanding of words and how things work, and crawling towards standing and maybe soon walking. Teething did not happen practically the whole month of August when we were in the UK. Which was good for everybody. But more teeth are in and on their way. She now has three visible top and bottom. And more coming in.
She surprised us all with her first non mama word - cat!
We were reading her a book about a black cat ( similar to ours ) called Slinky Malinky, and she pointed to the cat in the book and said, "cat", three times while pointing at the cat. That was followed by endless exclamations of the word  at all times of the day and night. Now she usually reserves it for when there is a cat in the vicinity. Next words were "toes" - as in, "where's Isobel's toes?" a game her cousin Murray and her auntie Chayley  we liked to play with her. Since then she has said "down" - as in "get down" and "go". This is all to her other mom's credit, because she talks to her a lot and is always looking for teaching moments. Me, I tend to be much more  of a quiet companion for Isobel. Good job there are two of us, or Isobel may have never uttered a word. Oh and the  other day she said "hi" to a passer by in the street.
In motor skills news, she is a fantastic and avid crawler and now loves to stand up, pull herself up, get in corners that she has no business to be in and crawl under chairs and tables. She crawled under a big heavy chair at the hospital the other day when I had an appointment and had to be rescued. It hasn't deterred her from more exploring.
When we were in the UK we discovered a childrens  TV series called "In the Night G.arden",  which is like the Telly Tubbies but a lot better, and she got really interested in it, especially as a bedtime ritual. Now she knows all the songs ( it's very repetitive, which is good) and claps and wiggles and dances when Makka Pakka's song comes on. If you haven't checked it out, google it. There is even an "In the Night Garde.n" app for the I Pad and phone.
The biggest highlight of the trip for me was Isobel's equanimity at all the traveling. She didn't mind being pulled in and out of the carrier so we could go through security, she made lots of friends along the way, and she loved being on the train and standing up on the seat while I held her so she could look out of the window. The Er.go carrier was an absolute lifesaver and helped her to take naps when we were on the go, and helped me keep her close and secure when we were changing trains, or walking t the store, or in the park. She never christened her little surfer dude suit that we got her for "swimming" in the sea, but she did have a ball on the beach, crawling and throwing sand and eating it as well.
She makes all kinds of sounds as she explores her verbal ability and one of these is clicking with her mouth, which we refer to as her  African Clicking Language.
Oh and the kicker - tonight she picked up the TV remote, pointed it at the TV and turned it on. She looked back at her mommy to show how pleased she was with herself. Classic!
Okay it's late and I am wiped, so here is a link to our September pictures:

Very late but very green

Here are our green photos - taken mostly on our holiday in August in England, Scotland and Wales. When I say we, I really mean we. Susan is the mastermind behind these photos. I mostly nag her to take them and to download them and to make them into a collage. I should have said this before. I have taken some of the pictures on these posts, but most of the credit should go to Susan.

You can find a link to all our "green" photos here:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nine months, a fortnight, and 50 percent

Something about the weather getting so hot (and stormy too) has caused me to look back on what life was like this time last year. I remember going to the grocery store a lot and as time went on, I would say yes more and more to the offered help out to the car. I walked slowly. I sweated. I had all sorts of icky symptoms that I would have forgotten if it was not for the list I have in my I-phone that I made prior to some of my midwife and OB/ GYN visits. It makes for hilarious reading (in retrospect). At risk of a big fat TMI, my favorite note was "funny vulva" - who knew? I was doing most of the shopping at that time and I "lifted" a lot of big boxes of cat food cans at Sam's Club by not really lifting them so much as pushing them off the shelves until they dropped into my cart. On my last visit as a pregnant lady I gave in and asked a stranger to help me get the boxes into my car. Those days are over. I am back to being the lifter in the family.

And here we are, in the middle of summer, many months later, with a baby, who has the most energy of anyone I have ever met. Boy am I glad Isobel is out of my tummy! And that she came out unscathed. Especially when I think of how scary my pregnancy was, and how scared I was.

Back to Isobel and her milestones. Not sure what to call her, but infant she is not. She is getting to be a really avid crawler. Some of the fun things that she is doing are growling louder than ever before, and giggling and cackling as she crawls around. She also loves to do this thing that is half way between a shout and a drone, and often Susan will join in with her, and they will drone away together. When Susan changes note or key, Isobel will often follow suit. She loves to wave. Often at appropriate moments, like when we say bye-bye, sometimes for no apparent reason and at nothing that we can see in particular.
Her word recognition is pretty interesting. We are pretty sure that she understands mama, bouncy bouncy ( one of her favorite activities ), avocado, banana, some simple commands, and her name. When we encourage her to touch something she usually follows our direction. She has moved on from just chewing at books to opening and closing them over and over and turning the pages.
One of her favorite toys is a large chain of huge hollow colorful beads about the size of a kiwi fruit. They pop together and she can pull them apart. I have no idea what they are called, because we got them loose at a rummage sale. I was not very impressed when I first saw them, but Susan picked a winner and Isobel loves them. She especially loves to blow and call into the hollow end of the beads and make a kind of echoing sound. She will also do this with her empty happy baby cheerios container. After a search online, Susan has found out that they are called F.isher Price Snap Lock B.eads. Wow. We need to buy shares in them.

In our limited space in the apartment she usually hangs out in her room, which is basically a play room and almost completely babyproof (she sleeps with us), and the living room, which is not so baby proof. It has two features that fascinate her. One is the small flight of stairs that go up to our front door. The other is our faux fireplace that has a brick hearth and an iron "curtain" that leads to the very enticing logs and the small pieces of gravel under them. We have on our list to get a barrier for the fireplace, which we don't even use, as our tv is on the mantelpiece and we don't want to melt it. But in the meantime it's watch her like a hawk because she always gravitates towards them. We have covered the hearth with huge cushions, which she just sees as something to climb over.

Isobel loves music, loves to dance to it in rhythm and to do what we call "rock and roll" -which is when she moves backwards and forwards in time to the music and also bounces up and down. We have a drum that she likes to play and she is pretty good at banging it in time also. We have noticed that with almost every new object that she picks up, from a baby doll, to my keys, she likes to put them behind her head, and wave them side to side and back and forth. It's comical. She hasn't done it with the drum yet, which is a good thing.

On the eating front, she still loves watermelon - well, she is actually crazy about it. She also loves peaches and plums. She seems to catch more of the food in her bib than in her mouth but every morning without fail we behold the evidence in her diaper that she is indeed eating food and digesting some of it. She really enjoys going outside - whether it is sitting in a garden chair with one of us, or being pushed in her stroller. She absolutely loves the beach, especially enjoying the sand and the warm breezes. She sits down in the sand and grabs fist fulls of the stuff, and raises them up high and lets the sand fall down her shoulders and her back. She closes and squints her eyes and giggles and cackles.

We went to the pediatrician for what seems like our monthly pilgrimage - our shot schedule is basically one a month until 9 months. She declared her extremely healthy. Physically she is in the 50th percentile. Our doctor does not usually get over-excited about these numbers. She did volunteer them this time however. I have to say, I was very pleased to find that Isobel is by all measurements, average. I am not sure why. I know that she is not average in my estimation. But I wasn't upset that she wasn't higher up on the charts. To me it really doesn't matter. Average is good. She is extremely healthy, happy and apart from some teething troubles, has little to complain about.

The doctor did say that she was advanced in her social development. ( Thank god, she's above average at something !!) She said, "oh, yes, she's not in her own little world anymore - she's very aware of everything that is going on." We thought that was a bit odd, because Isobel has been social and interested since she was about two months old. We have decided that Isobel is an extrovert. She has been a social butterfly for a long time. She loves an audience. If she can't find one, she looks for one. She is social and interested with her little baby friends. Yesterday they were playing a game where they were all drinking out of each others' sippy cups. Well, we thought it was a game. We have had some lovely cuddles in the morning -especially when there have been storms and we are snuggled up together listening to the thunder and watching the lightening.

We are still trying to teach Isobel to be gentle with our black cat, who is featured in the June's Black photos. However, she just does not get it yet, and can't wait to sink both fists into his fur. So we run interference between them because we are sure that one day he will run out of patience.

If you look in the pictures from July of Red you will see Isobel with a baby doll. She really was fascinated by the baby doll at a friend's house. She picked it up and shook it and gave it mouth to mouth resuscitation. She really dominated that doll. Susan decided she needed her own baby doll, so we got her one from BabysRus. We don't think she has dominated it in quite the same way that she did the other baby doll. However she is fascinated with the tiny sippy cup that comes with the dolly.

And that's all the numbers on Isobel for the moment. She is nine months and a fortnight ( and some change, as I have been writing this post for quite some time ) and in the fiftieth percentile. Perfect!
And now for the pictures...

look at my toys!
weighing the odds

washcloth acrobatics

feet up and tongue out!

letting the sand fly!

bucket and spade!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

July: Red

....In which Isobel parks her fire truck and  gives CPR to a baby doll, meets a big brown dog,  holds a red block, models her Croatian- American mommy's Balkan  roots and puts up with sharing the limelight with a few red still lifes from our house and garden.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Late is the new Black: June

Front gate; Blackie the cat; Sammy the dog; Isobel with tasty I-Phone cover chewy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

eight is great!

I am a little late in this post, but yes, as you might have guessed, Isobel has hit the eight month mark - in fact she is now eight months one week and some change.

So many things are happening so quickly now that it's hard to keep up both with Isobel and with documenting her progress. All of a sudden her awkward scooting type crawl has become a fully fledged and very purposeful crawl. She can cover great distances as we found out at church the other day. All that carpet and wood in the sanctuary was hers to discover - and she did a great job. I just had to be careful of grumpy old Pearl, the dog, who is very territorial when it comes to the area around the altar. I had to make sure that Isobel did not get too close to her in case she went into attack mode. No, we are not high anything especially church. UCC and common as muck, that's us. Another dog, not Pearl, (she is way too dignified and well trained) has been known to do numbers one and two right by the altar table. The carpet has been changed since then, thank you very much!

But back to Isobel, she is a champion crawler and she  can pull herself up to standing by herself; though she has not mastered it in her new crib,  I am sure it is imminent.  I guess you could say that this  eight month birthday was celebrated with us buying her a brand new crib. This was after a Craig's List fiasco by yours truly that involved a trip to a very bad neighborhood, the exchange of money for a very nasty crib, and the  vigorous cleaning of said crib.  "It'll keep me humble," I muttered under my breath while scrubbing off grease marks all over it ( did they keep it in the kitchen?!)The crib turned out to not go together properly, was flimsy and was relegated to the garbage while I went on line with my tail between the legs and ordered a brand new crib ( on sale, though) in Cappucino.  What coffee lover can resist a crib that's named after a favorite drink? It's actually really lovely, and is meant for "smaller people" ( i.e. my honey who is not tall) so you can bend over to put baby in the crib and not fall in yourself. It is too big for our bedroom, but that's where it is right now - by my side of the bed, looking unwieldy, but very safe. The mattress is supposed to be toxin free and came from Tar.g.e.t. Isobel likes it because it has springs and is fun to jump on. She is still wearing her beeper monitor to bed, and we have yet to re-install the Angelcare monitor under the mattress. I am not sure when I am going to feel comfortable taking them off for good.

We have also bought an umbrella stroller - after much agonizing and researching. It's a Blin.k and on sale at Albee Baby if you are interested. And in transit now. It's for the trip to the UK that we are taking this summer and was prompted by the new ban on strollers over 20lbs checked at the gate by AA, which is what we are flying this summer.

And as Isobel is incredibly restless and insomniac these days we are probably going to be in the market for an amber teething necklace. It seems each month brings its expenses. Although most of her toys have been bought from rummage sales - which is a great place to shop for the older, fun, classic toys that are hard to come by. Of course I only know this because a friend of ours likes to come over and identify these cool old toys we get as something from her childhood. I don't remember any of my childhood toys and as we didn't have any siblings born after us I guess we wouldn't would we?

Another surprise is that Isobel now has FOUR teeth. One of the top ones came through almost as soon as her two bottom ones were in, and then the second top one came in slowly until  now she has a lovely two top and two bottom smile.

She has really got the hang of the whole eating thing now, and I am so glad we are doing baby led weaning and not dealing with spoon feeding her - it's more fun and she really seems to enjoy it. We put her in her high chair and give her a few different foods at a time to try and choose from ( I know, it's a big no no with the allergy people, but it has worked out fine). When she is given the choice of what to eat - i.e. sitting with us on a blanket for a picnic, as we did last week, she will grab just about anything and consider eating it. That blanket ended up covered in guacamole and salad and quesadillas - and so did she.

Some more fun things are Isobel's intensely loud vocalizations which happen when she is eating and sound like growling, or when she is around other people who are talking ( as in church when someone is speaking and everyone else is quiet!) or just whenever she feels like it. She is incredibly gleeful in the noises that she is making and can really get quite loud. Not sure how that's going to go down on the plane to England.

We think she may be going through a growth spurt / more teething as she is not sleeping very well - and is adjusting to her new crib too.  She is also going through another biting phase on my poor boobs. I have a few nasty teeth bites to show for it, which I am helping to heal with breast milk and lanolin. Her naps have become very short - and sometimes I give in and nap with her in our bed, which usually means a longer nap - but not recently. Her longest nap in her new crib has been about 25 minutes!!!! Aargh! And trying to get her to bed at her usual 8pm ish bedtime has been a disaster. She is just hyper and won't go to sleep. Tonight, thankfully, we had been out to the beach ( lots of sand got eaten and was great for crawling!) and then for Ethiopian food, so she was really tired ( and she had only slept about 1/2 an hour in naps all day!) so she got to sleep at 10 pm. That is about an hour earlier than the past few nights. It means that we stay up late so that we can have some down time.

Today a few firsts were: putting her feet in the lake ( 63 degrees and felt heavenly to me, but I think she felt it was cold), crawling on sand, eating spicy food at the Ethiopian Restaurant ( she cried!) and enjoying the Ethiopian bread with less spicy foods. She disproved the theory that once a baby eats sand she will never eat it again! This is her second time eating it! We took her to the  outdoor leisure pool a week ago and that was a first for her - she seemed quite interested in all the other waders and splashers and even though the air temperature was only about 70 degrees she did not seem to mind.

So we are looking forward to more excitement with Isobel as she moves into her ninth month. Time is flying by and we can't quite believe we are here in the summer again and last summer I was big and pregnant and this summer I am not and we have Isobel here.

Here are a few recent photos of our little sweetpea.

Jam Face!

Fun with Feet!

Check out my new crib!

Swingin' with Mama.

Swinging 2.0

What a lovely belly I've got!

Bouncy girl!

Monday, June 13, 2011

un challenge - three bizarre jobs

Firstly, thanks to all of you that responded to my whining by reaching out and leaving a comment. It is calming to know that I am not talking to myself - well I am  - but there are others who are listening. And as Dreams and False Alarms rightly pointed out, the comments mostly go to the ones who really are in deep need of support, which would not be me. I am not in the trenches anymore. For some reason, which I am really unclear about, my blog traffic has shot up in the last few days - could it be that the word "whore" in the blog title  has blessedd me with more readers than I ever dreamed of?!  So thank you, thank you, my good and faithful blog readers, and to all the perverts out there who are reading, you probably won't see the word "whore" much after that last post.

Onto the challenge: I have actually not had many jobs in my life: I was an eternal student / out of work actor and aspiring playwright until around the age of 28, and did not start my first "real" job till I was about that age. I didn't have any after or before school jobs as a teenager,  as I went to boarding school from age 14-18 and it seemed to be difficult and impractical to get a job in the holidays only- as we were away at school most of the year. So I never delivered papers, or did a lot of regular babysitting. Although I did start a little babysitting business one summer, aged 17 with absolutely no experience whatsoever and with the goal of saving up money for contact lenses. It started off as a small white postcard in the post office window advertising  dog-walking and baby-sitting ( both of which I had never done and the former being a big stretch for me as I was deathly afraid of dog poop -see references to OCD in this earlier post- ). That white card brought me an obscene phone caller wanting to know what color knickers I was wearing and wanting to "f..." me,  a slew of desperate parents who were apparently unfazed by my inexperience and a brand new pair of hard  contact lenses, which along with braces on my bottom teeth and a fabulous home made wardrobe, catapulted me into the world of semi glamorous geek instead of completely hopeless geek. Although to be fair, we didn't have geeks - we had trends and plebs, and I was a pleb.

I have yet to find the perfect job, which is both rewarding, well paying and inspiring, and I am going to take a few liberties with the un challenge and tell you about my three most interesting jobs. One of which lasted two days, one a few months and another, a few months.

When I left university after finishing my drama degree, I wanted to stay in Aberystwyth, on the west coast of Wales, where I had studied, but I had no money left, the grant had run out and I needed to find a job. I don't remember where I saw the ad, but I found myself applying for a job as a "trolley dolly" ( I think the job title was train stewardess) which was a glorified ( or maybe unglorified would be more accurate) hostess traveling on British Rail with a heavy trolley of snacks and drinks and serving passengers up and down the aisles the length of the train journey. The glamor came in the form of a uniform that really did make me look like an air hostess. Navy skirt, blazer, white shirt, jaunty red scarf tucked into the shirt at the neck, and a lovely bowler type hat that poised jauntily on the top of my head. Panty hose ( or tights in English) were mandatory and  the kind of shoes were up to you. I had seen many trolley dollies in my time, and many of them wore high heels - often red to offset the scarf - and looked just smashingly fabulous. How they maneuvered those heavy trolleys on and off the trains with no help and a drop of about a foot between the platform and the train in high heels is really beyond me. (The conductors, all male, were not supposed to help us as we didn't work for British Rail, but for a franchise, and if we wanted their help we had to bat our eyelashes and look helpless or pray that they were charitable if our eyelashes were having an off day.)  In my sensible blue highly polished flats it was hard enough. I once had to miss half of my run because I cut my hands pulling the trolley off the train at Shrewsbury. To cut to the chase, it was not such a glamorous job after all, but it did improve my mental arithmetic ( there was no register or "till"), I was the disgusted recipient of at least three episodes of sexual harassment ( including one assault and one "give me a kiss or I won't let you out of my train drivers car, where I invited you for a cup of tea" ) and I learnt everything I needed to know about the job from a wiry Glaswegian who would stop in the corridors  between the train carriages and smoke pot whenever he was on a break. And sometimes when he was not on a break. Not my favorite job, but definitely good for stories and the name itself was worth quite  a lot.
Another job I did while trying to stay in Aberystwyth after graduating with a pretty useless but very rewarding drama degree was being a life model in the art department of the university and in some community centers. It was really pretty well paid  - maybe five pounds an hour in 1991-2, and very relaxing. I would sit on a chaise lounge in a large studio that was partitioned off into the life art class "boudoir" and if it was cold there was an electric bar fire that they would turn on so I wouldn't freeze. On more than one occasion I fell asleep I was so relaxed. Staying in one position for long periods of time is not comfortable at all and involves some skill. Of course no one taught me how to sit without my legs and arms going to sleep, but I gradually figured it out. On breaks, I would put on my fabulous burgundysilky dressing gown that was something like a men's smoking jacket, and go to the break room with the artists and smoke cigarettes. There was something about it that was all quite good for my ego. The problem arose when  I discovered that the caretaker ( janitor) was a habitual  peeping tom and after I complained about him, it became uncomfortable to model as I never felt I could relax, and no one seemed to want to do anything about it.
My last bizarre job was when I came to visit the States in the summer of 1995. And it was rather fun! My friend  L, who lived here, and who I had met in Wales while she was on probably the most miserable Junior Year Abroad anyone could suffer, was big into horses. Trakeners to be precise - can't really remember how to spell that. Anyway, she spent a lot of time engaged in Trakener business, including horse fairs and shows and she persuaded me to come with her to one by getting me a job as an announcer at a dressage show in Indiana. Having an English accent lent me a certain cache - especially in dressage. I had no clue about announcing at a horse show, but I was not alone, because one of the horse aficionado's husbands had also been roped in and we both sat in the announcing booth, being able to see nothing of the dressage, but keeping informed on our walkie talkies by the volunteers at each dressage ring. They would tell us over the air who was waiting to go into the ring, who was in the ring etc and we would announce it. My buddy was a baseball fan and his way of announcing if a horse and rider were waiting to go into the ring was to say that they were "on deck". I just followed his terminology and everyone was happy. I even announced the Queen Mother's birthday over the loudspeakers one day, which really tickled all the Anglophiles. I think I made $300 that weekend plus my accommodation was paid for.  That was probably the most money I had ever made i a weekend! I think my friend was just glad to have the company and she treated me to lots of Taco Bell and Dunkin Donuts as well as the B and B. From there we drove all night to get to my first ever Michigan Women's Music Festival and lesbian intrigue and drama. But that's another story.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Comment whore shipwrecked on a desert island

Twenty three plus of the writers of  blogs on my blog roll, I met on Baby Center around 2007 - 2008. In fact most of those twenty three plus I met in the first year of my trolling around on BBC looking for ideas, support, advice, a clue!  At least one other I met on another Yahoo group. Many  of them are now Facebook friends - in fact I have a lot of FB friends who all "know" each other even though  most of us have never met. We were all in various  stages of TTC from 2007 - 2010. In the early days I commented on people's posts on BBC, I kept track of where every one was in their cycle and made appropriate remarks; I was invested in the people who stuck around and who were there for me. One day I came home from seeing the movie Happy go Lucky at the movies feeling anything but carefree and experimented with setting up a blog out of some kind of dull desperation. I only wrote a small post and would probably have taken my sweet time to come back to it, but An Offering of Love commented on it, and spurred me on to write something more than just a throwaway post.

I have always prided myself on being a caring and careful commenter both on BBC and blogs, as well as FB. On FB, I don't just tell people Happy Birthday, I make it into something fun and witty and make sure that I am saying something that speaks to the person. I do the same on birthday cards. I never just write the same  boring thing ( one of my co-workers would write the same thing on every sympathy card we ever shared - "May God bless you in this difficult time", which to me is almost as bad as not signing a card at all...)

At some point I discovered Melissa's Stirrup Queens blog and LFCA - it took me a lot of Googling before I figured that acronym out.  I  built up readership and followed others blogs by lolly gagging around on others blogs. I picked up blogs carefully - either because someone had commented on my blog, or something clicked with me in someone's writing, or circumstances. Many of the blogs I read are written by lesbian moms, or women dealing with infertility, loss and adoption - the ALI community. There are a couple of outliers that are random things I like - cooking, knitting, free range parenting, etc. Just like many of you,  I would comment on your  posts, ones that struck a chord with me, ones I was led to by other bloggers.  I did ICOMLEAVEWE and  I would scroll down people's blog rolls looking for interesting blogs. In the old days I would write and ask a blogger if I could put their blog on my list, and then I realized that I didn't need to ask because in a public forum, people want you to read them, they want you to advertise their blogs and they want to hear from you. Blogging and reading blogs was probably my most time consuming activity during the years of TTC and waiting and the 9/10 months of pregnancy. My work was so stressful and busy that I rarely got on or blogged at work, which seems to be the chosen place of most bloggers, so that most of my activity happened on the weekends and evenings.

I don't write a journal; I only did that once in high school and I burnt it soon afterwards ( something I really regret).  I didn't like journaling because basically it was like me talking to myself about how miserable I was and how I needed to get a grip. But the thing I like about blogging is the reciprocation. You don't get that with a journal. Especially when you burn it. I don't think I would have continued blogging had it not been for the community and the comments. I received support during hard times and when there was finally good news there was glee, celebration and more support. 

I have never really wrung out my heart and soul on this blog, I don't think. I gave too many people in real life permission to read this blog, which makes me protective of the people in my life that I care about and disinclined to complain about them or to really say what's on my mind about others. So it is pretty self focused. And now it has become Isobel focused.

I never really addressed the change that most people feel acutely of moving from infertile without baby to infertile with baby. I don't think I felt it so acutely as some. I think that deep down I have always believed that it's my own fault for waiting so long to TTC and I am not a real  "infertile" - just a late and lazy one. When I found out I was infertile because of the likely lousy amount and quality of my eggs, I was really upset, mad and pissed off, but I was also relieved because I had an answer after less than  a year of the first T part of TTC. It still took me  over another year to conceive, but there was something concrete about knowing the source of the problem for me. And having always known we were going to use donor sperm, when I fairly quickly came to the realization that I wanted to use donor eggs, it was not a big leap or a huge loss. At that point anyway. I had already come a long way from my fantasy of having a little Tireegal running around the house. And using donor eggs really took the pressure off my body for me.

Most of the original twenty three plus bloggers that I follow / ed have at least one child by now. Not all; I can think of two that stand out in the heartbreak section that do not. And it is so sucky. Most if not all of the other bloggers I picked up along my way in blogland either have a baby or two or are pregnant. Others are pursuing adoption, a few are choosing to be childless. My blog roll is full of busy moms and a few TTCers. My argument as to why I have so few comments on my blog goes like this:
I don't write much anymore. I don't comment as much any more. I post lots of pictures and that is very hard for the still TTCers to deal with. Most of my fellow moms are really busy and therefore would not be commenting as much.  Bloggers new to TTC or battered and bruised through procedures and losses would not be interested in my story and especially those in the depths of despair would not touch me with a barge pole. I have let many juicy life experiences go past without blogging about them. I have still not written Isobel's birth story. Not that it was traumatic, because it wasn't. The pregnancy - I wrote about that and it was stressful and stressmaking. I haven't written about the swings and dips of being a full time mother, about the changes in our lives since S was laid off, of my identity switching from high anxiety social worker to semi-laid back mom who mumbles and doesn't always get the right noun when she is speaking. I haven't really written about motherhood, except in superlatives.  I haven't written about my thoughts about  having a baby with two donors.  Or about having another child. Except I will say that like many of you, I am torn.

I don't know if I told you this before, but I  am a bit of an I-phone addict. I spent many hours when Isobel was an infant with her on my lap or shoulder, reading blogs, looking at email and Facebook. The sad news would endlessly reduce me to tears. And dealing with my post partum depression and paralyzing fear of SIDs meant that I had to stop reading the really hard news. Which made me feel guilty and mean and privileged.

Recently I realized that I was looking at my I-phone way too much and not paying enough attention to Isobel. Even though I spend most of her waking hours with her, and tend to her endlessly, I would sit with her while she played and just obsessively go through email, FB and blogs. Over and over. I realized that my phone was becoming a bit like a  cigarette.  A crutch to stop me feeling my feelings and thinking my thoughts. It was like having constant chatter in my head but nothing that was of substance or meaning. So I cut back and as I did this I realized how dependent  I had become.  Then a couple of weeks ago I decided to stop. To put the phone down - and as I did that I realized how many times in an hour my mind would stray to my phone and the constant stream of information, connection and gratification I was "missing". I felt terrible for not being truly present for Isobel. And also a little worried about all the radiation I might be exposing Isobel to. So  I left the phone out of the bedroom in a similar vein  to banning the tv from there.  Sometimes  I left the phone at home when I went out. Sometimes I simply forgot it. I had a moment of panic when I realized that I had forgotten it, but I got over it. Since that day, I have been down in my usage and  trying to be  much more conscious about my use of the phone and of my presence in real life moments. I don't want life and my beautiful daughter to pass me by while I am scrolling through Facebook. Even spending so much time reading about all your wonderful important lives was impeding my ability to live my real life too.

So while I explain why I need to be away from the Internet more, I am also wondering where you all are. I know that  sounds weird."Er, I haven't been here, where are you?" Classic borderline personality disorder traits. I get visitors to my web site. Quite a few. Not astronomical numbers, but a fair amount.
Maybe people can't figure out who I am. I don't have a bullet pointed story of my TTC life, or any explanation of where the hell Tiree is and why  I am her gal!  Maybe I am too full of good news? That seems odd, I know, but it makes  a certain kind of sense that the people with the good news don't need as much support and those with bad news need more. Yes, I have a  mostly wonderful real life, and yes, I still need reassurance from an external source.

As for my real life, yes it's quiet and quite hum drum. But also spectacular and wonderful taking care of a tiny being  who demands all my attention and delights in so many small light filled moments. She slows me down and speeds me up.  I have made leaps in my real life life. I need company; I don't do well at home alone.  I have mommy friends and baby friends. I see them a couple times a week. I keep them all together by emailing and texting them and setting up walks and play dates and checking in on people. I am kind of the den mother of my meet up group. I go for walks with Isobel, and S and I do stuff together. My sister is an adoring aunt and sees us about once a week. She comes over for a "fix" when she is missing Isobel.  We have friends that come to visit. I wish we all lived in the same part of town. We are all spread out. I enjoy my quiet down time. I mostly watch tv in the evenings. I need to start looking for a job. I have a to do list that I haven't touched in weeks. My daily routine comprises baby care, house care, laundry, wife-tending and when and where I can get my next latte.

And I also feel compelled to keep this blog going, not just for the reciprocation and the pats on the back and the sharing, but to give Isobel some history, for those moments when she might feel that she does not have enough. It's the same reason we take lots of photos and make up albums and write in her baby book, and keep all the information we have about her donors. The whole family tree, now there's another subject for blogging. Will Isobel put my parents and grandparents on her family tree? And S's parents and grandparents? Of course she will. More of that another time. I promise.
And did I tell you how grateful I am for all of you? I am. Thank you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

non challenge cup in high school ( not!)

( this could be a whole novel and maybe one day I will write it but for the moment, Susan is waiting patiently to watch our latest guilty pleasure from Netflix on demand,  Mistresses, Google it. ) Can one start a sentence with parentheses?
My high school career started badly after a wonderful happy popular friendly time in junior high ( ages 9 - 13 in Britain that was in the 70s). It was like everyone changed over the summer between junior high and senior high. Everyone, dyed their hair, got a boyfriend, got an attitude and I got there completely in the dark and without having read the memo. To be truthful I would have ignored the memo anyway, but I eschewed this peer pressure to do all this weird stuff to ones body and just thought it was plain silly. I was also more notable plagued by a burgeoning case of OCD which meant that I flung all my clothes off when I got home from school, made everyone take off their shoes when they entered the house ( rare in the days before heavy duty hygiene was popular) and was frightened to death of dog shit ( it was everywhere in those days.)
After one year at the local high school we begged our parents to send us to a Quaker boarding school; ( we were brought up Quakers and went to fun summer camps with them, where we had a ball and fantasized about going to a sort of Quaker summer camp all year round). Quaker Boarding School (QBS) in England was not the fantasy we dreamed of. It was peer pressure without the inconvenience of parents' input, it was cliques - the trends and the plebs, and as a new girl in the fourth year with no fancy clothes and a northern English accent you can guess that I wasn't in the in crowd.
I don't have any fun pictures to share with you all right now, but I did have a Linda McCartney shaggy look, as well as  a big fat frizz perm, pigtails and  fifty pence piece glasses and finally contacts.  I was determined to overcome my braces, specs and frizz and I think I did eventually. We ( my twin sister and I) made our own clothes because we couldn't afford the nice fancy ones that the other students wore when they weren't wearing uniform. We never understood algebra because we arrived half way through that lesson and no one explained it to us properly. Thank-fully we excelled academically, learnt to play tennis ( you were nobody if you couldn't play tennis) on beautiful grass courts and got good grades. We finally acclimatized to the place and did our best to enjoy ourselves. I did win a cup, ( the "dwama" cup for being an excellent "dwama" person, directing plays and acting in them, and overcoming my horrid accent ( sic) to become the chosen reader at any big event with my lovely posh accent and darling delivery). And my twin sister won three of the other top honors. So there, snobs!

May: Yellow

Hard to find yellow among all the pink, but this includes Isobel's favorite musical toy, Charlie Brown, and her IRL friend Oscar's Pooh hat which she borrowed for swinging with him on a sunny day. The lights have something to do with coffee. Answers on a comment-card!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest Post-The Other Mommy

Isobel and her favorite Dickey Bird

First high chair!

Pretty in pink
Today we celebrated Isobel's 7-month birthday with the purchase of new summer clothes and her first high chair, which she loves!  Isobel is nearly ready to crawl. She is more adept at manipulating her toys and playing with them. She strains for the remote control and could very well be a techno-baby!  Issie sits up pretty well now, and loves to play ball. She's trying out various foods, but so far has NOT found a favorite. She tends to growl at her strawberries!

Her two new bottom teeth are very, very sharp, and she knows how to use them!  Her hair is growing longer and it has a beautiful strawberry blonde sheen to it. Isobel loves people and has a winning smile and giggle. She's a very patient baby, as babies go. We are so lucky!  We fall in love with her more and more each day.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The baby Oscars - or happy go lucky meets her name-sake

I am feeling incredibly productive at the moment. It all started with Isobel sleeping since 8pm tonight and also with a very very good day with Isobel, Susan, and other baby mamas. I guess it started with me getting up at 8.30am which is our new wake up time. I know, I know! I am making you all sick. I get it. Somehow, I believe, Isobel has internalized my body clock rhythms and even though she is not genetically related to me, biologically she very much is. Don't get me wrong, 8.30am is not my chosen pre-baby, post-employment, baby wake up time. In fact it's more like 10.30, but 8.30 will do very nicely thank you. I am actually enjoying getting to see parts of the day that I have not been familiar with since I stopped walking our dogs ( now deceased) and also stopped working due to stress/ depression / crazy pregnancy hormones. Mornings have been my least favorite time of day for a long time. It takes me forever to feel happy about being up and I just would rather stay in bed and wallow in my milky sweaty self. Even the sight of jolly Isobel smiling and making eyes at me is not always enough to make me jump out of bed and shout Hallelujah! But I do begrudgingly give her smiles and cutches and kisses and snuggles and lots of milk and eventually I am happy to be up and about being domesticated, taking care of diaper business and dressing  and all that fun stuff. And if I get my oatmeal and my tandem cups of Rooibos tea and decaf coffee, then the day is even better! Some days I get to stay in bed for about half an hour and Susan will get up with Isobel and I will hear them playing together in the next room, with Isobel chuntering away and Susan laughing and telling her stories and singing songs. That is a real luxury, because it feels like I never get to be alone in bed anymore. In fact the last time I was alone in bed, was the night before Isobel was born, when I was sleeping alone in the spare bedroom, snoring my head off like  a steam train and wondering if my ankles would ever be winsome again!!! That wasn't so much fun.
Two month's after Isobel was born, we did a cute Christmas card with Isobel's stats on it and sent it out and thought that might be instead of the announcement. We had announced it all on Facebook and by email and we weren't sure that we needed an announcement. But that meant our Jewish friends didn't get a nod, and we decided that for posterity we needed to do a card. So about a month ago we made an announcement with four chronological pictures of Isobel where she goes from infant baby blob to smiling 5 month old. It was posted on my blog for about a minute by Susan until I realized all our info was in it and though I am not really extremely careful about anonymity, if someone ( say an old client who shall remain nameless) did a search on the internet for my name she might come upon my blog. Or something.
Well this morning the nurse from the fertility clinic called because she had not heard from me and needed the stats on our baby for her records. In fact she didn't even know the sex of the baby. We had not been in touch with them since we were graduated from them to an OB. Although we did email the doc when we were concerned about my past fibroid surgery and the impact it might have on trying for a vaginal birth. I know, we are not really the kinds of people who do all the right etiquette things, we didn't send them flowers or thank you cards, we didn't buy candy for the nurses at the hospital, and we actually only just got around to sending the wonderful amazing egg donor a thank you card, for the cycle that she completed in December 2009. Wow that  is  a long time ago!
I lied and told her that I had a card already addressed to her on my desk ( why, TG, why?) but she didn't seem too bothered and she was just glad that I called her back and that we had a lovely baby girl and I could tell her what she weighed and when she was born.  She did tell us to come in and show off our baby soon, which I promised to do.
So that gave me the kick start I needed to finally put pen to paper and write and address the birth announcements doubling as Thank You cards tonight when Isobel went to sleep. It has taken me over an hour to do the  cards to the professionals  who were involved in the conception and birth of Isobel.
And that's what made me think I was part of the baby Oscars - thanking all these people and almost choking up, and the words flowing and the warmth in my heart radiating.
In all I wrote 8 cards to a combination of 1 fertility doctor, 1 fertility nurse, 1 adoption lawyer, 1 egg donor agreement lawyer, 1 nurse egg donor coordinator, 1 egg donation agency, 2 midwives, 3 OBs, two OB nurses. Oh and I forgot to add the psychologist who did our interview about third party reproduction, who happens to know a family friend of ours, which turned the interview into a kind of reunion by proxy.  That makes 9 cards. Must send her an announcement. All these people helped us to bring Isobel into the world. And funnily enough it just makes my heart sing a bit louder to know that so many people helped us. It doesn't feel the slightest bit odd to me. Not the usual way of making a baby, certainly, but that's fine with me. I didn't send them a card but I mustn't forget the two egg donors who had to bow out through ill health at the last minute, prolonging our wait for egg donor number 3, who turned out to be perfect!
As I was writing the cards, I would describe, Isobel, as beautiful, funny, lively, cute and - here's a thing -  happy-go-lucky. Those three words just kept tripping off my fingertips. I told Susan about it, who reminded me that Isobel is also incredibly passionate about things - and as she discovers things that she loves, such as splashing her arms and legs in a frenzy in the bath - she also lets us know this - either by her squeals of joy and big smile when she is in said tub, or by her  angry wailing when she is out of the tub and Susan is dressing her while I have five minutes in the bath by myself.
And as I was writing the words over and over so many times, I realized that Isobel could be the happy go lucky that I have been summoning into our lives by naming my blog happy go lucky. What a circle we have navigated to get to this point. Not so much a circle as a very meandering path that is kind of S shaped. And before I get tangled up in that metaphor I will take my leave and rest my Ergo- induced aching back and rejoice that Isobel is still asleep, 3.5 hours after I put her down, which is good for her, and good for her mama.  Before you hate me for all this Pollyanna stuff, please remember that it took me a long time to get here. And I got sea sick on the way. Okay, this is really the end of metaphor butchering. For tonight...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

half a year of Isobel!

Yes, our daughter, Isobel is six month's old today. It amazes me. It seems as if we have been her mums for a long time and also  for a few seconds.
As I have been a lax blogger I will tell you what Isobel is doing right now and you can fill in the gaps ( or I will).
We have a daughter who sleeps. It is a miracle and a work in progress. I never ever understood why moms went on and on about sleep and naps so much. Honestly, I thought they were just obsessed. I would read people's endless Facebook updates about it and think I would never be like that. I am. Just.Like. That.
It all started when Isobel stopped doing that newborn thing of falling asleep whenever. We could be anywhere and she would nod off. Usually she was resting on a warm person when it happened. She did not much like to sleep away from a warm body but she did eventually get used to her co sleeper crib. I think it happened about 3.5 months that I became aware that she would get crabby and she would be wide awake and it eventually occurred to me that she might be tired and might need help getting to sleep. I won't bore you all with the details, but we read bits of the No Cry Sleep Solution, we instituted a more obvious bedtime routine involving a bath and bedtime music really, and we started putting her down for naps when we thought she was tired. It took many times of getting up and soothing her and putting her down again but as I write this, she is asleep in our bedroom ( in our bed, but that's another story!) and we are sitting around like grown ups. She naps twice a day - we do the 2 ,3, 4 thing to a certain extent - first nap 2 hours after waking, second one three after waking from the first nap, bedtime four hours after waking from the second one. More or less. I put her to sleep, make no mistake. I do not let her cry, or leave her until she is asleep. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes, sometimes 30, but I have the luxury of being able to put the time in and I actually enjoy it. One of these days she will put herself to sleep but for now I am okay with how things are.
In non sleep related news, Isobel is rolling over, rocking and rolling on our laps, standing when we hold her up, trying very hard to crawl, but not getting very far. When she is on the floor she moves her body all around in a circle from her hips but does not go forward or backward. She is endlessly engaged with new people and things and smiles at just about everybody, and makes even grumpy people smile. She can sit up for about 30 seconds by herself and she loves to be upright with whatever help we give her. In the bath tub she splashes like mad and smiles and gets herself all riled up. She loves chewing on Sophie and her raspberry teether. In the mornings she and Susan sit on the couch and Susan spills her toy box out in front of her so she can pick what she is interested in. She likes to blow raspberries on our shoulders and tummies and we love to blow raspberries on her feet.  She is so happy in the mornings when she wakes up, a time that I am not usually very excited about anything but it's too hard not to respond to her giggles and smiles.

I leave you with some pictures of our dear sweet precious Isobel. Happy half birthday, Isobel!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Working nine to five what a way to make a living...( with thanks to Dolly Parton)

Today I handed in my keys at work, signed off on my travel expenses, finished some billing, and walked away. It has actually been seven months since I left my job in a pile of tears and snot and anxiety and I feel so much better now than I did then. Understatement. True story.

One of the reasons I don't blog much these days is that I don't have much alone time but  right now Isobel is asleep!!!! and I have had a late dinner of soup and cheese on toast ( my staple comfort food), the news is on on mute and  I am finally writing. The other reason is that I am a rusty writer as well as a bit of a perfectionist, so I reason that if I can't say it well I don't want to say it at all. There's not a lot of valid reasoning there, I know. But I do have a lot to say, and unusually for me, I now have the time to think about things other than work. So here goes. Hopefully there will be lots more blogging going on, now that Isobel has a bed time and sometimes sticks to it!

So I drove into work today at around the time I used to. I set off at 8.56 and got to work around 9.15am. I have dropped by work a couple of times since I quit, but today felt different. I dressed "up". That means I put on my best jeans ( which were wrinkled but clean), my staple black t-shirt and  dark blue swing cardigan that I got for my pregnancy and live in these days, my blue and black cotton scarf  ( see  a theme here?), my black fitted raincoat and my black heeled boots. Isobel managed to spit up on my jeans before I got out the door but I didn't care. Oh, and I showered of course. I felt as if I had to dress to impress, ( and yes, that's how I do it - not exactly high end, but my way) and put on a bit of armor. If I had been smoking I would have ditched the Marlborough Light 100s for the  harsher stubby reds.
While I was in the shower I was thinking about going to work, who would be there, the task at hand      ( involving some undone paperwork I was helping them with because until today, they had no-one in my position) and  how long it would take. I estimated about three hours and wondered if I could leave Isobel that long with Susan before she got cranky. I had got up and pumped a good five ounces for her so I was feeling good about that and hoping that Susan would not have to break into my very measly stash of frozen milk.  As I drove to work along this so familiar route, I remembered many of the feelings I used to have over the past 3 and a half years as I made my way to work. (I also realized how lucky I am that this is the first morning I have gone to "work" and left Isobel behind me, since giving birth to her). One of the biggest feelings was dread. Dread that a crisis had unfolded, that things would be difficult, that someone would yell at me, that I would not be able to handle everything. Who am I kidding? For about 15 years I have worked in the areas of homelessness, domestic violence and mental illness social work. Of course I am going to have to deal with crises, people yelling and the unknown. But looking back I realize how frayed I was. How fragile. How worried about everything. Even though I put on a very brave and professional face and did a flipping fantastic job!

They were all gathering for a staff meeting and before that a short meeting of the clinical team that I used to lead. People were looking harried. I walked into the clinical staff meeting as it ended to say hello and to ask a billing question - and met my successor sitting in the chair I once sat in. I knew that she would be there today, but no-one else knew that I knew, so they all looked a bit startled - as if to say - ooops, we cheated on you, Claire, we got someone else. But I know and like my successor and I had given her some encouragement and suggestions as she went through the  interview process, so I was not uncomfortable at all. One of the staff, said, hi Claire, have you met the  new director,  and she said, yes, we have met before. It was under-stated and perfect. I didn't make a big production, just got my question answered and went back to my work. There were a few moments when one of the staff was short and not very welcoming with me and I commented to another staff that it felt very weird. She told me about some little dramas happening in the team and how that's probably what was going on and of course it was nothing about me.
They all went to their big meeting and I looked at the task at hand and realized it would take me ten minutes. Fantastic. Just a few dozen clicks on the mouse and I was done. I called Susan and told her I was going to run a couple of luxurious errands, buy a celebratory latte and mocha for us, and come home. She gave me a report on Isobel, who was chuntering away and ready for her bottle of milk. I felt so happy and fulfilled and relieved.
I looked around the office, noted the changes that had been made, and patted myself on the back for a job well done. As I was driving away, I realized that I really was done with that place and that job. I had been waiting for them to throw me a send off party - a modest lunch or something like that, and months ago I had thought how I really needed them to tell me what a great job I had done, how they would miss me, and that they wished me well. It had never happened, and I realized I didn't need it anymore. When I got home  to my cute sweet little family that means so much to me, I was so happy and relaxed and RELIEVED! So glad to be home. I wrote my ex boss a nice email entitled "over and out" and told her not to bother about any party - which seemed a little redundant as it was obvious she had not bothered. I left the door open for "consulting" work at an hourly / daily rate and bid her farewell. 
I don't know how long this stay at home mum gig is going to last. I know it won't be for much more than a few more months. Right now, Isobel has two stay at home mums. Susan got fired / retired / conspired against about 10 days ago - the day after we got back from Kansas City, visiting Isobel's maternal ( ha ha ha ) grandmother.  Susan's mom. Only living grandparent and a first time one at the grand old age of 83. The firing / retiring / conspiring was not a surprise in some ways but the timing was. Susan had been working full time,  commuting two hours plus a day, doing an internship on nights and weekends and taking two classes in the evenings. She is older than me and has a number of health challenges and despite that had managed somehow to keep going. But she was completely exhausted and depleted.  It turned out that she got some severance which will keep us going till the summer. It was more than anything a huge relief for her and for me too. We both have just been sucking it up and trying to muscle our way through. She emailed me from class last night to say that for the first time she was awake in class, participating and had done the reading and knew what the conversation was about. This is a woman who has had one B since she started school three years ago. The rest were As. Amazing. But taking a huge toll on her. My goal is for her not to work full time until she graduates next May. This means that I will be looking for a full time job for the fall. Not one where my number one sentiment is dread. Please not that. I think, I hope, knowing that I am good, even though I had the type of job that was a thankless task and yielded few pats on the back or congratulations, will help me to be more happy go lucky in my next job. I never want to feel that terror, those breathless, churning, endless ruminations about the what ifs, what coulds, what the fucks.
If we did not have so much debt, I am convinced we could live simply and not work too much at all. We still have to work out the details. But for now, we are enjoying saying hello to each other, loving each others company and delighting in Isobel. And sharing all the loads. It is amazing.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Sorry for the silence.

More soon, I hope. All is well. Except no brown photo of Isobel this time:(

Monday, February 28, 2011


Hyde Park pavement

Old Grey Goose at University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital
Pensive Isobel at the pediatrician's office

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

PSA - baby monitor for paranoid moms brings Tireegal relief

I have been meaning to post about this for a while but for some reason I think it might offend somebody.
I can't see why, because as far as I am concerned I am doing you all a public service by telling you about my newly found peace of mind, but I have the feeling it might piss some people off. So I apologize if I am pissing you off or offending you.

I was worried about SIDS the day we came home from the hospital and I have been worried ever  since. At first I just thought, well there is nothing I can do about it, I just have to suck it up and get over it and pray that Isobel is okay. Of course I pray that SIDS and all other things that kill babies and that end pregnancies and that stop pregnancies developing and anything else I have missed cease and desist from ruining so many beautiful peoples' lives. As a new mother, I feel sensitized to every child's suffering, every being's suffering, and the earth's suffering  and it makes me a teary mess. I lie awake at night in wonderment of motherhood and also I go dark places thinking about all the bad things I might not be able to prevent happening to Isobel.

Anyway, one day I decided to Go.ogle SIDs to see if I could find anything to reassure me. I learned about the risk factors ( some of which were new to me), what to do to try to prevent SIDS, and then I learned about products designed to help neurotic parents like me monitor their babies' breathing and movement. And I thought, 'why not?" Why, if I know that there is a product that could help me not worry so much, and could alert me to a potential problem with Isobel's breathing, why wouldn't I get it?
So I did. It's called and it's like a little pager your child wears while they sleep. It registers their movement ( breathing) and sets off a series of alarms that remind the baby to breathe and then to alert you to the lack of breathing if that happens. It works great if you have a baby like mine that sleeps sometimes in her crib and sometimes with us. The only problem is that you need to fasten it to her diaper and depending on how many layers of clothing she is wearing, you don't want to do this once she is asleep because by the time you have finished rustling in her drawers she will have woken up. I usually put it on when I get her ready for bed or naps but often forget and have to scramble. You can put it on her pants waistband if you want to and she is wearing pants and a t shirt or onesie.

So, I like the but I am still having a hard time putting her down in her crib without waking her up ( yes, we are not onto the part of sleep magic where she can put herself to sleep quietly in her crib, so for now, I am putting her down asleep). So I remember that I have seen another product called an AngelCare Monitor that you can put in the crib which would make it easier to put Isobel down in the crib without waking her and fumbling around. So I bought it. All this courtesy of internet shopping, which is my new best friend.

So now, as she approaches her fourth month birthday, Isobel is  armed with a small arsenal of anti-SIDs monitors. And the reason I am telling you all this, is not because I am working for but because I read about all my blog friends' babies and want to protect them too. I wish someone had told me about this technology earlier. But I am glad I found out about it. I asked my brother about it and he told me that his partner had bought a special mattress to prevent SIDS when their boy was a baby. It seems people do these things a lot, but they don't talk about them. So I am talking about it.