Food for Thought on a Monday Night

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1. Homemade low country boil (crab, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn cooked in broth) is awesome. I used this recipe as my inspiration.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

2. There is loud, and then there is “I’m in the bath, and excited and taking advantage of the acoustics” loud.

3. Today, the Bean learned that you don’t put soap in your eyes.

4. Today, Mummy learned that the Bean still needs 100% supervision during bath time. Sitting right beside her reading does not count.

5. It pays to ask questions. Today, we got a huge discount (more than 50% off) on our tickets to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo because I thought to ask whether they have a deal for Oakland Zoo members.

6. When you go away for the night, there is no cleaning fairy that comes and makes sure your house feels like a hotel room when you get home.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

7. Lest we forget: November 11 is Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veteran’s Day (US), and we must not forget to honour our soldiers: the fallen, the veterans, and those still in active duty. Thank you to all who have sacrificed so the rest of us can experience freedom.

8. I have missed blogging and am determined to get back to it on a more regular basis. This is a nice easy start.

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Happy Birthday Captain!

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How do I even start to talk about my Dad?  He is such an amazing man, in so many different ways. Today was his birthday – one day after mine. It’s always been very special to me that we almost share a birthday. I’m a Daddy’s girl, and maybe our birthdays are part of the reason why.

We went to Hawaii with Mom and Dad in November of 2009. It was a vacation to remember!

My Dad calls me Number One. The nickname has two meanings: I am the eldest child in my family – literally, the number one (first) child. It’s also a little inside reference to Star Trek. When we moved back to Canada from Botswana in 1986, we had a TV for the first time – I was 10. One of the channels that we could capture with our rabbit ears aired Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it quickly became a family favourite. (Actually, I’m not sure if Mom ever liked it.) In the show, Captain Picard refers to his second-in-command, Commander Riker, as Number One. For some reason, the name stuck on me, and I love it.

Dad is the second-youngest of six children, and the youngest boy in his family. He is definitely the family entertainer. At any family gathering, Dad will take out his guitar and we’ll have a sing-a-long. I think newcomers to the family find this tradition a little disconcerting when they first start attending our gatherings. But most learn to tolerate it and some even seem to like it. I think singing together is one of the best parts of family gatherings. With many songs and hymns, we actually break out into four-part harmony. It’s pretty impressive and Dad is usually the instigator.

Dad’s guitar is full of many wonderful memories. As I was growing up, he and Mom would sing duets at various missionary gatherings, Dad usually singing the melody, with Mom in an alto harmony. As a child, I fell in love with the music of Gordon Lightfoot, the Carpenters, The Mamas and the Papas, Stevie Wonder, and many others – not because we listened to their albums a lot, but because my Dad was always singing the songs. I learned to love singing because my Dad loves singing. One of my favourite childhood photos shows me standing on a chair beside Dad at a microphone. He’s playing his guitar, and we’re singing a duet together. Opportunities to perform duets with my father don’t come around anymore. Hmmm, maybe we should remedy that.

Another defining characteristic of my father is his ability to make something amazing out of bits of wood, an old sliding glass door, a salad bowl, or a run-down basement. He is a true MacGyver. Recently, he renovated his basement, but instead of just throwing some paint on the walls and updating the bathroom, he tore down walls and created new ones, got a hole cut through the foundation for an extra window, and re-invented storage spaces. He turned a two-bedroom, one bath (shower but no tub) basement suite into a three-bedroom, two bath suite with a full-sized tub in the main bathroom. It looks incredible, and he did most of it with recycled or second-hand materials. He really should get a feature story in a home-renovation magazine. He’s also a handy guy to have around when you’ve just bought a 55-year-old house that desperately needs a facelift. We’re flying him down in September.

Me and Dad at my triathlon in June. It was awesome having him there to cheer for me on Father's Day.

The most magnificent thing about my Dad, though, is his love for his family. Anytime I needed a playmate, or a tutor, or a basketball coach, or a reading partner, he was there. Anytime I needed some discipline or a gentle reminder, he was there. Anytime I was confused about God, or boys, or friends, or anything, I could talk to him…well, at least until I was 16 or so. He included me in his world of building and fixing things, and was very much involved in my world of school and friends.  On Father’s Day I participated in a triathlon, and my Dad was my helper and cheerleader, even in the cold, damp weather.  He nurtures, encourages, challenges, and adores all of his girls (including my Mom).

This post doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wonderful man who is my father. He is honorable, trust-worthy, loving, kind, humble, confident, and handy. He is strong, sensitive, thoughtful, patient, idealistic, smart, and spiritual. As most teenagers do with their fathers, we had a rough spot in our relationship – that pesky teenage rebellion stage that is so painful when you’re going through it. But those times taught me so much about who I am, and who he is. I feel so fortunate to have him as my father. He is a great example of what it means to love unconditionally.

So Daddy, Happy Birthday! I hope my humble words have begun to express how much I love, respect and admire you. You amaze me.

Love from your No. 1

Ahh, Motherhood

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Mario, the cat, is 14 years old

I have a toddler, a cat, a dog and a husband.  My husband often says to me, “You’re everybody’s Mother”.  It’s true.  Of course, one would expect me to be the mother of my daughter.  But the cat and the dog come to me for everything too.  The cat usually chooses ME to lie on at night, wakes ME up in the morning when he wants his breakfast, comes to ME during the day when he wants cuddles, even if Daddy is home.  Even now, as I type, trying to get some “ME time” in while the Bean naps, my kitty is on my lap, digging his sharp little claws through my jeans and into my legs.

Sakari, the dog, is 6 years old.

The dog doesn’t tell Daddy that she needs to go out for a piddle.  Oh, no.  Even if I’m extremely busy with something and Daddy is not, she comes to bug ME. Want some playtime?  Ask Mom.  Need your water refilled?  Ask Mom.  Want to go outside? Mom.  Inside? Mom.   ARGGG! 

It’s been a little trying lately with the Bean too.  She is usually quite easy-going and laid back.  But lately, she’s been clinging to me like a monkey.  Maybe it’s time to change her nickname!  She can get around just fine by scooting on the floor in our house, but if I’ve put her down and then leave her line of site for a SECOND, she’s already wailing and scooting as fast as her little legs and bottom can carry her in the direction she last saw me.  It doesn’t matter if I’ve explained to her that Mommy will be right back, or that she can come with me.  She gets very upset and loudly lets me know that I’m not to walk away from her like that ever again.  Of course, it doesn’t always stop me, but it does make it very difficult and stressful to get any housework done.  No wonder the place looked like it needed to be shoveled out with a bulldozer by the end of the week. 

Some love from the Bean

This morning, my Sweetie was still in bed (Saturdays are his turn to sleep in), and I needed to shower before heading off to my Weight Watchers meeting.  So I gave the Bean a bunch of her favourite toys to play with on the bathroom floor and hopped into the shower.  It took about 10 seconds for her to start grabbing at the shower curtain, pulling it out of the tub while water sprayed everywhere.  No amount of pleading, cajoling or admonishments could deter her from this game.  The madder I got, the funnier she thought it was.   I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A SHOWER IN PEACE FOR ONCE!  That’s what I was screaming in my head.  When it came out of my mouth, I wasn’t screaming, but it may have been loud still.  She laughed. 

But the thing is, as frustrating and infuriating as it can be sometimes to be pawed at, clung to, lain on, cried at, barked at, meowed at, pinched, scratched (oh the list goes on and on) constantly, I kinda like being everybody’s Mother.  Once the frustration dies down or I’ve had a chance to decompress, I’m right back to loving my job.

It feels a little wrong to be writing about the frustrations of motherhood the day before Mother’s Day.  But really, it’s all part of the package.  Any mother who tells you that she never gets angry or frustrated at her kids, and always has only the sweetest of feelings towards them is either on drugs or she’s lying through her very firmly gritted teeth. 

So, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can write a sweeter post for tomorrow.

Beans and Bees

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Cherish Words is not about my daughter, it’s about me.  However, I’ve come to realize that a big part of who I am is “Mother”.  So, today’s post IS about my daughter (aka “the Bean”).

For my readers who aren’t up on the Bean’s short history, let me sum up (yes, this is a reference to The Princess Bride). 

She was born 5 weeks early (and very tiny) via C-section because she wasn’t growing properly in the womb.  Upon investigation, the doctors discovered that she has a partial trisomy of her 22nd chromosome.  In layman’s terms, this means that she has a third copy of a small piece of her 22nd chromosome that doesn’t belong – you normally have two copies.  The condition is so rare that they couldn’t really tell us much about it when we met with the geneticist – they expected she’d have some delays, but had no way of predicting the severity. 

Fast forward two years, and we’ve discovered some of how this is playing out for the Bean.  She is almost two and is not crawling, can just barely stand with help, and is certainly not walking.  She has a few words, though most other people don’t recognize them as words without translation.  She’s been going to a physical therapist twice a week to work on gross motor skills, oral-motor/speech therapy once a week to work on feeding, mouth manipulation and speech, and we have a Special Needs teacher from Easter Seals visiting once a week to work on her general cognitive and fine motor skills. 

The reason this is all coming up for me right now is that we’re in the middle of the Bean’s semi-annual evaluation with the government organization that pays for all this therapy (an organization for which I am extremely grateful).  The goal of the evaluation is to see how far she has come and also to figure out where she might need additional help.  But it also brings into sharp focus what other kids her age are able to do that she is not.  Once in a while I get sad about it – it’s a lot of work going to all those therapy sessions and trying to keep up with the “homework”.  Other kids that we play with are going to music classes or swimming lessons, but we go to therapy – there’s just not room in our schedule for those other fun things.   I occasionally feel sorry for myself because she’s not able to do things for herself that other kids her age can, putting a greater burden on me. 

On the flip side, I find that the Bean’s developmental delays make every new achievement that much more exciting.  It’s not a given that she would automatically to learn to crawl – we have to work on it every day.  So when she suddenly started turning in circles on her belly a couple of weeks ago, it was a really big deal!  Some of my mommy friends admitted they were dreading the moment when their babies became mobile.  I was beyond excited when the Bean figured out she could move around by scooting on her bum.  By the time she IS walking, she’ll be old enough to understand a lot more about what is dangerous than she would have been if she’d been walking at 10 months like I was.

I got to have a tiny little cuddle-bug a lot longer than most – in fact, two years later, she still LOVES to snuggle when most kids her age are too busy.  We’ve been able to save on baby clothes – she’s been able to wear some of the same clothes for almost a year now, although some of her pants got too short.  And even though I’m still carrying her around everywhere, she’s still pretty small, so that’s not as hard as it could be.  And I’m learning so much about the mechanics of motion and speech – it’s fascinating.  These are just a few examples, and they aren’t super profound, but they are little things that help me to realize that every child comes with pros and cons (so to speak).  

Our Bean’s strengths are numerous.  She is extremely social – wants to talk to everyone who passes by, even if they’re in their car.  She is usually pretty easy-going and happy.  She’s determined – if she wants to do something, she’ll keep trying (most of the time) without getting too frustrated.  Of course, she is almost two, so sometimes she asserts her independence and refuses to do things.  But that is also a cause for celebration in our house because it means she’s reached that developmental milestone, and pretty much right on target.  Is it weird to be thrilled (mostly) to enter the “terrible twos” stage?  When the Bean has a temper tantrum, I actually think it’s hilarious.

She’s also pretty darn perceptive – she notices things that I totally miss, like the tweet of a “brr” (bird).  She uses the words she can say with gusto, and is picking up more words all the time.  She’s gentle with our pets (with the odd reminder), doesn’t mind sharing her toys, LOVES to read and be read to, and seems to be driven to figure out how things work.  She is already pretty passionate about music – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is her favourite song, and she asks for it 50 times a day.  She dances at the mere mention of the word.  There doesn’t need to be any music to go with the dancing, but she’ll take the music if it’s offered. 

Okay, I could write a book on this stuff.  It’s a big part of my life, and it doesn’t surprise me that this is my longest post to date.  Perhaps I need to start a second blog.  But in the meantime, I guess my point is this:  My daughter has special needs.  I always thought that I wouldn’t be able to handle the added stress of a child with special needs.  But what I’m learning is that every child has special needs – they may be different in magnitude or in perceived importance in our society, but every child has their strengths and weaknesses. 

So I am grateful for my amazing daughter.  Sure, I’d love it if she didn’t need all the extra help, but she does, so we give it to her.   I also know that we got off lucky.  Of the very few documented cases of Trisomy 22, others have much more severe problems than the Bean does.  In fact, there are so many more serious genetic conditions out there, and all we have to deal with is some extra therapy.   

I am learning so much about myself in this process.  I’m learning that I don’t have as much patience as I thought I would (or think I should), but also that I can deal with so much more than I thought I had the capacity for.   I’m learning that true success is not actually measured by comparison with others, but by comparison with oneself.  I’m learning that being happy and friendly is so much more important than keeping up with everyone else.  I’m learning to trust my own intuition, my husband’s opinions, and the therapists and medical personnel that have been assigned to help us work through all of this.  Oh, and I’m learning that a smile from my daughter can make just about anyone’s day…and she doles them out like candy at Halloween.

On the Kindle: The Secret Life of Bees

I just finished reading this beautiful book.  It’s about mothers and daughters and how complicated their relationships are, even when their time together is ended early.  It’s about finding a mother’s love within yourself, even if you didn’t get it from your own mother.  It’s about racism and acceptance, the lessons we can learn from bees, the colour-blindness of love.  It’s a coming-of-age tale about a young Southern girl who escapes her abusive father and finds herself, and her mother, along the way.   I suppose women might get more out of this book than men will.  But to my male readers – if you have a daughter or a sister or a wife, this might be a good emotional education for you as well.