Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Birthday

My birthday was last week. I would have been perfectly happy to let it pass without notice - not because of my advancing age, but because I knew the day would be one of those heavy milestones associated with those who are bereaved.  There were a few factors that came into play which were the cause for celebration.  One factor comes in the form of a three year old named Gianna.

Before Christmas when we were celebrating my brother's birthday, Gianna wanted to know whose birthday would be next.  When I told her it would be mine she exclaimed, "Oh, happy birthday, Mommy!"  I told her it wasn't then, but we'd have to wait until January.  "Oh, when Beauty and the Beast comes to the movies?"  This child doesn't forget a thing.

I knew Gianna would be disappointed if she didn't have a gift for me (that would've been an Daddy date) and I didn't think it would be good for me to take her shopping, so I sought the help of one of my 'shopping for sport' friends who also is the mother of two boys and who has always felt a little deprived of the girl-mommy experience.  They went shopping and I had a few hours to myself. Win-win.  Gianna was so cute when they got back.  She wanted desperately to tell me everything she got for me but every time I cut her off - she said, "Well, Mommy -- we just got you an elephant."  (That was her coaching from Sissy.) Sissy really wanted Gianna to 'wrap' (bag) the gifts herself. There FOUR bags of really sweet gifts.
Well, they were mostly sweet.  One bag in particular included questionable contents.  My friend said when Gianna picked it out she turned to her and said, "Oh Ms. Sissy, do you think if we got this for Mommy - she would share." I couldn't imagine what it could be.
And then after my birthday dinner with my family, I opened them all up.  It was easy to spot the curious choice....

 She was proud to tell me that she helped make these bath gels with the lady at the store.  She even got to pick little treasures to put in the gel: 
sparkles, stars, squishy little figures and drumroll please.....
a FINGER and a little RAT!!!
She was so proud - and yes, I DEFINITELY shared.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I know my closest friends were concerned about my upcoming birthday and that it wouldn't be the same - maybe even difficult and sad - without Iain.  They wanted to be intentional about celebrating it, but also wanted to be respectful of my needs and wants.
Two of my closest circles of friends planned different things for me.
My special 'sister friends' (who have been unbelievable in their support and practical help) took me out to eat one night at a wonderful restaurant at the casino - and then to a fun dessert shop. They even provided me with childcare. So nice - and low key.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The second group of friends I have known since HS/college (and one since elementary).  They also gave me a list of options (I poo-pooed the party idea) and I settled on a lunch/movie date on the day of my birthday.  One of the girls hosted at her home and made soup and a panini bar for lunch. Another friend had a birthday the next day - so I was MORE than happy to share the spotlight. After lunch we watched a movie.  If you haven't seen Connie & Carla - it's a hoot.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
On the night before my birthday - Gianna and I were a little stir crazy (weekends are so hard and lonely) so I knew we should get out of the house.  I decided to take her to a restaurant for supper and when she asked why I told her it would be my birthday supper. "It's January twenty-fird? I can't believe this! Happy Birthday, Mommy!"  She was beside herself. I explained that the next day was really my birthday, but this night would be our little family celebration. (Having a family of two is taking a lot of getting used to.)
So, we are seated and the waitress approaches with the usual spiel. Gianna pipes up (without prompting) and says in one breath,
"I would like macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, chocolate milk - I've never had chocolate milk. And it's my Mommy's birthday, can you make her a cake."
The waitress was as surprised and entertained as I was. Gianna had the most adorable conversation with her and I continue to marvel at her social skills. 

Gianna was beside herself when they actually brought a birthday cake. She couldn't believe she made it happen.  (I couldn't believe she thought to ask. She's never seen a cake at a restaurant before.)
The waitress, stayed to watch her first bite and it was worth watching.
She closed her eyes and made the precious, appropriate mini-moaning noise.
"This is ah-MAY-zing!!!
It would have made the best commercial.
The waitress got such a kick out of her that she kept bringing other employees to see "the kid who needs an agent."  It was really a nice evening. Iain would've gotten the biggest kick out of it. His presence was missed SORELY, but I'm glad I got another milestone under my belt.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Clean up on aisle 3!

I found white footprints on my floor for DAYS - but after a good dozen sweeping, mopping, and steaming combinations - I think I finally got that doggon' powder cleaned up.  Thanks to my cleaning fairy - we knocked it out. :)

And yes, I'm grateful the mess did not include paint, vaseline, lotion, etc.

Friday, January 20, 2012

It snowed at our house last night!

Remember a month or so ago when THIS VIDEO went viral?  A mother videoed the aftermath of an entire bag of flour spread around every nook and cranny of her home by her adorable little boys who were still playing in it - all in a matter of  minutes while the mother was in the bathroom.  I think every mother was either horrified by it or rolled her eyes at the mother for 'letting' it happen. What struck me was how calm the mother was.  I was certain I would have blown a gasket if it were me.

Well, APPARENTLY, when you are in the situation yourself, you are struck dumb (both literally and figuratively) and are fearful that if any sound escapes you, it may set off a subsequent explosion which would surely cause you to become either institutionalized or jailed. 

How do I know this, you ask? Well the 'snow' at our house last night - wasn't snow. It was BABY POWDER and it was INSIDE our house minus three very fortunate rooms which seemed to escape the havoc.  I am still stupified.

Gianna had an emotionally challenging day yesterday, but we had seem to have turned the tide around later in the afternoon.  She was playing dress up in a beautiful ballerina costume and was dancing to classical music. I started making supper, which didn't require too much effort. In less than the time it takes a small pot of water to boil is all it took for the 'snowstorm' to do it's damage. 

I am almost always hightly attuned to the sounds of my child and my home and quickly know when something is awry. As I was browning my meat, I heard Gianna's hysterical giggling as she quickly approached the kitchen.  As I turned around (this all plays out in slow motion, of course) she appears in the kitchen trailed by multiple clouds of smoke -- skipping all the while with a gleeful expression and the bottle of baby powder I used FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE SHE WAS BORN after her bath earlier.

It was at that very moment, I became mute.  I calmly took the bottle out of her hand and escorted her to laundry room where I keep her high chair (which I now use for time out).  I was hoping that she had only just begun the powder rampage close to the kitchen, but that hope was quickly shattered as I entered the fog-filled living room. And then I got a glimpse of the hall which led to what I could not even begin to imagine.

HOLY freakin' COW! My room was covered, but certainly not the worst of it. The bathroom was like a WINTER WONDERLAND. It was still floating in the air as I tried to imagine how many hours it would take to clean up this horrible joke of a mess. 

It was EVERYWHERE: in the toilet, on the toilet, in the bathtub, in both closets on the picture frames,  And don't ask me how there was still powder left in the bottle!  Apparently powder fills space very differently when let out of it's container. 

First I stared sweeping - one room at a time.  That should help, right? HA!  Then I dry-mopped. HA! Then I had no other choice to add water to the mix....I wet mopped. Double HA!  Four moppings and a regretful steam-cleaning later - it is STILL NOT CLEAN.

Gianna spent a good hour in her high chair last night as I cleaned.  She peed on herself and I let her sit in it for about 20 minutes.  I thought that was the safest place for her. "I don't want to sit in the chair anymore, Mommy!"  My calm response:  "Well, I can relate. I don't want to be cleaning powder of my floor, furniture, clothes (she got in my closet too!) all night long either."

She asked to go straight to bed at 6:30pm.  I obliged. She raised a little cain when I put her down and I started crying.  She started sobbing and sobbing and saying, "I am SO sorry, Mommy.  PLEASE forgive me. You HAVE to forgive me. You're my MOMMY!"  Heartbreaking.

So, it's the next day. I've been cleaning for another hour and I've yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm sure I'll be finding powder in unusual places for a good long while.

The funny thing is, Gianna is not the kind of kid who tends to things like this.  I'm pretty good about removing temptations or keeping them out of reach. (Apparently I was a little lax after bathtime yesterday.)  She's gotten into small things like make up or nail polish but never made enormous messes. From what she told me, she saw the powder and wanted some for her hands. When it came out in cloud form I think it was novel and fun and she got caught up in it. Who knows?  Even this morning after our little chat and another apology she told me, "But powder is so much fun!" 

My guard is up, little girl! Don't mess with MOMMY!!!!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I was shaking my fist at the heavens last night. It was a hard enough day with this little hiccup.  Grief had already left it's mark on us throughout the day.  I was another kick in the gut and reminder that Iain is gone.  It's hard because he'd have been the one I would have called; who would have found it both appauling and hysterical; who would have told me to leave the mess and rest until he got home; who would have helped clean it - or at least offer to; who would have calmed me and held me and made it all better - or bearable; who would have told the story for years with a sympathetic smile.

  Now it's just me - and my blog. :(  I miss him. 
I sure hope he's enjoying this little show from the other side.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Resorting to Bribery

I'm a pretty tough mom.  My daughter didn't get juice til she was 2 1/2 and I still cut with 3/4 water. She didn't get refined sugar for the LONGEST time and it is still really limited.  She was almost three when we actually let her have fast food...and she still has no idea what McDonald's is. I let her have bubble gum for the first time a month ago.

We made tough decisions in the early years and it has served us well.....ESPECIALLY now.  All those things that we have been so careful about in the past is now being used as 'currency' as I desperately try to navigate through difficult behavioral situations.  I'm desperate. I need bargaining tools - and I think that my years of holding out should allow me to use what I need to keep whatever little sanity I have left these days. 

The biggest bribery these days center around the dreaded task of potty training. The whole number one thing wasn't so bad.  Gianna's not super into stickers, but M&M's, Skittles and the revered gummy treats have all been marvelous motivation in getting results.  Pooping in the potty, however, has been a entirely different beast.  Nothing helped even a little bit to convince her to get down to business and relieve her fears. (And that fear was due to a horrible bought of constipation over the summer - which REALLY set us back!) I was pulling out all the stops, promising her the moon, all for naught.....so I thought. 

Apparently I was desperate enough to stumble upon the right bargaining chip at the right time.  Hail to you, Oh Disney Princesses!  Snow White has come to my aid.  I had bought a Snow White costume and a Snow White wig prior to Christmas and decided to hold off giving them to her.  I am SO glad for that inspiration.  When we were making a bit of progress I showed it to her and her eyes nearly popped out of her head.  I quickly hid it away and reminded her that she wouldn't see it again until we had some serious success.

Well, Gianna plays Snow White all the time and she was just beside herself as she imagined having a costume to wear as she acted out the story over and over.  BINGO.  One day, with a little sneaky prodding from Mom, she hit the jackpot. Oh, the joy. Oh, the dancing. Oh, the cheering.

And then, a princess was born.  I give you - Snow White:

She's hard to recognize with black hair!
Thank heavens I videoed her when I put the costume on the first time.  Her voice was immediately raised an octave or two and she got right into character. 

Here's to bribery and here's to Snow White!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Code Red!

Oh the drama!  Who would have thought my decision about my iPhone would cause such a ruckus. 

Gianna has been playing with our phones since she was little.  Iain had tons of education apps on his phone and taught her so much by playing with her.  Well, Daddy's not here anymore and I don't have a whole lot of time to play around with that.

So now, I really only let her use my phone when:
1) We are driving back from LC to MB and I don't want her to fall asleep in the car.  You moms know what a 25 minute power nap will do for a preschooler!
2) When I am grocery shopping and she is getting antsy or tired and I need to avoid any possible 'issues.'
3) We are in a restaurant for longer than expected.

The Netflix app has really saved me. And Gianna is really good about asking me, "Is this a good show for me?"

Anyway, she's been hijacking my phone at home recently and it was irritating the tar out of me.  I don't know why, but it never occurred to me to put a security code on it until my friend told me she did it after her 10 year old started questioning her about some of her texts. Ruh-roh!

So, I did it.

I was not at all prepared, however, for the severe reaction it would get.  Holy cannoli.  She sobbed for a good five minutes, and the compassionate mother I am, decided to record the conversation following....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Just a little off the top...

The week after Iain died I was trying to find fun little excursions for Gianna.  I happened to pass the children's haircutting place by my folks' house and pulled in to trim up her hair.  Fun little experience. 

Last week, I went back again only to find out the would be closing their doors that very day.  (That was a short run!) The sylist was a girl I knew years ago and Gianna chatted with her like she was a grown up. Here how the conversation went:

Gianna:  And what is your name?
Stylist:  Michelle
Gianna:  Hi Ms. Michelle, I'm Gianna.  I'm frwee.
Stylist: Hi Gianna, it's so nice to meet you.
Gianna:  It's nice to meet you too.  Do you have any little kids?
Stylist:  I have two kids, they're teenagers.
Gianna: Oh. Do you have a house?
Stylist: Yes I do.
Gianna:  Oh....well, would you like to show me a picture of your house?
Stylist: I don't have one with me. How old are you again?
Gianna:  Frwee.  And you should be careful with those scissors. Don't cut yourself!

The next week when I told her that I needed to get Ms. Michelle to give me a haircut, she laughed hysterically.  I asked her what was so funny about that and she said, "Mommy, you can't fit in the firetruck!!!"   Funny kid.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mass Appeal

As a mother of a 3 year old, often the longest hour of my week is during Mass on Sunday. These last few months I've been church-hopping a bit just to change things up a bit in order to keep Gianna's attention.  It's worked fairly well and she really has improved tremendously.

I noticed she beginning to play church fairly often and always wanted me to stand in line for communion (or commillion - as she calls it.)  Not long after that a friend on Facebook posted about a children's mass kit that Wee Believers puts out. 

It's cute as can be but costs SEVENTY BUCKS!  How riduculous is that?  I suggested that she could probably make one of her own with things she already had. (Don't you hate when people suggest those things.)  Well, I started thinking about it and thought I would compile a few things to make our own mass kit.

I'm not quite done but I've had fun with my little project.

I used mostly plastic or melamine pieces that I spraypainted with brown Krylon spraypaint for plastic. I used an unbreakable bathroom cup that wasn't spraypainted becasue I  knew she'd have her mouth on it.
I found those little battery powered votive lights. I had an extra liturgy of the hours that I had packed away - but any old book would do since she doesn't read.  I had some white felt that I doubled up, cut into circles and glued together to make them a little sturdier. 

Well, I gave it to her today and she immediately got into Liturgy mode.  I was surprised at how much she was able to re-enact. Of course, there was a fair amount of Gianna's creative flair added, but all in all, it was sweet for a three year old.

Although the priesthood is out of reach for her, she may very well have a future in some sort of liturgical ministry and I'm excited to have this teaching tool so early in her little life.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Back to Bloggin'

Gee whiz - it's been a whole month since I've posted!  I think that's the longest I've gone. I certainly didn't intend to be an absentee blogger, but surviving a gruesome wave of grief as well as the holidays and a visit from my inlaws all became my major focus.  Survival always seems to be my focus these days. 

Interestingly, after the holidays I feel like I have hit an emotional plateau. In other words, there are hours, even days when I am not leveled by unrelenting grief.  I know it won't last forever, and I don't even know if it's another phase of numbness, but it is nice to be able to breathe for extended bits of time.  It's also the first time that Gianna and I are having good, melt-down free moments at the same time. That's been SO helpful.

Another reason for my blogging absence is that I don't really know how to blog during the intense grief without freaking people out. I'm still working through that and have decided I might keep a private blog just for me to record unedited feelings and experiences.

I have come to realize what a valuable processing tool this blog has become for me when I received an email from a precious friend who quoted a post I'd written shortly after Iain died. I was moved by the quote and then finally discovered it was me she was quoting.  It helped me to realize that uncensored, stream of consciousness writing comes from a raw, real place from deep within and that I need to allow it to pour out of me. It can be cleansing, inspired and authentic - and helpful for later down the road.   Anyway, even though I don't always enjoy the discipline of writing - I do enjoy and appreciate having written. 

So, I'm back. In an effort to catch up with all my 2011 posts so I can have my Blog Book printed, I'm going to be pumping out the posts and they'll probably be out of order.  I might back date them so most people won't notice, but if keep up through a reader service - watch out. :)  Buckle up for a deluge of posts, pictures, videos, updates, etc. 

Thank you for all of you who are praying for me/us.

This weeks mark the five month mark.  Unbelievable. You've prayed us this far - please don't stop.  This isn't a sprint:  it's a marathon.
(Not a big fan of marathons these days.)
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