Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Redefining Normal

We have been back from Florida for several weeks now, and its been nothing short of mayhem. The excitement of enjoying our free time quickly dissolved as I realized I had no idea what to do with these girls. All three of us are creatures of habit, and the onset of summer vacation for Nora, coupled with my new teaching schedule, has left the house and its inhabitants feeling upside down. The influx of stuff, from jewelry to dresses to bone china teacups, hasn't helped anyone feel better either.

I spent the first week back unpacking, reliving memories, and trying to get the girls back on track. The first week failed. Its hard to recreate a sense of flowing from one activity to the next when everyone has a different idea about when to eat, sleep, play, etc. Even now, it seems like everyone is on a different schedule, but starting today I decided to break rule #1: Never wake the sleeping children up. I don't think I have a choice. Emily gets up at 6:45, while Nora sleeps until 8:45. How can I make breakfast and have us eat as a family with a two hour time difference? That two hours throws off the rest of the day, as tummies get hungry for snack and meals at different times. Plus, by the time Nora finally wakes up and is alert, Emily is ready for a nap. I can't win.

Since we are creatures of habit, I've decided to take a cue from Nora's school and from Miss Shelly's speech sessions. I am making a daily schedule. I have a daily routine broken down by time, and then there will be pictures of the activities that the girls can pick from taken from the PECS book. Instead of shopping in the PECS book for whatever whenever, there will be two options for the girls to pick from at any given time. This should eliminate my two biggest problems at the moment, being (1) Boredom/restlessness and (2) Never-ending snacks.

Here is the routine I came up with for Monday through Friday. Let's see if it works.

7:00 - 8:00 Breakfast
8:00 - 9:30 Free time with small toys (Little People for example)
9:30 -10:30 Take a walk; play in backyard
10:30-10:45 Fresh fruit/veggie snack
10:45-12:00 Yard chores
12:00-12:30 Lunch
12:30- 1:00 Clean-up lunch, make bed, other cleaning
1:00 -2:00 Art and Music and Dress-up Play
2:00 -3:00 Free time with larger toys (Kitchen, tent, trips to playground)
3:00 -5:00 Movie time/computer games
5:00 -6:00 Dinner and clean-up chores
6:00 -7:00 Time with Dad
7:00 -8:00 Bath and bed time routine
8:00 Stories then lights out

The block of time from 1:00 to 3:00 can also serve as my errand running time, if need be. Sometimes we will go to the park; sometimes we'll go to the store. But I figure if I keep running around to the same time, it will be easier to Emily to transition from one activity to another.

WISH ME LUCK!!! Because this is going to require some discipline on my part as well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Momma's Blog is One Today!!!

Just a bit of self-reverential news...Momma Needs Another Cup of Coffee is one year old today!!! Whoo-hoo!

To celebrate the blog's first anniversary, look for changes in the coming days in the layout and design of the site. That's how it goes these days, right? New and improved.

I'm also publishing a copy for me, just in case Google goes bust. Turns out the printing service I chose can't put in pics from the links, so I'm in the process of editing some of the older posts by adding the photos into the story.

I have to say that overall I'm pretty happy with where this project has gone so far. This blog probably contains as much text as my master's thesis, but this is much more fun and way more interesting! People actually read this stuff. I am looking forward to seeing where its going to go in the future. Now that I have a new laptop (thank you Ryan) I will be able to write anywhere, and uploading pictures is a breeze.

I'm also happy to announce my friend Carolina has started a blog. She found part of her inspiration here at Momma. Some of you know Carolina, and I highly recommend following her at http://carolina-theseinfeldblog.blogspot.com.

Finally, I want to say THANK YOU to everyone out there reading this. I keep writing because of you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy 3rd Birthday Emily!

Dear Emily,

I wanted to write you a note you can read once you're a little older, and give you something you can keep after I'm gone. If I've learned anything this year its this, life is short. You can't take it with you when you go. And the only thing that counts is how you treat others. I want you to know that I try to make sure everything I do for you is done with love. (Of course sometimes I fail. I am not perfect).

You have grown so much, not only in the past three years, but in the last six months. Your personality is really starting to shine through, and its wonderful to share a home and a life with someone who is filled with so much joy, curiosity, and mischief!!! I love to watch you experiment with water toys in the backyard. Its fun to see you play with all of your animal toys, making the noises for the animals as they talk to each other. The trouble you cause also keeps all members of the household on their toes. Just this morning, there were cashews and Triscuits on the floor. First breakfast perhaps?

Your language is really emerging, with words for the things you love at the top of the list. Six short months ago you couldn't say ice-cream cone, animal cracker, root beer, juice, apple sauce, or shortcake (strawberry in Emily speak). Your absolute love of all things music is something that makes your father beam with pride. Can I tell you a secret? Sometimes I hide around the corner and watch you sing and dance when you think you're all alone. Being your mom is nothing short of a miracle and a joy. I hope, as you grown, that you can continue to find happiness through music and art and dance.

Emily I love you so much! Really, the amount of love I feel for you seems to be much larger than my body, I can feel it beaming out of my heart like light beaming from the sun. You and Nora and your father mean the world to me. I can give you root beer for breakfast because its your birthday, but you've given me so much in return. You bring out the best in me (and the worst too...but how can I be a better person if I didn't have someone testing me??) I couldn't ask for more. Happy third birthday sweetie belle! I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Good bye Grandma Mom and Grandpa


I have gone back and forth on writing this blog entry for a week now, but I've decided to go ahead and write about my experience on the way home from Florida. All I ask is that you read this with an open mind. You are free to believe me or not. Please keep in mind, however, that this is a really sensitive topic for me and my family, so please no rude comments. If you think I'm crazy, that's fine. In some ways I am. :)

The morning we left Florida did not go according to plan. We didn't make it out the door until 10:30, due to a lot of last minute packing etc. I truly felt on edge, in part, because on the way home we were stopping at the cemetery in which my grandparents ashes were interred. Their headstone had been placed just a few days prior, and I wanted to take pictures to show my mom and dad. I also wanted Nora to understand where Grandma and Grandpa's bodies gone.

Prior to shutting the back gate to the van, I snapped a picture of all the stuff in the back. I put the lens on the camera, and popped it in my purse. We then made the treck to Sarasota National Cemetery. I parked the van and Nora and I searched for my Grandpa's grave. It was easy to find; the back row. They were among the most recent of the dead. The emotions I'd been feeling all week welled up and then out, and I started to cry. Nora stood next to me and said it was ok. I pulled myself together, for her sake, and told her that it was her job to put the flowers she picked out in the ground. It was a present from us to them. As she placed the flowers, I began to snap a few pictures. I was having a hard time with the viewfinder, it didn't seem to be working with the shine of the sun. The same thing had happened at the beach. I did my best to aim, looking at the viewfinder and the grave. All seemed normal. I was upset, however, because I only saw my Grandfather's stone. I wondered aloud where they had placed my Grandmother.

I brought Nora back to the van so I could have a few minutes alone. A worker approached me and apologized for eavesdropping, but he said my Grandmother's information was on the backside of the same stone. I went to the other side and there it was. I cried, and cried, and cried. After I was done with my goodbye, I took a few more pictures to show my mom. I was still having trouble with the viewfinder, so I made sure to get another shot of the front of the tombstone as well, just to be on the safe side.

I went to back to the van, so my Grandma Esther could pay her respects. And then, long story short, I drove like a bat out of hell to Byron, GA. I just wanted to get home.

I never checked the pictures until I got back to IL, several days later. And I couldn't believe what I saw. At first I thought I screwed up the pictures. But then I looked closer. The picture I took when we left, the one of the van, was fine. The second set of pictures from the grave site was also fine. The first set of pictures I took with Nora had something in them that I did not see with my eyes when I stood there in Florida. There are white shadows, or mists, or clouds of sorts. I looked, and continue to look, at those pictures. Those figures are not smudges, they are not humidity, they are not accidents of the camera. I am convinced, CONVINCED, that those pictures show my grandparents. I believe they were there to say their goodbyes as well.

I have always believed in life after death. I have always believed we are not our bodies. I now believe I have pictures that seemingly prove this point. You look, you see, you judge. Of course you can believe what you will. But I will treasure these photos as a testament that not only are my grandparents actually ok, but that they love Nora and I enough to come back from the otherside for a moment to say goodbye to us as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Illinois Bound...soon but not soon enough!


The last two days spent in Florida were a blur. The amount of work completed, compared to the amount of work that still needs to be done, was depressing. I didn't even get to much cleaning, because the task of day to day with two girls is messy. And to say they were misbehaving is the understatement of the year. Eating=fights. Bedtime=major joke. Emily alone got up between 15 and 20 times from the time I laid her down at 8:30 to the time she passed out at 10:30. Ugh. Illinois, you are looking better every day!

Nora and I did hit the beach again, albeit quickly, on Wednesday. I felt bad about leaving Emily behind, but I really needed a break from keeping a constant eye on her. Nora is old enough to follow directions, and she and I both made friends on the beach. It was a nice late morning treat, to have another mom to talk with while enjoying the perfect weather.

I packed and packed as much as I could, but left so much behind. I inherited some awesome vintage dresses, and will post pics as I begin to incorporate them into my wardrobe. I have some winners and some losers, but the losers will be winners come Halloween!

As I began to pack up the van, Nora asked me if we were leaving. Yup. "NO!!" she cried. "I want to live here! I want to go to the beach everyday!!!" Oh sweetie. God knows I'd do almost anything for you, but moving to Florida is just not gonna happen. I promise though, that I will bring you back to the beach as soon as I can. With your dad. So I can have some help getting you to stay in bed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sun and Fun...Finally!


Two words: Sanibel Island. Yes!!! Finally a day to have some fun with my girls. They were feeling pretty used and abused by this point in our journey, and I was feeling pretty sorry for them. I had talked up Florida and so far they'd done a whole lot of nothing, or worse, we had a terrible time doing what we were doing (i.e the mall).

But it was Memorial Day, the unofficial kick off to summer, and is there any better way to spend the holiday than on the beach? Nope! I had planned on taking them to Sanibel all along, because this was the first Florida beach my Grandparents took me to when I was 10 years old. I had packed the bag back in IL, so it was stocked with plenty of sunscreen, flotation devices, sand toys, and towels. We had practiced wearing swim suits and sun hats in our backyard sprinkler, so they were able to keep all of the necessary gear on without issue.

It took over an hour for the three of us to get out the door and on the road. We drove over two bridges, the one to Sanibel being very impressive. The girls were so excited to see palm trees, pelicans, and I'm not sure but I think we even saw a wild turkey. Emily kept saying "boat!" "Look, boat!" every few seconds, as there were a lot of boats on the water than fine sunny holiday.

I have to admit I was in tears on the drive over the bridge. I remember that drive as a kid, thinking it was the longest bridge ever, and it was so wonderful to have my girls in the backseat having the same experience. The long bridge, the blue expanse of water, the anticipation of finally getting there. And we did get there to a wonderful, sunny 94 degrees.

I'm not sure exactly what beach we were on, but there was nothing but miles of white sand and endless blue water. Beautiful! We picked a spot near some other families, and then the games began. Nora and Emily, but especially Emily, couldn't decide what to do. They wanted to play in the sand, and they wanted to swim in the water. Simultaneously. Of course they haven't figured out how to be in two places at once any better than I have, and so we went back and forth and back and forth. And then we went back and forth again. I can honestly say, though, I didn't mind. I totally expected it. After all, Emily gets a disorganized in the gym room at therapy, because its big, and I brought her to the edge of the ocean. I can't even imagine what was going through her little mind!

They loved it. Nora got over her fear of the water quickly. Emily had no fear whatsoever. She kept saying, "Beach!" "Beach...I like!" I had a grip on both of them for the first hour since they can't swim, and I don't know anything about the tides, etc. For the second hour, I let Nora play with a friend named Maya. I didn't hold on to her, for fear of embarrassing her in front of her peer, but I was within arms reach the whole time. I kept my grip on Emmers. And we swam, and we picked up shells, and we played in the sand. Emily threw shells, to Nora's dismay. It was truly the best beach experience of my entire life.

We had to leave after two hours, because our parking was about to run out, and it was probably 100 degrees by 1 pm. Plus we were starving. I told the girls our time was up, and they both cried. Please note I did not say have tantrums, they cried because their hearts were broken. I felt so bad for not packing a picnic. I really had no idea our trip would actually be a success. We left Sanibel, tails between our legs. They didn't even smile at the prospect of ice-cream for lunch. They did perk up once the ice-cream was in hand, however, and Emily took her first nap of the trip on the drive home.

Pics from our Sanibel Adventure

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Clean up on aisle 77 years of stuff....


Not too much to report. The big clean-up at my grandparent's house began early in the morning. The girls got to watch more TV while my Grandma Esther and I began the process of going through what turned out to be 12 paper grocery bags of jewelry. This didn't surprise me, since we found 141 wigs and 148 handbags on our prior trip, as well as over one thousand almost new outfits. As my mom said, "Well, she did like to shop (shrug)". I have no idea what my uncles unearthed in the garage, but the mummified rat remains in the garbage can indicate I was probably not up to that task.

The girls were not on their best behavior. They were over tired, eating unfamiliar food in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by people they didn't know who turned out to be relatives. This, coupled with too much TV, was bound to end in disaster. Ok, not disaster, but by the fourth day away from home I noticed Emily was beginning to lose language and resort to pointing and gestures. Her ability to process auditory input was also diminished.

In an effort to try to stimulate the kids, i.e. get them off their butts, we headed over to the mall. WORST IDEA EVER. Taking Emily from a small unfamiliar environment to a huge unfamiliar environment only created more problems. She wanted to run, of course she couldn't. She wanted to ride the merry-go-round and the train, but I didn't want to pay for those activities considering I was pushing her around in a rather expensive little red car device. She wanted to jump in the fountain...see the pattern? After visiting the Disney Store (and spending too much money on a costume/bribe for Nora), I spent the rest of our visit trying (and failing) to end a rather long meltdown. Oh well. Considering the entire point of driving to Florida was to clean up all the stuff my Grandma had purchased, the idea of adding to the problem was silly anyways.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Welcome to Florida...why are you crying?


Our road trip continued for a second day. The girls were both surprised when they woke up, having forgotten (or not realizing) we were in the "Super Duper 8". They ran around while Grandma and I packed up and readied ourselves for a another long haul.

Driving the second day was a bit harder. I was bored, since Grandma napped a lot more and I didn't have anyone to talk to, and the kids were still occupied with the TV. It was uneventful for the most part...hey kids look Georgia. Yes kids, we're still in Georgia. All I wanted was to get our free orange juice at the first rest stop in Florida.

We made it to the state line at 4:50 EST. HOORAY!!! Well, I was happy. Nora and Emily were not feeling the same way. The boredom hit them hard at that point. They wanted to run and jump. They did not want to use the bathroom in an orderly fashion, and Emily threw a big tantrum as I tried to snap a picture. Actually, its my favorite picture from the whole trip because it sums up a lot of the emotions I was feeling nicely! Poor Grandma had never witnessed an Emily meltdown before, as they're few and far in-between. Welcome to Florida!

The excitement of reaching Florida faded quickly for Grandma Esther and I about an hour over the border. We saw a line of storms ahead, but not understanding the nature of a Florida storm in the summer, I drove along. And then we hit a wall of rain. The only words I can use to describe it is "car wash". I have never ever in my life seen or attempted to drive through rain like that. It was worse than any snow storm. It got to the point where I couldn't see the lines on the road, I couldn't see the car in front of me, and couldn't see the car behind me either. It was like being in a thick cloud of fog but the rain was pounding the windshield. It was loud and scary and I ended up pulling off to the side of the road. Grandma protested, thinking it was safer to stay in traffic, but my nerves were shot and I didn't want to risk plowing into the guy in front of us. We waited until I could see the lines on the road again, and proceeded to the next rest stop. I called Ryan, got a weather report, and decided to try to keep going. (It's really a small storm on the radar, he said. Small? Ok...)

Dinner was a disaster. The kids did not want to cooperate, and I looked and felt like a wreck. I decided that we were not driving for a third day. I filled up the van somewhere south of Gainesville and filled up my cup with the 5 hour energy shot, a product I swore I would never try because I believe in something called sleep. Nonetheless I chugged the syrupy, Tang-flavored beverage and hit the road. Everyone else slept, and it was just me and Delilah, this cheesy love DJ that plays Richard Marx songs and gives relationship advice to those in need. It was so bad, I loved it! And we made it to the house at 11:45 pm, keeping our trip to two days as I hoped.

In all of my life, there has always been someone to greet me at that front door. Letting myself in, and turning on the lights for myself and the girls, was a bit depressing. Emily was asleep again, and I felt bad that she'd never made it down there to meet her great-grandpa. But we were safe, and I hoped maybe they'd check in at least for a minute to see their beautiful sleeping granddaughters. The three of us slept in the water bed Renee and I shared as kids. It was biter sweet.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

1287 miles of road ahead....

It wasn't the ideal road trip...heading to Florida to clean up my late grandparents house in order to get it on the market. Really, I wish we were headed to Disney World instead. Nonetheless, this was Nora and Emily's first road trip, and I wanted to make it as fun as possible, memorable even, and here's how it went.


I got up at 5 am to pack the van and set up the DVD player. Yes, my TV deprived children were going to have 2 screens, 4 speakers, and 400 hours of movie entertainment ahead of them. At 6:45 when I woke them up and plopped their butts into their car seats, you would have thought they'd just won the lottery. It was a good beginning to a long day.

We headed out to Chicago to pick up my Grandma Esther, who was coming along for the ride. She is a young 83, and was in the car to help me with the kids. When juice boxes ran out, Grandma Esther was there to the rescue. She also packed a picnic lunch, which we ate under a shady tree at a rest stop in Indiana. Dinner, well that was in Kentucky. And we stopped for the night outside of Chattanooga, TN.

Overall, the drive that first day and night was really enjoyable. While a lot of people didn't think I would be able to go that far without another driver to help me, I didn't have a choice and just kept going. And once you get into Kentucky, the scenery is really beautiful. We drove past horse farms and rolling hills, and then of course there are the mountains in Tennessee. The kids had their TV and Grandma and I chatted well into the night. The only delay we encountered was some construction on I-24. The road was closed and so we sat in park for about 25 minutes. The moon was full and bright, and surprisingly pink, so it wasn't a bad wait by any means.

Maybe the delay was a bit more of a problem then I'm letting on. See, it was dark, and it was late, and I had run out of coffee. And we were at that point on the expressway in which we were about to descend out of the Appalachians...you know the part with the runaway truck ramps...and did I mention I was out of coffee? I put the van back into drive and immediately knew I needed to stop. We passed a motel, but I was too tired to safely change lanes and exit the expressway. We kept going and going and going. It was like the Magic Tree House, we kept going faster and faster even though I was riding the break! How we got down the hill and to the next town in one piece is beyond me. But we did, and turned into what I thought was a parking lot. It turned out to be the lawn of the Super 8. Crap. What to do? Keep going...the van has a V-6...and I drove up the lawn and into the parking lot. Thank God my Grandma has a good sense of humor. She was laughing with tears pouring down her face. No harm no foul I say, and no ticket either.

Emily never even woke up to see her first motel room. Nora put on her new jammies and was asleep in a matter of minutes. Momma too.

Here's a link to some more photos...note the grassy hill: http://picasaweb.google.com/IvyDally/2010_1287_Miles?authkey=Gv1sRgCOjotfn02dORugE#

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nora's Thoughts on Summer Vacation

Before I begin to post about our plans for summer, I thought it would be fun to ask Nora what she thinks about the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation. Here are her thoughts...

Mom: What do you hope to do over summer vacation?

Nora: I want to go to Ava's house (whispered as if its a secret).

Mom: Anything else?

Nora: I want to have a fun birthday party at Emily's party.

Mom: Do you miss school yet?

Nora: I kind of do. I am very excited to be moving to a new class.

Mom: What's that new class called?

Nora: Miss Colleen's class (kindergarten).

Mom: What was the most fun thing you did at school this past year?

Nora: Well, the most fun thing I did at school was painting crazy hats for crazy hat day.

Mom: What was the least fun thing you did at school?

Nora: The least fun thing was...I never thought about that.

Mom: Is there anything you want to learn this summer?

Nora: How to swim.

Mom: Is there anybody you want to visit?

Nora: I really want to "bisit" Illiana's house.

Mom: What kinds of presents do you hope to get for your half-birthday party?

Nora: Well, you did say one day we would get the Swan Palace Princess Castle. And the Princess Tiana movie.

Mom: Don't you want some more dresses?

Nora: YES!!! Dresses.

Mom: Is there anything else you want to say about the summer?

Nora: I want to go shopping for toys. I think we should get Emily and me a swimming pool. Then we can see if I can learn to go underwater.

Well, as Nora said, that's a lot of things. I'll be posting in the next few days. There is much to say about our 1287 drive to Florida, our trip to the beach, and our final days through early intervention therapy for Emily.