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The Secrets We Keep

So I was sitting at my desk the other day, feeding Gracie.  Eilis was in the living room, watching Dora on the television.  One minute, I heard her yelling gleefully at the TV “Swiper, No Swiping!”, and the next thing I knew, she was standing in the doorway of the office/laundry room, crying and screaming hysterically.

“It was an accident!   Please don’t tell Daddy!   Please, Mommy, I didn’t mean it!”   I grab her with the hand that I have freed up by putting the bottle down and pull her towards me.  I ask her to calm down so I can understand her better, and through hysterical tears, I find out that she has broken our glass coffee table.

The first thing that enters my mind is that there is no way she has broken it, because first, I would have heard it; second, she would be bleeding to death on the floor, since the table top is glass.  I get up from my desk and run into the living room to find, sure enough, she has broken the table.  It cracked clear across, one piece fell on the carpet, the other is still in the table. 

I want to hug her and tell her it’s okay, but Eilis has been told since she was a very small child of about 18 months old “Tables are made for glasses, not asses”.  I have been afraid of that table and small children since Eilis was born, and it is a constant mantra in our house that no one may sit on the table.  For some reason, the appeal is too great, and all of us, at one time or another, have sat on it.  So instead of hugging her, I remind her that she was not allowed to sit on the table, and through those very dramatic sobs, she tells me she knows, but she “had to” sit on it.  I do not know what the compelling force was, she couldn’t elaborate, but something drew her, forcing her to sit on the forbidden piece of furniture.

I put the baby in her pack n play so I can assess the situation, and Eilis, calming herself down a bit but still crying, starts suggesting solutions. 

“We can get a genie, Mommy.  A genie will fix it before Daddy gets home.”  

“There are no Genies in real life, Eilis.”

“Please Mommy, can we call the table fixer?”

“No, Eilis, I don’t know where there is a table fixer.”

At this point, I begin removing the piece of glass that remains in the table so I can take it out to the garage before someone gets hurt.  Eilis jumps up excitedly and shouts,

“Yes, Mommy!   We can pretend it’s invisible and Daddy won’t know it’s broken!”  

Clever, I think, and I may have to do that.  When he goes to put his cup on it as he has his snack tonight, and it falls through to the floor, we’ll act like we don’t know what happened to the glass.  It must be invisible!

“No, Eilis, I think Daddy will know it hasn’t become invisible.”

“Mommy, we can tell Daddy you broke it because you can’t get in trouble.  You’re too big to get in trouble.”

Now the kid is making cracks about my weight.

“You know Eilis, lying is never a good thing,” I begin.  But the kid is on to something.  I can tell Jim I broke the table while I was cleaning it!   That gets Eilis off the hook, and I probably won’t have to clean too often in the future, because I will look like I can’t do it properly and the rest of the furniture is now at risk. 

I finish getting the table out to the garage – damn is that table heavy – and I sit down at my desk.  Eilis comes in and suggest that maybe no one will notice that the table is missing.  And then I do something that I don’t want to do.  I am going to lie for my child. 

I sit her on my lap and I tell her that Daddy is going to be very upset that the table is broken, but  I don’t want him to be upset with her.  I tell her it is an awful thing to lie to someone, but I will tell Daddy that I broke the table so that she doesn’t get in trouble.  She is hugging me and thanking me, and I know we will go to our graves with this bonding secret between us.

Today, Eilis apologized to Jim for breaking the table.  UGH.

The Pumpkin Patch

Ahhh, fall.  It is definitely my favorite season of the year, and I wish it would stay this way all year long.  I would not miss swimming, I would not miss shoveling snow, and although I might miss them a little, I could learn to live without spring flowers. 

As soon as the first leaves start to change color, my favorite things to do are go to the fall craft fairs and to the pumpkin festival at Duffields.  It’s not all that exciting – a few craft tables, a small petting zoo, pony rides, and apple cider doughnuts.  This year, we missed the festival, so I decided on Brighid’s day off  I would take the girls to Duffields anyway so they could pick out their pumpkins. 

Well, I did not know that even during the week, Duffields has hay rides out to the pumpkin patch.  Eilis thought this was SO great!   I opted not to go, since I had the baby in her stroller, but Brighid and Eilis snuggled together and rode out on the tractor to the pumpkin patch to find the most sincere pumpkins to bring back home for decorating.  They were so cute, the two of them, and Grace and I watched as they rode off.  We wandered around a bit, looked at the animals, watched the kids in the baby corn maze, and enjoyed the smells coming from the bakery. 

When the hay ride was over, Eilis and Brighid emerged from the back of the trailer with a big fat pumpkin, waiting to be painted or carved.  We wandered over to the other pumpkin patch, where the pumpkins are already picked, but waiting to be taken home.  We got Gracie a little pumpkin of her own.  They had a cute little “booth” set up with gourds and hay that you could take photos at, so we did.  And then we enjoyed some fresh apple cider and those warm, delicious cider doughnuts.

This is why we moved back to New Jersey.

Crying It Out – Both of Us

At Granuaile’s 4 month check up, the doctor said we should begin putting her to bed awake, thus teaching her how to fall asleep on her own.  The problem with this method is that she usually falls asleep during a bottle, which, of course, we give her at bedtime.  Up until now, the give her the bottle, let her fall asleep, and gently put her in her crib method has worked like a charm for us.  She has gone down each night between 9 and 10 PM and slept through the night until at least 5 or 6 in the morning.

Then about a week ago, she decided to start waking up in the middle of the night.  At first, it was not a big deal, a quick pop of the binkie in her mouth usually worked just fine.  She would re-settle herself, fall back asleep, and I could continue my sleep.  But after two nights, she began waking up for longer periods, crying more vigorously, and not being soothed by anything but me picking her up and laying with her until she fell asleep.  This was not what the doctor prescribed.

Our oldest daughter, Brighid, slept with us in bed until she was 5.  Even after that, we would still find her little self sneaking in during the wee hours of the morning some mornings until she was 7 or 8.  Eilis, on the other hand, moved into the bed with us much earlier than Brighid did (she was 11 months old).  Eilis began sleeping with us by about 6 months, but moved out much sooner, sleeping in her own bed at 2.  I was determined not to bring Grace into bed with us, but last night, after a week of sleeplessness, I brought her over with me, laid with her until we both fell asleep, then woke up at 3 AM with her still snuggled in the crook of my arm.  I snuck her into her crib, she whimpered a bit, but fell asleep.

Tonight, all baby hell broke loose.  As soon as she left the comfort of someone’s arms, she was screaming her head off.  At first, I picked her up and brought her over to the bed with me, but at 10:32, I decided to ride it out.  I have NEVER let ANY of my kids “cry it out”, falling asleep only after exhausting themselves with hysterical tears.  As the clock ticked, and Gracie cried, I started crying.  I found myself rocking back and forth in bed, as if she was sitting with me, trying to comfort her from across the room.  10:42, 10 minutes in, we are both crying pretty good, me as silently as possible, her as loudly as possible.  10:52 – I am only giving it 10 more minutes, then I am getting her out. I can’t do this.  10:55 – she is taking breaks between the sobs.  10:57 – only whimpering now, not kicking her feet, the poor little thing is completely hoarse.  11:00 – if she cries now, do I have to start the timer all over again?   I can’t do it.  Please let her stay sleeping.  11:02 – my time is up – I promised myself I would get her out of the crib if she is still crying 30 minutes in.  She’s not.  She fell asleep.

I feel awful.  I don’t know if I can do this every night, so I hope she is a quick study at this soothing herself to sleep business. 

Granuaile at 6 Months

Well, it took us two attempts to get Gracie’s 6 month check up done.  I originally made it on a morning when Brighid had no school so that I could have an extra pair of hands with me.  Brighid is still treating her hip injury, so I had to drop Eilis off at school at 9, have Brighid to PT by 9:30, and then have Grace to her appointment by 10:30.  I had to leave the pediatrician’s office by 11:15 in order to get to Eilis in time for dismissal, but they are really very good there about taking you back quickly and being seen quickly. 

Well, I got Eilis to school on time, and Brighid to PT 15 minutes early.  They end up not calling her back until nearly 10 minutes late.  I tell her she has to be done by 10, no matter what, and she is.  I arrive at the pediatrician’s office at 10:20 and they take us back before 10:30.  They did height, weight, and head circumference, then leave us to wait for the doctor, who, by 11:15, has not shown up.  I leave Brighid to dress Granuaile really quick and I reschedule our appointment for the soonest.  That is Monday, the 17th.  I hate that it is with the nurse practitioner, because I really prefer the doctors, but I don’t want to wait for the next available with a doctor. 

So back we go, just me and Grace, on the 17th.  She is an oh so adorable 15 pounds, 6 ounces and she is 25.25 inches long.  Her head circumference, which is when I always hold my breath, is a well within normal limits at 42 centimeters around.  Whew!   The NP tells me she is close to the 50th percentile for everything.

The NP is pleased that she can sit by herself for such a long period, and she is very good at focusing on things and following them with her eyes.  She can switch things from one hand to another, which is apparently another wonderful thing to be able to do.  She also babbles appropriately and reacts to loud noises, indicating that her hearing is okay. 

She still has the labial adhesions, and the NP suggested just using a little vaseline during diaper changes to maybe help lubricate the area and help it to open up.  She said they will encourage other treatment by 18 months, but I think from this point forward, I will be making my appointments with Dr. Stephanie, who seems to be more in line with my way of thinking.

The NP declared her “very strong” when she helped her to stand up and then again when she tried to get her to open her mouth for the tongue depressor (we still don’t know if her throat was clear, because she never did get it open).  Grace began crying as soon as I put her on the scale, and by the time they came at her with 5 shots (the four regular vaccines plus a flu shot), she got hysterical and cried all the way out to the car.  Bad thing is, she has to go back on November 4th to have the second dose of flu shot 🙁

Overall, she’s just perfect!   We already knew that, but it’s nice to be reminded by professionals.

It’s a Raspberry Morning!

Grace has learned in the last week or so to blow raspberries, and is ever so proud of herself for learning this amazing feat.  If you come withing 2 feet of our little Old Faithful, you will be doused with a hearty helping of baby spit.  Her father and her sister Eilis take great pride in this little Whiz Kid for being able to project this much bodily fluid at any given time, Brighid is a little grossed out by it, and I am just fascinated with the face she makes.  Instead of blowing raspberries in the usual way, she has refined her technique by pulling in her bottom lip, allowing the top lip to protrude as if she has buck teeth.  When she blows the raspberries in this manner, they have a tendency to spill out all over her chin and the top of whatever outfit she is wearing, as well as all over the arms and sleeves of whoever is holding her at the time.

The face is a beauty – I have captured it with two pictures in her photo gallery.  One is a bit more serious than the other, but you get the gist of it.  It’s a site to behold.

October 9, 1988

It is mid-morning, and I am sitting on the floor of my sister’s bedroom.  I cannot remember why I am sitting there, but the phone rings and she goes to answer it.  It is Jim Something Long, she tells me.  I say, of course, who?   She doesn’t know, she hands me the phone.  When I hear the voice, I know immediately who it is, and I start to wonder why I thought his name was Paul Andersen and why I never thought to ask what his name really was.

I met Jim at my job.  I was the office manager for the Sports Medicine Center in Cherry Hill.  His mother, the victim of a serious traffic accident, is a patient at Sports.  She is outgoing and extremely friendly, and we look forward to when she comes in for her therapy because she is so nice to everyone on the staff.  I start to look forward to her visits because she has this very adorable son with oh so cute dimples.  He is a sailor.  Wouldn’t my father be thrilled?   He usually has his nose buried in a book when he brings his mother for therapy, but I always say hello and try to be polite.

At one point, as she is waiting for her son to pull the car to the front of the office, she asks me if I would consider going out with her son.  She says he has been away with the Navy and has lost touch with local friends, and it would be nice if he had someone to go see a movie with or something.  I say sure.  A couple of days later, after his mother is in the car, he comes back in and asks if I’d like to go out sometime.  It is a Friday.  I hand over my phone number, and he promises to call. 

So, expecting my call from Paul Andersen, I am surprised to get a call from Jim Skamarakas with the voice of Paul Andersen.  I ask him on the phone about his last name, because his mother’s name is Andersen.  She is divorced and remarried.  I do not ask him why his name is Jim.  I chalk that up to an error on my part and the fact that despite knowing him for several months, we have never formally been introduced.

He asks if I’d like to go to the movies later that evening, and I accept immediately.  We agree to meet later at my office, since I think it’s much easier to meet him at a place he already knows rather than having him drive out to Medford to pick me up.  My stomach is churning like crazy when I see his car pull up in front of the office.  He has chosen the movie – which sets the tone of the relationship, as I do not believe I have gotten to choose a movie since – and we go to see Alien Nation.  Now, I can tell you almost exactly which parking spot we were in at the AMC in Deptford, but Jim will tell you to this day that we saw the movie at the AMC in Marlton.  I know that I am right, despite his argument of why would we drive all the way to Deptford if Marlton was right down the street from where I worked.  I wish I could see the movie schedules at both theaters from back then so I could prove him wrong.  No matter, I know where we were.

I don’t think I have ever felt immediately comfortable with anyone in my life – not even my own family – but I do with this man.  I almost don’t want to go into the movies because I want to spend more time talking with him and getting to know him better.  I do not think we held hands in the movie theater, but we did hold hands walking back to his car – a brown Ford Mustang.  We spend some time sitting in the car talking, and then we are making out like teenagers.  It gets later into the evening, and we finally drive back to my car in Cherry Hill.  It is very hard to leave, but we share a kiss goodnight, and I head home.  I do not think I slept more than an hour or two that night, I am so excited. 

I cannot wait to go out again, but I do know that due to his work schedule, he is only available to go out on Wednesdays and Sundays.  We go out again on Wednesday. 

There is a slight wrinkle at this point, as I am technically engaged to someone else.  I say technically because we have already set two wedding dates, and cancelled both (one only 5 days before the wedding).  I still have the ring, which I wear sometimes, but with his schedule with his job, his volunteer work, and his family, we do not get to see each other often.  The day after the second date with Jim, I call this other man and tell him that I think it’s time to move on.  He does not give me a hard time about it, but he does start calling more often after this news.  He was an odd one to figure out.

After 3 weeks – or 6 dates – we are already saying “I love you”.  At Christmas time, I cannot imagine not spending every holiday with this man.  By February, we have moved into an apartment together.  Two years later, we are married.

Life has not always been easy since October 9, 1988.  We’ve gone through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  There have been things that happened that I wish had not happened, but we have gotten through the worst of what life has to offer and shared the best. 

Jim is half of my heart.  I cannot imagine being able to breathe if I am not by his side.  We have grown up (and gotten fat!!) together, and we now have the privilege of raising three beautiful daughters.  I know that if everything else in my world comes crashing down tomorrow, I will always have Jim there to help me pick up the pieces.  He has done it time and again.

I do not to this day know why I thought his name was Paul.  But I am eternally grateful to have answered the phone when Jim called.  And 17 years later, my stomach still churns when he pulls up at the end of the day.  It’s an awesome feeling.

Racism: Alive and Well and Lynching in Bellmawr

Boo!   It’s Halloween in Bellmawr, so that means the man a couple of streets over from us is going all out again with his Halloween decorations.  He’s got the spooky spider webs that cover his house from one end to the other.  He has the requisite pumpkins, bats, and giant spiders.  He has the totally scary strobe lights going as soon as it gets dark.  And then he has the most horrifying Halloween decoration I think I have ever seen in my life.  He has a black man hanging from the highest beam on his porch.  Yes, there it is, out in public, racism at it’s finest.

Obviously, I am not ignorant to racial tension.  I grew up in a home where the “N” word was bandied about as if it was being used in telling fairy tales to children.  My grandmother, who was Irish, would not allow one of the black neighborhood children into her house to use the bathroom.  But I thought that we had come to a point in this culture where you kept your racist opinions to yourself, unless you were in the KKK and getting paid by Howard Stern to chat about them over the public airways.  I thought we were all about political correctness in this country – you know, don’t say anything in public that will offend, no matter what you say in the privacy of your own home.

But that’s not all folks.  It’s not enough that this neighborhood has a nightly lynching from the end of September until the beginning of November.  We also have, on our street alone, two very prominently displayed Lawn Jockies.  If you do not know what a lawn jockey is, see this informative little article :   http://www.phillyburbs.com/undergroundrailroad/signals.shtml   Where else but the deep south can you go and find such a blatant display of disdain towards African Americans?   Why, Bellmawr, that’s where!!

I don’t know what to tell my children about these things – if they ever ask.  My oldest was with me when I gasped out loud and nearly  ran the car off the road when I saw the black man hanging from the porch around the corner.  She did not know until recently what a lawn jockey was.  Do I let them understand that this is what America is all about?   That it’s perfectly okay in this country to show your dislike for something without fear of punishment?   Do I teach them about hate, using their good friends and neighbors as examples?  

I’m at a bit of a loss.  I think for right now, we won’t be visiting David Duke’s home for Trick or Treating. 

My Little Girl Is Going to College

So Eilis is taking a drama class.  It started on Saturday, and it is at a local community college.  To get her excited about going to the class, her dad kept telling her she was going to college before Brighid and how cool was that.  She was so excited – she even exclaimed that you had “to be 10 to go to college!!!”   We talked about it almost all week long, and then Saturday came.  I drove over to the school with just me and Eilis in the car.  She was very quiet, so I started talking about how great the class would be, and she’d make new friends.  She just quietly asked if there would be ANYONE that was a little kid in the whole college except her.  I felt pretty bad about going along with touting how important she was because she was going to college.

Anyway, she started roller skating last week and then the drama class.  She had a blast at both things, so I’m glad I took her.  I hope she makes new friends and has fun.