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My Last First Eyah Peya-cing (Ear Piercing)

Granuaile, the child who obviously was switched at birth with a child from Boston, a belief I hold based solely on her accent, has decided she wants her ears pierced.  Actually, I’m sort of convinced she has been manipulated in some way by her big sister Eilis to get her ears pierced, but never the less, I find myself on a Friday afternoon at the Sweet and Sassy Store, asking to have them puncture holes in my youngest child.

She is so excited, she can barely contain herself, bouncing in the seat of the big chair that I am sure will soon look to Granuaile very much like the electric chair to someone with a death sentence.  I have to capture the excitement before the tears…

Snooki Light is in charge of our ear piercing, and she decides that in order to effect the damage to this little kid, her hair must first be pulled up.  As if the ear piercing isn’t going to be torture enough!

Granuaile actually got a bit nervous in the car, and asked how much this was going to hurt, so I was suprised to see her still smiling at this point.  But she was.  And she was perfectly still when Snooki had to mark her ears.

I am still waiting for the nerves to kick in and the tears to begin falling, then I gradually begin to realize that I may be the only one fighting back tears.  Granuaile is being a champ through all of this!

The tag team piercing takes a second, and we all stand there waiting for the crying to begin.  It doesn’t.  Snooki (my apologies to this dear girl, who bore an uncanny resemblance with her Jersey girl hair to Snooki – I’m sure she had a nice normal name like Sue or Ann or Mary) asks Granuaile if she wants to check herself out in the mirror, and Granuaile bounces out of the chair to be escorted to the mirror.  Snooki says to her, “Are you in some kind of shock?”  Granuaile answers no.  Does Granuaile even know what “some kind of shock” is?

When we are all finished admiring the sparkly blue earrings Granuaile chose, she is invited over to the Sweet and Sassy stage, where the paparazzi (Snooki again) will take some pictures of her.  She feels like quite the superstar.

Sweet and Sassy gives the kids a certificate, with the photo they took on stage attached, and Granuaile signs her certificate as if she is the President passing a law.  So cute.

Ummm, Snooki?  She’s five. She doesn’t know how to spell “The person I can’t wait to show my new earrings to is…”

And then we are done.  After we buy the Webkinz that she was promised she could have when her father thought this ear piercing would cause permanent psychiatric damage to our child.  Isn’t it wonderful how dads think that Webkinz can cure permanent psychiatric damage done to our child?

And the only one who cried was me.  I did good, though, waiting until we were in the car.  The first person she wanted to call was Brighid, my oldest child, who had the decency to cry along with me when she got her ears pierced when she was five.  Granuaile excitedly said to Brighid, “I got my eyahs peyaced!”  And I started crying.  I am going to miss those tiny little, puncture free ear lobes.  And some other things you miss when babies grow up.

They Call Me….Granuaile

We new Granuaile would be a girl before she was born.  Jim, Brighid and I played with a lot of names – well, Brighid and I played with a lot of names, but Jim felt like he had final veto power over any of the names we chose.  I prefer very traditional Irish names, and spent a lot of time at this website, which features Frank McCourt pronouncing the Irish names for baby.  http://www.babynamesofireland.com/

My sister, Bean, who’s real name was Frances, died on March 7th, 2003.  I knew that I wanted to incorporate the name Bean or Frances into the baby’s name – whether the baby turned out to be a boy or a girl – but I don’t so much love the name Frances, and Bean, well, that’s just odd.  I decided Frances would be the baby’s middle name – or Francis if it was a boy (don’t tell Jim, who was convinced that if there was a boy, he would have been named Junior), and then set out to find something meaningful for a first name.

I loved a lot of the names I researched.  Aoife was one of my absolute favorites, and I think if there had been one more baby girl in our future, there might have been enough time to convince Jim that I should be able to use that name.  Pronounced Ee-Fa, the name means “beautiful, radiant, and joyful”.  Who wouldn’t want their baby girl to have a name that means all those wonderful things?  But that strong handed veto came down hard on Aoife.

Brighid has a CD of a band called Blackthorn, and one of the songs they perform is called “Granuaile”.  It’s an homage to Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen of Ireland, but the first two lines of the song is where the idea to name the baby came from.

“She was small, but what a sight!  Men were wrapped around her finger tight.”  I could just see our beautiful, tiny baby girl, doing what her two sisters before her had accomplished within minutes of their births – wrapping her Daddy around her little finger.  And to further convince me that Granuaile should be her name, the name itself means Grace O’Malley – and O’Malley is my Grandmom Fee’s maiden name.  I loved that woman to pieces, and Eilis’ middle name is in tribute to her, but how nice would it be to honor her even further?

Knowing that Granuaile is a mouthful for anyone – let alone a small child learning to speak and learn their name – a conversation was had where the family agreed that the baby would be called Granuaile Frances, and her nickname would be Gracie Bean.  It was cute, it was doable, and we all agreed.  Even the birth announcements were sent out with “Gracie Bean” in quotation marks underneath the name Granuaile Frances.  And Jim printed out those announcements.

Now, this amazing little creature is 3 and a half years old.  She’s been called many things in that short time, but only her father has consistently called her Granuaile – when he is not calling her JR Super Baby (JR came from his desperate desire to have a Junior).  Most of the rest of the time, she’s been called Gracie.  She even calls herself Gracie.

As she gets older, though, and closer to school age, her father becomes more adamant that we should use her real name.  And Granuaile becomes more resistant.  To begin with, it’s easier to say Gracie.  She can say Granuaile, but only the immediate family will know that’s WHAT she is saying (it comes out sort of like “Gwon-well”).  And she will have full blown arguments with her father over her name.  If she wants a treat or a snack, he’ll say, “What’s your name?” and she’ll answer “Gracie”.  And the battle begins, continuing until I step in, grab the snack out of Jim’s hand, and hand it to the baby.

So I stopped in at work the other day to pick up a few meals for the kids.  My boss has not met my daughters, but I brought them in with me so Brighid could choose the meals.  As grown ups will do with small children, my boss leaned over and asked Granuaile what her name was.  Nine times out of ten, she won’t answer at all, and on the tenth time, she’ll say Gracie.  But this was Monday morning, just hours after a weekend with her father calling her Granuaile.  So when Roseann leaned over and said, “And what’s your name?”, my little girl looked back up and said,

“My father makes me say Granuaile, but my name is Gracie.”

And it makes me reminisce about the days when then 4 year old Brighid demanded to be called “Pansy”.  No reason. It just sounded good.

Bribe = Breakthrough

So as soon as she opened her eyes this morning, Granuaile started crying about not wanting to go to school.  No, really crying.  Not just fake, whiney stuff.  This was the real thing, real tears, real snot running down her nose.  Ewww to the visual on that.

We dropped Eilis off and I headed for my coffee.  I had bargained with her to please not cry so I could concentrate on my driving, and then asked her to please just be quiet until I ordered my coffee, and she not only did both, but she stayed quiet long enough for me to have a quick chat with Sandi at the drive-thru window.  We drove off towards school, and while she made the occasional request to please go home, she stayed reasonably quiet until we drove past the McDonald’s on the White Horse Pike.  Then she asked for a happy meal.  I figured this was the perfect opportunity to offer her a deal, and I took it.  I told her if she tried to eat her lunch at school or tried to eat her snack, I would take her to get a happy meal after school. 

Now why would a fat woman encourage a kid to behave by offering her food?  Well, first of all, she’s little, and she wanted a happy meal.  Secondly, she has not eaten breakfast or lunch for two days straight, and I’m worried about her.  And lastly, she’s little and cute.  But really, I figured it it worked, it might help in the long run, so I’m willing to risk the fat and calories in one happy meal.

We got to school, and I just started talking.  I pointed out the polar bear painted on the window of the school sitting on a block of ice.  We talked about how cold his hiney must be.  I talked about the snowman painted on the door and the calendar by the sign in sheet.  I told her I was punching in the code for the door alarm and I showed her the babies in the first room.  We found a poster with a boy with a butterfly on his nose and a classroom that had penguins on their door.  And in the classroom, although whimpering a bit, she voluntarily took her jacket off and helped me hang everything in her cubby.  She asked me to pick her up, which I did, and I kissed her, told her I loved her and told her I’d be back in a little while to take her for her happy meal.  She climbed down by herself – to the amazement of her teachers.  She ran to her “corner” and bent over to pick up a toy, just as I was getting ready to walk out, and when she saw me, she got hysterical crying, screaming for me not to leave her, and kicking and slapping at poor Miss Kelly.  I quickly walked out the door and prayed for the best.

And when I picked her up, they gave me a picture of smiling Grace that they captions “Look How Much Fun I Had Today”!  She was happily sitting on the floor playing when I arrived and she ran over to me with a big grin on her little face.  We gathered up all of her stuff, with her teachers telling her how proud they were of her today, and they told me that while she didn’t eat lunch, she did sit at the table, drink some juice, and she did eat a little snack after naptime.  Well worth a happy meal!

Of course, the first thing she said when we got into the car was, “I’m not going back to my school again!”


You Bad

Those were the last coherent words spoken to me by my youngest daughter today as I dropped her off for her first day of school.  After that, she crumbled into a screaming, unintelligible heap.

At her father’s insistence, Granuaile began nursery school today.  She is going to the same school Eilis went to, and I am confident that it is a good school run by people who care about kids, but she does not want to go.  We took her on Friday to meet her teachers and give her an hour of a dry run, but she cried the whole time, and threw up all over herself.  Today, no vomitting, but I don’t think she could have cried anymore if someone had crushed her last teddy bear.

She recognized the place from last week immediately, and began yelling in the car, “No school, I want to go home!” over and over, loudly.  Then she calmed down enough to get in the front door, calmly telling me over and over she wanted to go home.  But as soon as we set foot in the classroom, the hysterics began.  She grabbed my neck, locked her legs around my waist, and had to have her jacket pried off of her.  The teacher asked me what I wanted to do – did I want to stay with her or did I want to just let them take her.  I asked what would be best, and they advised me to let them take her.  They said she needed to learn to trust them.  I don’t know if I did the right thing.  I may never know until I’m sitting at her trial for being a serial killer and she throws herself on the mercy of the jury and tells them this is all her mother’s fault for dumping her in daycare.  I know I don’t want her to be the kid going into regular school crying and having to be dragged up the steps.  I’m hoping this helps us avoid that when the time comes.  I’m also hoping this will help in the potty training department.  She knows when she goes, but hasn’t yet found the patience to sit on the potty when she needs to go.  I know for both other kids, being around the other kids and going on a schedule really helped, so we’ll see how Miss Gracie does.

She has already told me she doesn’t want to go to school tomorrow, and I’m not looking forward to taking her.  I keep telling myself she only really has to be there until June when the other two are out of school, and it makes it seem not so far away, but when I’m handing her off to the teachers tomorrow, and she’s screaming and begging me not to leave her, June might as well be in the next millenium.

Jolly Holidays, Saturday

So, we sleep a little bit later than usual this morning, and no one is really anxious to get up and moving, since we were up so late last night. Grace bounced from bed to bed until Jim finally put her down, asleep, with Eilis on the fold out sofa.  Jim’s mom has to work later today at a holiday function in their community, so we don’t make any real plans to go anywhere or do anything, other than run out for coffee.  We spend quite a bit of time on the phone and online with British Airways, but the end result – all of our travel reservations for next summer are made!  We got a pretty good deal by booking with the British Airways credit card.  We had to buy upgraded seats (not REAL upgrades, like first class, but upgrades like two across instead of 3), but it was a buy one ticket, get a companion ticket for free deal, so it worked out to be the same price – a few dollars less – than paying for all 7 of us.  We were able to book the odd ticket as a regular coach fare, but then with the frequent flier miles we got from booking the rest of the tickets, we got a free upgrade on the 7th seat, so we’re all together.  London won’t know what hit them when this crew arrives!!

We had a delicious dinner of roast beef, and then after dinner, Russell took us all out on the golf cart to see the holiday lights.  I was surprised how many people were really decked out for Christmas.  I had figured that since it was an over 55 community, there would be a percentage of people not even home over the holidays, since they were traveling to visit their children or grandchildren; and then I figured there is a percentage of homes not occupied for whatever reason.  Add into that however many people don’t celebrate Christmas or might be too old or not up to decorating, and I really assumed there would be way more un-decorated houses.  And some of the people really go all out!  Dot and Russ had one of the best decorated – the kids could have stood outside for hours watching all the things they have outside!

I headed to bed early – around 10 PM – and left Jim out with the girls.  I don’t think they stayed up much later though – they were just as tired as I was. 

Jolly Holidays, 2007 Arrival in Orlando

After a flight where Granuaile has kicked the hell out of the seat in front of her enough times that the person sitting in it has relocated; my bag took a tumble, spilling all of the important contents out onto the floor, which then slid down to the back of the plane; and losing the SeaWorld passes when a flight attendant finds then, assumes they are trash, and tosses them, we have arrived safely in Orlando, very late at night. We are supposed to be in at around 11:30, we make it in around 11:50, so not too bad considering the weather across the country is reported to be terrible.

We head to the car rental counter after collecting our bags, and we get the keys to our shiny new car that won’t hold the four of us, let alone all of the luggage we’ve brought. Okay, back to the counter. Keys to a new car in hand, we set out to find it. And there, in the far end of the parking garage, is the shiny new Lincoln MKZ car that won’t hold all the luggage we’ve brought. I’m going to stay here at the car, Grace straped into her seat, Eilis waiting to doze off, bags scattered all over, while Jim walks back to the counter to exchange the car again. Finally, he pulls up with a Jeep Liberty – a car that will barely and uncomfortably hold the four of us and all of the luggage we’ve brought!

The kids are transferred to the new car, we are packed in like sardines in a can, and we are headed to Poinciana to Jim’s mother’s for the weekend. We get on the road, hopefully headed the right way, when we hear, “I wanna burger. Eilis, do you wanna burger?” Eilis says no. “Come on, Eilis, you wanna burger. You wanna chock-it milk? I wanna chock-it milk.” And there we are, at nearly 1 AM, trying to find a burger and chock-it milk for Granuaile.

After a pit stop at Burger King, sorting out the order, opening the happy meal toys, passing out the drinks, we are back on the road to Poinciana. I tell Jim he should call his mother and explain why we’re running so late. He doesn’t have the phone number. I don’t have the phone number. Brighid has the phone number programmed into her cell phone. Brighid is in New Jersey, sleeping soundly in her bed. Jim calls the cell. No answer. He calls the home phone. No answer. I tell him Ann is probably sound asleep and has no idea in the middle of the night where the phone is. He calls it again. I was right. Ann answers and finds Brighid, who is going to call her grandparents and tell them where we are.

Finally, sometime around 2 AM, we are there, the bags are in, and we are fighting with Granuaile to go to sleep. I fall asleep around 3, and Jim sometime after that. The first day of our vacation promises to be a drowsy one tomorrow.

Jolly Holidays 2007 – Day 1 airport fun

Arriving at the airport shortly before 5:30, we check our bags curbside, put the baby in the stroller, and we head inside. I check Jim’s flight schedule and see that he’s delayed, and instead of arriving at 6:45, he won’t be here until 7:30. I can’t wait that long to feed the kids, so we go to the really nice food court area and get them a hot dog. As we grab our dinner, the girls see Santa. Yep, the man himself has a nice throne set up at Philly International, and a friendly – although disorganized – helper is taking complimentary Polaroid pictures of anyone interested. I figure Granuaile will never get closer than a football field length to the man, but Eilis might want to go see him. I start walking over in that direction, and Gracie BOLTS – like she has been shot out of a cannon – into Santa’s unsuspecting legs and clings on for dear life. Her happy little eyes plead with him to forgive the entire year of transgressions and focus only on her adorable little self, hugging his legs as if her very life depended on it. The “helper” is ooohhhhing and aaaahhhing over how adorable this is and how cute this is and oh my gosh Santa, don’t you think this is the sweetest thing ever?? Santa has apparently NOT been doing a bustling business here at the airport, and they are really hoping my kids agree to get their pictures taken – as if there’s any way NOT to take their pictures at this point. So we get a quick picture, and we go back to the food court to eat the dinner and wait for the picture to develop.

Following dinner, we find me a latte (ewwww – Java and Jazz, skip it next time), and head out to the gate to wait for Jim and our flight. No. We’d better not. It’s way too early. We browse the mall, turning Eilis down at every store for all of the things she claims we need, want, and gotta have. After 30 minutes or so of telling them “no” every 23 seconds, we are going to the gate. I will not suffer this torture alone – let them bother the other passengers waiting for a nice, peaceful vacation in Orlando.

We head over to the gate, and the girls are excitedly watching the planes come in and out. Granuaile, who has never been here before, claims every plane as her own, and shouts, “I SEE IT!!” every time red, yellow, green, blue, or any other color lights go by, followed by “I READY!” It’s so cute. 14,296 times. So cute. Really. It must be, because I’m noticing people moving away from us, and I imagine the cuteness must just be too much for them. Especially when she starts going right up to people, as they are reading, talking on their cell phones, and working on their computers, bending her head so that her face is right in their face, to tell them that she is going on the plane see it there it is outside that’s her plane and she’s ready to go are you ready to go are you going on plane to Disney World and see Mickey Mouse and Goopy (that’s how she says it) and stay in the hotel…I check my watch. Where the heck is Jim??

So then they make an announcement that they have to change our gate because there is a flight leaving to Tampa at the same time ours is leaving to Orlando, and the Tampa flight has arrived early, and ours has not arrived. We now move from gate B15 to C27 – a long walk. Eilis is complaining because her feet hurt. She elected not to wear socks with her boots, and I give her a thick pair of mine (all I had handy), and they are bunched up in the boots. We get to the other gate, and now I am praying for Jim to arrive. There are no TV screens here to tell me his flight status, so I ask the guy at the podium, who tells me there are no flights coming in from Milwaukee. Oh. This can’t be good. I’m getting a little freaked out, wondering if I should get on the plane or not, and quickly decide that I’d better just get on the plane and hope for the best. I take the kids to the bathroom, change the baby, and as I’m heading back, Jim calls.  WHEW.  He has landed and just has to wait for the shuttle to our terminal.  Thank goodness!  In no time, he is meeting us at the gate we have been moved to, and we are boarding the plane.

I Ready!!

Jolly Holidays 2007 – Our Christmas Trip to Disney Day 1, getting there

In true Skamarakas fashion, the details of this trip take on a life of their own. I am getting better at not planning things, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. The semi, not set in stone plan is to leave at oh dark thirty Sunday morning and drive straight through to our 2 bedroom villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Then we start planning our summer trip – a 3 week trip to Europe, which includes a 13 day cruise to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is during this planning that Jim realizes we have oh so many frequent flyer miles, none of which can be used on British Airways for our trip to Europe next summer, so we might as well use them to fly to Florida for our Christmas trip. Alrighty then.

Jim works in Milwaukee all week long, and flies home to Jersey on the weekend. His plan is to just fly from Milwaukee to Orlando and I’ll fly with Eilis and Granuaile from Philly to Orlando, and I’ll try to coordinate our flight times so that neither of us has to wait too long for the other one when we arrive in Florida, and we can all ride to Jim’s mother’s together in a rental car. As it turns out, I have to go to Eilis’ mid-year conference at school, and we have tickets to see A Christmas Carol at the Walnut Street theater, so I can’t leave until late in the day. When I start looking to coordinate flights, I see that there is one from Milwaukee that arrives in Orlando at 11:30, and one from Philly that arrives at 11:30 – oh my goodness – the Milwaukee flight connects in Philly!! How cool that this is going to make it possible for Jim to get to fly with the baby on her first airplane ride! I know they will both be excited!! We book the flights – and for $15, me and the two youngest children will be in Orlando in 2 hours instead of 20 hours! I’m so excited!

So, Jim goes to Milwaukee for work a week before the trip, and I send with him a huge suitcase of all of our clothes so that it’s easier for me to take myself and the two kids. The day of, I am still frantically throwing things into a suitcase to take with me that I forgot to pack in Jim’s, and then I realize I have Christmas presents to take with me, too. I bring out another suitcase and fill that one with holiday gifts and some sugar free snacks I picked up for my MIL, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes. I go to the conference, we go to the show, and we come home and start putting stuff in order for Brighid to stay here with Nannie for the week. The window on my Navigator broke yesterday – in 18 degree, snowy weather – and my stepfather has offered to come early and take me to pick it up. We agree that he’ll come at 4 to avoid the traffic down to the car dealer, and we’ll leave for the airport at 6, so I’ll be there in plenty of time for my 8:45 flight.

Okay, so at 3, my stepfather shows up. We go down to get the car, and when we get back, he’s anxious to do something, so he loads the bags in the trunk. Then he starts asking what time I want to leave. Then it starts snowing. I figure he’s getting nervous about driving in the dark and in the snow, so I tell him whenever they want to go is fine with me. We are on our way to the airport at about 5 o’clock. Oh man, I’m going to be early.

We Have Da-Da!!

It was a weekend of firsts for Gracie.  She has had her first really bad cold – snotty nose, hoarse voice, coughing, sneezing, waking me up so I can’t rest kind of cold.  Lovely. 

Then we took her to the diner for dinner Sunday night (11/20) after we took Brighid to her party.  She got to sit for the first time in a high chair there – using a floppy seat (awesome invention, wish I had one for the other two http://www.floppyseat.com/.  She thought it was the coolest thing.  Up until now, she has been taken into the restaurant in her car seat, so she’s limited as to how much she can see.  She was spinning her head so quickly to see everything around her in the diner that she looked like Linda Blair in the Exorcist.  She stared at waitresses and patrons, looked at the various decorations, stared out the window – it was a great experience for her.  And in addition to her jar of baby food, she got to enjoy apple sauce and mashed potatoes. 

And during the dinner, clear as a bell, for I don’t know what reason, she said, “Da-da”.  Jim has been waiting for it since she was 10 minutes old, and I’m so glad he was there when she said it for the first time.  She has been saying it over and over since the first time, probably because it got such a big response the first time she said it. 

She’s trying hard to crawl, but does this sort of thing where she gets on all fours, then stands on her feet – like she’s playing Twister.  So cute.

I get sadder and sadder over the fact that she will be my last 🙁   I know it’s in the best interest of the family, but there is just such magic in small children.