Monday, September 29, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Yet thank goodness I had the assistance of Tom to get me through the hard times. Actually, TomTom. He is a navigation system who lives in my car (although he sometimes visits Jon’s car) and tells me where to go. He’s actually amazing – for the first few weeks (who am I kidding, it still happens) when we accidentally went the wrong way while driving, he recalculated how to get where we were going from the new road. If I don't know the name of where I want to go, he can suggest places nearby - once he found the closest tire repair shop when I got a flat. He even lets us know if we’re speeding (which made me bond with him even more as we both yelled at Jon).
Tom gave me the confidence to actually leave the house, along with another fellow we call Elmo. We brought the portable dvd player in the car for the first month, to pacify Lilly. So between my two guys, I left the house and went where I needed to go. (Of course, they didn’t help me out once I got inside where I was going, but those panicky situations are for another post.)
We gradually stopped using Elmo in the car as often, and now Lilly usually dances to her favorite music in the CD player in the car. Which is, of course, Disney music – from the Disney movie soundtracks, the Disney theme parks, and also Disney’s Favorite Kids Songs (volumes 1-3). (Are you surprised by that?)
I also slowly weaned myself off of Tom. For the first month I carried him everywhere – even for walks into town. But pretty soon, if I was just going to Lilly’s school or to St. Heliers (the nearby town), I was fine on my own. I even memorized how to get to the grocery store. (Which I can’t show my face at anymore, but that’s a story for another day as well.) But Auckland is pretty big and spread out, so he was always in my car, ready to give assistance.
Which leads us to today. Jon’s on call this weekend, so we’ve just been hanging out all day. Story Time at the library this morning, and then naptime (after the requisite 30 minutes of Annie of course). This afternoon we went to get a kids seat installed on our bikes, but we had to take two cars, since Jon had to go in afterwards. As he drove away, Lilly and I looked at each other – it was only 3 pm, and the day seemed long without him. Luckily it was one of the rare times that I brought Elmo, so I looked at the TomTom and said “Where should we go?” And TomTom didn’t look back at me. In fact, he didn’t turn on at all. His battery was dead.
What do we do next? I didn’t want to go home already, and Lilly was being so good in the backseat. I breathed in deep – TomTom had gotten me this far in our NZ adventures, surely I could remember what he taught me and actually drive somewhere. I decided to drive to the closest mall, which is about 20 minutes away – Pakarunga. The problem is, getting there involves about 20 different turns, including an extreme roundabout in Panmure. Even the locals avoid Panmure when they can. It has about 10 different exits, and is constantly packed. You literally have to pray before you get on this roundabout. And it’s rare that I get off at the right exit, because I’m usually getting off wherever I can to avoid getting hit. But TomTom is always there to lead me no matter where I go. Except today.
So I started driving, and at first it’s not so bad. Then I missed a turn, and had no idea where I was. I kept driving, and nothing looks familiar; I got to a dead end and have to make a guess at another turn. I have visions of driving around for hours, ending up on the South Island. I’m also wondering if there are still maps in this car from the previous owner. Luckily, after driving a little bit, I saw a sign for “Panmure.” I know if I can make it there, it’s not too bad after to get to the mall. I looked in the rear view mirror and Lilly is happily eating an apple and watching a captivating song about “Lightening Bugs” on Sesame Street. In Spanish. So I decided to keep going, I can do this. We arrived at Panmure, and I guessed an exit – and avoided getting hit – and it’s correct. Whew.
Finally we pulled into the parking lot at the mall in Pakarunga. I didn’t necessarily need anything, except both irons that we have are broken. So I bought a replacement at the store Farmers (which is comparable to a Belk), got Lilly a Kids Meal at Burger King, got myself some takeout Japanese (by the way, “to go” food here is called “takeaway”), put her on one of those little Thomas the Train rides that they have at the mall, and an hour later we are back in the car driving home. And I figured out the way, without too much trouble.
I can’t believe I drove today without Tom. I needed him desperately for the first few months, but now I can find a few places on my own. I’m feeling a little more comfortable about doing this. And I’m feeling a lot more confident about my life here in NZ. It just took living it for awhile to figure out how to find my way.
Here are some pictures of Lilly today. She was auditioning for a movie role playing twin sisters who trade places. ;-)
Friday, September 26, 2008
1) Dancing baby. From the time Lilly was big enough for me to feel her in my belly during the pregnancy, she was dancing. Nonstop. Not your average little kicking fetus, but full out dancing. I remember playing the game "guess the move" because she was hilarious. I could picture how silly and funny she was even then. What a way to bond with her mom right from the start. The best part was, once she was born, she continued the same dancing. And how cool it was to see those same moves that I guessed at, in her baby and toddler versions as she grew! (Confession: Lilly is such a good dancer that I used some of her moves at Christine's wedding.)
2) 1st Birthday Party. We had everyone who was important to Lilly over at our house for her first birthday party - from her teachers to Jon's parents to our co-workers to her boyfriends. You could just feel the love for her in our house. The highlight: when she sat on the kitchen table while we sang Happy Birthday and she danced and danced and then ate a huge piece of cake. What a ham! And she sat in the middle of the living room, and opened each present one by one, especially loving all the cards, and beaming with pride at all the attention she was getting. (Don't know where she gets it from!)
3) Disney World '07. Right after her first birthday, we booked her tonsils and adenoids to come out. The thought of surgery on my little angel terrified me. So, I dealt with it in the only way I could - her first trip to Disneyworld. We planned it 3 days before, and it was during the busiest time of the year, 4th of July. It was the best trip!!! We just stayed 4 days, and the trip started out with Lilly vomiting repeatedly on us on the way down (on the plane, in the bus to the resort... which in turn made me throw up after smelling it for so long!). However, from the second we entered Magic Kingdom the first time, it was like Princess Lilly was home. Absolute highlights of that trip include her riding the "3 person" bicycle around the Boardwalk, her first character breakfast at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh, and especially, hands down, the first time she went on "It's a Small World." Wow that was amazing. She was just a year, and still was very baby-ish, but the minute we stepped on that boat, she started clapping and dancing like I'd never seen before. Oh my goodness, were we all feeling the magic! I remember coming home from that trip, the first time in our lives that we had spent time together as a family for 4 days straight without work or babysitters or anything, and thinking "I could not be more in love with my little girl!"
4) School, late summer 07. There was one day when I went to pick up a 1 year old Lilly from school. It was at a time where I was unsure of whether Lilly being in daycare was the right thing for her, whether it was meeting her needs being in a big classroom with a bunch of other kids. And this particular day, I walked into the classroom, and little Lilly, for the first time I had ever seen, was sitting at a little table next to her best friend at the time, Ali, eating snacks with her hands, and drinking her milk out of a sippy cup, and they were laughing together. It was the first time that I ever saw Lilly eating without being helped, and the first time I saw her really bond with another kid in this kind of way. I realized how much school was benefitting my little lady, and was so proud of her accomplishments!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
(Stepping onto my soapbox.)
The comments. When people say something, probably unintentionally, trying to sound nice or supportive, but it's not. And me not knowing how to react to hearing certain things. So usually I get quiet, and then later think of some brilliant reply (oh who am I kidding, not brilliant, but just any reply). I'm not particularly judging the people who have said these things, as sometimes people stick their foot in their mouth without meaning to, or don't realize - so here I am just trying to raise some awareness. And it's not like I've been stewing over these comments again and again in my head, but they do stick with me in the back of my mind. So I'd like to share. Again, feel free to keep skip this entry for some more upbeat light material way down below.
- She's doing so well for a child with Down syndrome. No, she's doing well for a princess. Lots of kids with DS are doing well. And why are you evaluating how she's doing anyways? Do you look at every child you meet and assess "how they're doing"? And if she wasn't doing as "well" would that be a problem?
- I couldn't do what you're doing. You couldn't do what - decide with your husband to get pregnant and actually have the child no matter what? And raise your little girl and love her to pieces and take her to Disney World repeatedly? And watch Annie 3 times a day? Ok, maybe I'll give you that one. But here's an interesting article you should read titled "I'm not a saint, just a parent." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article633433.ece
- (During pregnancy) Are you sure you want to have the baby? She might have heart problems/need glasses/be uncute. Sure, every child might have medical problems. And judging from my pre-lasik blindness and Jon's childhood lazy eye, it would be a miracle if she doesn't need glasses! (BTW she doesn't!) And as for being uncute... seriously, she's my child. Did you even question it? And furthermore, if any of the above were true, that would be fine - because she's my child.
- (At 2 weeks old by a nurse!) If she's lucky, when she grows up she can work in a factory someday. Seriously? If she's lucky she can go to the spa and the beach every day with her mama. If she's unlucky maybe she'll be a brain surgeon like her daddy. But if she's really lucky she will find something that she loves to do when she grows up, no matter what it is.
- Why are you trying to teach her things? It's not like it makes a difference. (By a therapist!) Well I got my fancy pants $100,000 law degree from a top 20 law school, not like it makes a difference in my current... (I'll stop there)... Besides, Lilly is an excellent learner, has an incredible memory, and picks up so many things easily. Do I even need to defend this one?
- She looks so alert! (In a shocked tone of voice.) Well yes, that's what happens when she's awake.
- (After doing something silly or stupid they say) "I'm so retarded." Oh I hate this one the most. And the most conflicted feelings. I guess my general response is, it's the most offensive comment you could say around me. Period. But the conflicting feelings are - Are you saying retarded, in the fact that it's a negative thing to be? Because we've met some wonderful people, who are technically mentally retarded, and are great people. And will Lilly be mentally retarded? I'm not sure. I'm not even sure that I'd necessarily wish she wouldn't be - because I love her completely no matter what, however God made her. And if she is, I'm sure she'd still outwit her parents. But who's to say - she's 2. Anyways, just don't say it.
- Isn't she sweet! (In a patronizing voice.) I love when she gets compliments, and love when people call her sweet, but this is actually when they say it like that's the only redeeming quality about her. Like that's the only thing she is or could be. She's so many other things as well - bright, funny, adorable, a handful, a master manipulator, etc.
- I knew a kid once with DS (usually about 30 years ago). He a) tried to kiss me and it was so gross! b) went to my church and was so sweet (in that tone) c) went to my school and kids were nice to him (wow they were even NICE to him?!) OR d) died. I mean, it's great that you knew someone. But when you tell me negative things he did, or if you didn't really know him well, it really isn't pertinent to the conversation. Or even better, I knew someone who was pregnant with a kid with DS (or some other thing) and they aborted. Oh, how lovely. Thanks for sharing.
- Is she high functioning? I'm not sure what functions 2 year olds typically accomplish, but she poops on the potty (when bribed with chocolate), watches Annie & Elmo obsessively, and loves when we sing and dance. So I guess she's "high functioning" whatever that means. She's not working at a factory yet though, if that's what you're asking!
In general, the comments that annoy me are any judgmental statements about my daughter or people with DS as a whole. She is first and foremost just a child. I mean, a princess. When your own little angel was born, did you look at them and say "One day she may go to medical school, but there's a strong chance that she'll have an alcohol or drug problem, have a kid out of wedlock, and go through 4 divorces." (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) But I'm just saying, with Lilly, when she was born, so many people had "something to say" on what she'd accomplish in her life and what her value was as a person. And at the time we were just trying to accomplish getting her diaper on straight without her pooping out the side. Or aquiring boyfriends (Scarlett O'Hara is her hero, after the princesses of course). Or now, she's just living the life of a toddler (and what a fun little life it is!). What other kids are constantly assessed on their every characteristic and milestone? I don't hear you say about the smart kid: "Yeah, he's so smart but we really need to work on his social skills so that down the road he's not an outcast and can eventually get into a fraternity in college."
So what is my point? Take my daughter (and every other child) at face value. No prejudgments based on the fact that they have enhanced chromosomes, or that they are born a twin or that they have blonde hair, or that they are a different ethnic background than your own. Kids are just kids. And it's not that I'm constantly dwelling on the subject, but I just thought it needed to be said.
(Stepping down off my soapbox.)
But of course, anyone reading this blog regularly already knows what proud parents we are, and that we would all be lucky enough to be as cool as Lilly is. But just thought I'd say these things for all the people who aren't reading so they know. So I guess, um, well - just spread the news ok?
Monday, September 22, 2008
The first video is Lilly having a "2 year old" moment but then showing off that she's memorizing Madeline.
The second video is Lilly figuring out to open doors (oh no!).
The third video is Lilly signing her name.
The fourth video is some really rough walking (she really can walk better but we just haven't caught it on video yet!)- in her defense we were on the beach, so it was tough. But the video is cool because we're on Waiheke so you can see the horrible scenery we're dealing with over here. ;-)
Just so I don't leave you without anything useful about our lives besides these videos, I'd like to mention that we are working on colors with Lilly, thanks to being inspired by our friend Landon. http://kerrfamilyupdate.blogspot.com/2008/08/red.html
We've taken all Lilly's toys and categorized anything solid-colored into a basket by color. Tonite we showed her all the red things. She was NOT interested. And then we put red m&m's in a red cup, and all of a sudden she wanted to play our game - she played with all the red objects and even signed "red." Although, I don't think she understood the concept of the color yet. She just wanted the m&m's. (As she thought - Suckers!) But at least we're introducing it.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Jon & Lilly on the ferry
Jon & I
As you can tell from my previous post, there's both good and not-as-ideal things about our year away. In general, as far as the year in the life of the Sherman family, the 3 of us have never been happier. Speaking for myself, I've never been in such a better place with my role in life - I am loving being Lilly's mom, Jon & I are doing great, and there's just not a lot of internal drama. And then we're placed in another country where everything is arguably harder, based on the fact that it feels like we just don't totally belong here. Yet we're all surviving, and while it's a lonely year from the aspect of missing family and friends, it's a fulfilling year within our little family.
Where am I headed with this? Lilly and the terrible twos. To put it bluntly, it's kind of like she's bipolar. Because the highs are so high and the lows are so low. The world actually ends, if she doesn't get that cookie when she wants it (or worse, if we give her a cookie when she really wants a cracker!), or if we try to enforce naptime on Sundays. It's actually not so bad (I've heard worse stories than what we've dealt with so far, and for the most part she's an agreeable little kid), but when she is sad or mad, it's exhausting more than anything. And figuring out how to deal with it is tough - do we leave her alone and wait for it to blow over, or put on a happy face and try to cheer her up? Do we give in to the tantrum? I know that every experience in her life is new at this age, so everything is more intense than it ever will be. And who am I to judge? I've had enough tantrums and crying jags of my own with this big move overseas.
And as God gave two year olds their tantrums, He also decided to make these toddlers more adorable and charismatic than ever. Which is the best part. A year ago I had a 15 month old baby who still acted like a baby. Now I have a drama queen who is loving Annie (High School Musical is SO yesterday! Until she changes her mind next week, of course), who is singing songs and telling stories (in a mixture of English, signs, and another unidentified language), who is super demonstrative with her love and affection, and who is all around just a wonderful little angel. (When she's not acting like the above described devil, of course.)
So it's kind of like this year. It's tough in some ways, but the good most definitely outshines the bad. It's exhausting, but we count our blessings in so many ways.
With that being said, let me introduce you to our weekend.
We went to a Maori cultural performance at the local museum. Lilly had been to a similar event in Rotorua a month ago when Jon's parents were in town, and absolutely loved the singing and dancing. Except, as she's 2, she reserved the right to have an opposite reaction to it this time. It was pretty loud, and a little intense, and she clutched on to Jon and I and covered her face with her hands the entire peformance. It was actually pretty adorable - she covered her eyes but peeked out between her fingers, so she still managed to watch it. You might have thought that she hated it, but at the end of each song she still managed to clap, and then go back to covering her face. And when it was over, she had to blow huge kisses to the performers, and then for the next hour, tell the same story over and over again very seriously, with wide eyes, in sign language: "Music. Dancing." Then she'd get quiet for another minute, and then say again "Music. Dancing." So it made an impression on her, but hopefully wasn't too traumatic. Here is a picture of the dancers, and a picture of Lilly 4 months ago of her covering her eyes (just so you see how cute she is like that!).
After Lilly's nap, we went to Waiheke Island, which is one of the islands you can see from our house. It's a gorgeous place, and known mostly as a vacation spot, although many people also live there. A vacation home on the beach in NZ is called a bach (pronounced batch). There are also a few vineyards on the island. We took a 45 minute ferry to get there. Lilly loved the ferry, and signed "boat" and "water" a lot. There were also two bicycles hanging sideways from the ceiling, which seemed to amuse her, and she signed "bike" a few times as well. We sang songs for most of the ride over, and she was in a great mood. At one point though, she decided that she was too cool for us, and moved a few seats down, and faced away from us. We realized after a few minutes that she was actually singing her own song - video is at the bottom of this blog entry.
Once we got to Waiheke, we had a taxi take us to a vineyard where we did a wine tasting. Unfortunately, Lilly heard it as "whine" instead of "wine," and proceeded to act accordingly. She used to be so good at wine tastings! (Is that a sentence that most parents say? But living in Charlottesville, with like 20 wineries nearby, it wasn't so unusual.) Lilly was pacified with potato chips, and "cheered" her chips with our wine glasses.
As I was saying at the beginning, each good time must have it's bad counterpart, and Lilly's amazing behavior all morning and on the ferry ride over had to end at some point. It was when we did the most horrible thing ever to her - we put her in her stroller. (As everyone gasps in horror!) How could we do such a completely mean thing? We wanted to walk to another winery, about 15 minutes down the beautiful landscape, with picturesque views of the wineries, farm land, and ocean. Well it was intolerable, according to 2 year old Lilly, and she was outraged. But then pacified with more chips. But then another horrible thing happened - halfway to our destination, she got thirsty. And she wanted milk NOW! Not in 5 minutes. She couldn't wait that long! She was *so* thirsty! (With all those salty potato chips, I can imagine, but still!)
Then we passed a horse, and things were better. What milk?
And then we arrived at the winery, and Lilly finally got her milk and was a delightful little lady. She was sweet and adorable. It was like the past 15 minutes hadn't happened. She sat in a wine bar (imagine that!) between her parents, and drank her own "white" drink, while mommy had a glass of white wine, daddy had a glass of red, and we shared a cheese tray. What a mature little lady!
And then leaving the winery, she accidently fell. Because while she's Officially a Walker (I confirmed it with her physiotherapist!), she's not always a good walker. And the world ended. So we got back in the taxi and gave her goldfish. And the world was a better place once again.
Our next stop was to a local beach, where Lilly walked along the sand holding her parents' hands. She was a picture of beauty and grace, although she got really tired out after walking so long across the beach. We arrived at a playground at the other end of the beach, and she was thrilled. She went on the swing for about 15 minutes, and was ecstatic. But then... (do you see where I'm headed with this?) we had to leave. And it was the most horrible sad moment of her little life. How could we dare remove her from such a fun situation? (Note to parents videotaping their children on a swing: don't. It's very dizzy footage.)
We got in the taxi and Lilly put her little head down in my lap and vegged (is that a word?) until we got back in the ferry - she really was exhausted from her long walk and all the excitement from the day. She was so tired when we got on the ferry, and then some guy (who had clearly enough to drink) happened to turn on his boom box as loud as he could, and Lilly and 3 other kids jumped in the middle of a dance floor that suddenly appeared and started busting their moves. And then a little boy Lilly's age came over and tried to kiss her! But then the drunk guy got yelled at and had to turn his music off, and Lilly just sat, exhausted, for the rest of the boat ride and car ride home.
***Warning, excessive guilt ahead.***
This one I will legitimately give her, as it was a horrible moment for us all. She'd never actually gotten off the potty on her own like that, and we were both within inches of her, so it's not like she was left alone - it was just really bad timing. Her poor little head now has a bruise on it. We were terrified that she had hurt it badly, and she definitely cried hard for awhile. And then we turned on Annie and everything was better, at least for her. We were still terrified that she wasn't ok. And even though Jon's a neurosurgeon, it's completely different knowing what to do for your own child. So, like the spork episode a few weeks ago, we decided to "wait and see." But we kept her up a few extra hours, watching Annie of course, just to make sure she was acting normal. And she was as sweet as could be at that point. It probably helped that she was watching her favorite musical and eating huge chocolate covered cookies for dinner.
She went to bed easily, but we decided around midnite to wake her up, to make sure she was ok. We went in her room and I whispered softly "Lilly, wake up, we're going to Disney World" and I kid you not, Lilly jumped up faster than anything, she completely sat up with eyes wide open! This girl is spontaneous and ready for adventure! But then we said "go back to sleep sweetheart" and she lay back down and went back to sleep.
This morning she woke up happy as a clam, and we went to church, and she was amazing the entire time. Then we went to brunch, and she was still good. Which, of course you know what that means... at noon we tried to get her to take a nap and for a solid hour she cried. So at 1 pm we decided to give up. We had plans to go bowling with some new friends at church at 2, so we figured she'd fall asleep in the car on the way over, and maybe even sleep while we bowled. She complied with part 1 of the plan, but I guess we had forgotten how loud bowling alleys are. So she had a 10 minute nap. And we paid for it later that day. She was cute while bowling of course, clapping for each person after their turn, and I even taught her how to sign "bowl" (although I didn't know the real sign, it was the Mommy version). She even bowled for me my last turn, and was better than I was, and was amazing with the other kids that were there.
After we had "afternoon tea" (i.e., Coronas) in the bowling ally bar/restaurant, while the kids played. Lilly was the cutest ever during this point of the day - she practiced walking for about an hour. Just kept standing up and walking from me to Jon to the kids to different tables and chairs. She was great! It was the most walking I've ever seen her do. And at the end she couldn't stop giving the other kids hugs and kisses!
We stopped on the way home and got kebabs for dinner, and so of course she was not happy about that. Especially the part about me not letting her run into the street, or play with broken glass on the sidewalk. (Mommy is such a meanie.) And then we came home and she sweetly ate yogurt and bread and crackers. But the world fell apart a few times in the next hour, and she was so exhausted from not really napping. And then her mommy did the most extremely horrible thing - I tried to put her to sleep a little early. (How dare I, you ask?!) (What are you, on Lilly's side?) And she cried and cried. So I then let her watch a little more Annie, and then tried to get her to go to sleep. And she was outraged again, but it was still earlier than her normal bedtime, so I fell for it and let her watch 2 minutes of Elmo. By this time her eyes were completely glazed over and she didn't mind me putting her in her crib. As long as I sang "Tomorrow" to her 3 times. And then she was out.
So in synopsis? I love Lilly with all my heart. She is an amazing girl. And I kind of believe that some of the times that she's pushed to the limit is actually our fault - I mean who takes their kid to a museum in the morning, and then a couple wineries and a beach on a nearby island in the afternoon, plus an hour and a half total on a boat, and about 2 hours total in the car, all in 1 day? She really is a trooper, and I give her credit. And I'm glad that she speaks out when she doesn't want to go along with the plan, and I'm glad that she has opinions. And I'm especially glad when she knows she's pushed us to the limits as well, and sweetly gives us big hugs and kisses, and does things that she knows will make us happy, like walk and talk and sing. And most of all, I'm thankful to God for giving me my wonderful supportive husband, my beautiful daughter Lilly, and the patience to deal with them both!
(Here is footage of Lilly singing on the boat. Really wish I knew the song in her head - I think it was a mix between the Macarena and "It's a Hard Knock Life." By the way, since we were on a windy boat and she wasn't really singing out loud, you won't really hear anything important.)
Thursday, September 18, 2008
US Things I've Realized I Can't Live Without
- Jon & Lilly. It goes without saying, but they are the best things about this year. And of equal importance, although sometimes Jon probably feels left behind when I talk about our experience. And honestly, I don't see him as much as I'd like to this year, because his work is so much busier than we imagined. But I really do love the time we spend together. Being away from family and friends is making us all grow closer together as a family, and I couldn't pick two better people to experience this with. (Don't worry, the rest won't be as cheesy.)
- Sweet n low. Yes, the artificial sugar that causes cancer in labratory rats. Can't live without it. Just one a day, in my morning coffee, makes me happy. I brought a huge box of packets over when we moved, and Jon's parents just sent another box.
- My soaps. Yes, All My Children and One Life to Live. Can't miss them. I was super sad the first few weeks we lived here, until I discovered youtube. What a miracle! And I'll tag onto this list, my soap opera magazine, which I'm thrilled is able to be delivered internationally. Because when I'm not watching them, I gotta read about them.
- Diet Coke. I know it's an international item, but I needed to mention it as something that I need daily and it makes me feel happy and secure.
- Contact from the family/friends back home. It means so much to get the phone calls, emails, facebook messages, and packages from the US. It makes us feel slightly less like we're existing in an alternate universe. And especially the visitors we're having this year, it's wonderful to share our new temporary life with family from back home.
Things I Don't Miss As Much As I Thought I Would:
- Watching TV. Yes, I've been keeping up with my soaps via youtube, and a couple other shows, but I really don't turn on the TV here, unless it's for Lilly to watch Elmo, High School Musical, or Annie. A year ago I never thought I'd get by without my Tivo!
- Along the same lines, I think Jon would say Sports. He's still catching games here and there, keeping up with his teams via the internet or the delayed ESPN games, but overall I think his obsession with seeing every game has diminished.
- Driving on the Right side of the road. It's not as hard driving on the "wrong" side as you think. Except when I get to a new intersection or there's a tricky roundabout.
- My Jeep Liberty. While I do miss my car so much, I'm driving a cute Audi here that is keeping me from being too lonely for my Jeep. Although it's much easier to put Lilly in the backseat of an SUV, we keep bumping our heads in the shorter cars.
- The food. Don't get me wrong, I completely miss restaurants in the US, and I'm already planning next June to eat at Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's, Outback, Christian's Pizza, Melting Pot, Boheme (hi Audrey!), and any decent Mexican restaurant. And Whole Foods has been on my mind every single day. But, it's not like we're losing weight here, and the food in restaurants is really fresh. They just don't have the good quick service quality that we have in the US (Panera, 5 guys, Aroma's, Bodo's, etc). And everything tastes different. But like I said, we're not losing weight so it can't be that bad!
- Shopping. I still do miss Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Baby Gap, Gymboree, and Target, but it's amazing how we are getting by without buying anything. (I should probably start saving now for the shopping spree I'll go on next June!)
Things That I Like About our NZ Experience
- Reading. I never had time to read back home, and now every night I'm reading something new. Especially my new passion for history. Although, I have a short term memory so it's not like I'm retaining anything.
- St. Heliers. It's the little town we live next to - it's kind of like downtown Roswell or Montauk NY. It's like 3 streets on the water, with 3 bakeries, 2 banks, a tiny food store, a library, a pharmacy, a few restaurants, and a playground on the beach.
- My Church here. I liked my church in Charlottesville, and I loved my church in Duluth that I grew up going to, but I have to say, I really love this church here in St. Heliers. It's a small church, and everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows our names, and the priest blesses us by name at Communion. We're also involved in the young family group, and we're getting invited to people's houses regularly. I bump into people from church regularly in St. Heliers, and it's nice to actually know people.
- Bread. Let's face it, I've always been a carb girl, but this city (or at least our experience of it) brings it to a new level. We're eating so much bread here, and it's so delicious and fresh.
- NZ Wine. Most of the local restaurants have wine lists featuring only NZ wine (or sometimes a bottle or two of Australian as well). It's all been very good.
- Lilly's school situation. Not that it's necessarily better here (we miss Malcolm Cole!) but it's just as good for her, her teachers love her, and she's at an age where she's really getting so much out of it. She's walking, talking, and dancing her way through the year - not to mention, the "kisses and cuddles" (as they say here) with her NZ boyfriends. Two days this week when I dropped her off, her little friend Mia came over with an extra doll to give to Lilly, and they immediately started mommying them. And today, as soon as Lilly got in her class, she went over to the window and started waving to me - she wanted me to go on the other side so I could leave!
- The View. Not the tv show, but the view from our house. It's absolutely amazing (it literally couldn't be better); but there are aslo so many other nice views nearby. Living in the "City of Sails" is pretty accurate - you can see boats everywhere you go. Even the two closest playgrounds to our house are right on the water.
- Travel. Living in this house doesn't totally feel like home, but when we've stayed in hotels, it's amazing how "normal" it feels. We've been fortunate to stay in the nicer hotels on our 3 trips so far (Sydney - Swissotel; Rotorua - Novotel; Wellington - Intercontinental), but they are all comparable to what we'd expect in a US hotel, so in some ways the experience has felt more "normal" to us when we're traveling. And the places we've been are gorgeous. (*Hoping to save up for a Fiji trip for Thanksgiving!*)
- The Humor in our adventures. It's an experience we won't forget, and we just have to laugh sometimes about some of our adventures and misadventures.
Things We Miss About the US
- Half and half. They only have cream or milk here for my coffee.
- Our house, or more accurately, our home. It's not just where we lived for 5 years, but it's the first house we've eer owned, where we lived as newlyweds, where we brought Lilly home from the hospital when she was born. So many parties and get togethers, so many memories. And the comforts of home too - everything handpicked to make our home exactly what we wanted, from our bedroom set, to the plates in our kitchen (Mikasa French Countryside), to our coffeemaker (a grind and brew). And our wonderful neighbors, and the Foxcroft pool.
- American Beer. Specifically, Sam Adams Light, but I'd also take Michelob Ultra, Miller Light, Bud Light, any good American Light. Since "light" in NZ means "no/low alcohol" and not "low cal", there isn't a good equivalent to my favorite beer. Even if I didn't want light beer, the only US beer I can find is Miller Genuine Draft. Which I'm drinking, although not loving. Other beers I'm finding tolerable are Monteiths (the local beer), Corona (Mexican), and Saporo (Japanese). Probably my favorite is Corona.
- US brands/items. Like Baby Tylenol, Exedrin Migraine, Pampers Diapers, frozen meals (especially lean cuisine!), Goldfish crackers. And knowing what an item is before you buy it- I know exactly what a Golfish will taste like, but I have no idea what an "Arnotts Shapes Cheese cracker" is.
- Pizza. NY pizza. Or Christian's pizza in Charlottesville. Or Mellow Mushroom. Or even, Pizza Bella across the street from our house in C-ville. The pizza here isn't good - small, no crust, bad/sweet sauce, cheddar (not mozzarella) cheese.
- Central air/heat that works. It's so cold in this house (still early spring here), and nothing makes it warm up. Not the two space heaters that caught fire, nor the central heat in our house that costs $800/month. And there's no central air, although it hasn't been hot enough to need it yet.
- Knowing what to expect/Normalcy/Familiarity. We have to think so much here to do even the littlest tasks - like concentrating while driving to make sure we remember what side of the road to stay on, or knowing how to pay for something with the Effpos card. Or what to say when someone says "How are you going?" or "Cheers" or "Sweet as." Or knowing where to find things in the grocery store, and being understood when we ask.
- Our friends and family. It'll be so nice to get back home next June and see everyone again! And actually talk to people on the cell phone while driving around!
If you had told me 2 years ago that I would (a) learn sign language or (b) teach it to my child, I would have said you were crazy. First of all, the days of actually sitting down and taking the time to learn something were long over, as I had declared around the time I took the bar exam. Second, why teach a baby sign language - shouldn't you teach them English?
Well, as Lilly has been known to do, she has again turned my thinking upside down. Of course she was eager to learn sign language, because it was the "cool, trendy" thing to do with kids these days. Even her daycare was teaching it to all the babies. And we realized, as we looked into sign language, that it wasn't about *not* teaching your kid how to talk, but it's about giving your baby another way to communicate before they are ready to say spoken words. It's about saying and signing at the same time, so they understand the concept, and say the word when they're ready. It's been proven that teaching sign language does not delay speech, but instead it increases vocabulary and awareness.
It's also about reducing frustration, as a child who can express themself, in any manner, can tell her mom or dad what she wants and needs. In Lilly's case, as always one to take advantage of situations, she saw our excitement over her signing certain things and extorted it - she knew if she signed "please" with whatever she wanted (cookie, elmo, music, etc), then we would want to encourage the signing and give in to what she wanted. She's no fool. (And of course now, she knows to sign "potty" means to eat m&m's. 'Cause mommy's a sucker.)
Yet at the beginning, we still approached signing with Lilly, at about 8 months, with hesitation. We knew a few other families who signed, and they strongly encouraged us to start. We decided we had nothing to lose, why not? Still thinking that it wouldn't really work, though. The first two signs we taught were "more" and "all done." We did them with meals, and eventually she caught on - about 10 months I think. Then it was "milk," and then we started watching "Baby Signing Time," and then did Baby Signing classes, from Kindermusik. She went into the first signing class knowing about 5 signs, and by the end of the first month she truly understood that it was communication. And her memory is outstanding - many times we do the sign once, and without reinforcing it, she can remember it a month later. And at this point in time, she can sign over 100 signs, and uses most regularly. (A few on the list are her own variation, but most are American Sign Language.)
- all done
- wash hands
- thank you
- ice cream
- brush teeth
- cookie/cookie monster
- uh oh
Lilly is also speaking, but she has more freedom accompanying her communication with signing; for some reason it comes more easily to her. Yet once she learns how to say the word for something, she doesn't sign it as much; so she's converting what she knows. Or she says and signs the word at the same time.
The coolest part for us, is that we know that she understands so many concepts - she easily signs "sorry" when she does something bad (although, without sincerity!), or she sweetly signs "please" when she wants that cookie. I can't tell you how proud I was a year ago, after she had learned the sign for "water" (like water that she drinks), and then we walked past a fountain and she signed "water" - I was shocked she understood the concept on her own what was shooting out of the fountain. Or when we first moved here, and Jon was working all the time, and Lilly started signing "Where's daddy?" I am super impressed by my little lady's ability to be bilingual at her young age, and she's inspiring her parents to learn something new as well.
Here's Lilly signing "daddy" last month.
(By the way, the only sign that Lilly absolutely refuses to learn, is "Help." Typical 2 year old.)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
(Jon just jumped in to add: "She's the *cutest* little walker too!")
Here is a 3 second video of Lilly doing her Drunken Sailor Walk from about a week ago. She was trying out her new move, "The U-Turn." She's improved with her steadiness since then - I'll try to get a better video up soon.
(I'd like to formally apologize for her wearing just a plain white onesie and no pants. It's what happens when daddy's in charge.)
Monday, September 15, 2008
Take that spitfire of a little lady, and give her a new weapon: the potty.
She's always been a good "go-er." We introduced it at about 18 months, and if we anticipated it, we could sit her on it at the right time and she'd do her thing. When we moved here, she got a diaper rash (a.k.a. nappy rash, in NZ terms), probably from the change in wipes, and so we decided it would help if we could put her on the potty as often as possible.
Yet we overdid it (one weekend I had her on that toilet every single hour), and she decided to revolt for a few weeks. I had to come up with an idea to get her back on the saddle again, so to speak. So by now everyone knows we give her M&M's to sit there. One to sit, one to go #1, and one for #2. Sounds easy right?
Too easy. This smart girl got to thinking. "What is mommy's currency? How can I take advantage of this situation?" In a few ways, she figured out.
First, she started asking for the M&M's in advance. We'd typically give her one when she sat down, but now she needed one before we even got the diaper off in the bathroom. And then she needed 3 more before she'd consider going. And if I'll give them to her, most of the time she followed through and "went," but the fact that she wanted them upfront - it was extortion. If she didn't get it when she wanted it, she'd try to jump off the toilet. So she had us where she wanted us.
Then she figured out - M&M's are her favorite thing - so, as we wanted it to, it encouraged her to want to go, and to want to "sign potty" (twisting a closed fist) when she had to go. Except, she figured out, she could also sign potty anytime she wanted M&M's. So she'd come up to me, sign potty, we'd go in, and she'd sit on the toilet and eat some M&M's, and then if she didn't really have to go, we'd sit for a few minutes then she'd get off. Of course, I don't want to discourage her from saying that she has to go, and more than half the time she legitimately had to go, so again, she had me right where she wanted me.
But it wasn't going to end there. You see, she had seen my excitement over her going potty one too many times. She came up with a scheme. If every time she signs potty, her mommy gets so excited, picks her up, and runs her into the bathroom, maybe it could get out of situations she doesn't want to be in. Like restaurants. So now every time we're in a restaurant, and Lilly's been sitting for too long, usually around the time the entree arrives (by the way, an entree here is an appetizer, but a main is the entree - so in this case I'm talking about the "main"), Lilly signs "potty" and off we go. It doesn't bother her that I don't have a toddler sized seat cover for her, or that we don't have M&M's. Because she's succeeded in her goal of getting out of a terribly boring experience, i.e., eating out. But typically she follows through with her end of the deal.
Which leads us to tonite. She didn't want to go to bed, didn't want to read the bedtime story or say the bedtime prayer. She was actually so sad, and then I sang "Tomorrow" to her from Annie, and she quietly let me put her down in the crib. She let me think I had won. She lay there for 15 minutes, which I thought she was spending getting really drowsy and really considering falling off to dreamland. My mistake. She was plotting. All of a sudden she pops up, and signs "potty." I say, "Really? You really have to go potty?" (Not to mention she had sat on the toilet 3 times tonite, pooping two of the times and peeing the other - I know, TMI.) But here is my darling angel, with her most sincere expression, signing potty and reaching for me. She knew where she was headed. And it wasn't to sleep.
We ran into the bathroom, where I asked her again - "are you sure you want to go potty?" "Potty, potty" she signed. I wanted to be totally sure, before I unzipped her complicated footsie pajamas (which she convinced me to take completely off), unsnapped her onesie, took off her diaper, and got her on the potty. She sat there. And sat there. Neither of us made eye contact. Finally she looked at me and signed "bed?" I said, "yes Lilly, we're going to bed after this." And she looked away again and sat. And sat. And signed "Bed?" again. And I said, "Yes, as soon as you're finished going to the potty." So she sat, and sat. Never tried to do anything productive, but just sat. Finally I said "all done, Lilly" and she looked at me, sighed, and let me put her pajamas back on. She had totally manipulated me into getting herself out of the crib, when she had no intention of "going." She had bought herself 20 extra minutes of time that she didn't have to sleep, and she was satisfied. But knew not to push it any longer. We walked back into her room, I put her in bed, and she was asleep within seconds.
(And her last thought as she drifted off to sleep was: "Sucker!")
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Jacob (Isn't he handsome!)
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Lilly loves school, and it's easy to see why. From the moment we walk in, all the children shout "Lilly" just like everyone in the Cheers bar shouts "Norm!" (Except that they're all under 3 feet tall and have Kiwi accents.) And Lilly proudly gets down out of my arms, and just starts playing.
She is in the toddler-equivalent of Cheers. And she is thriving.
I dropped her off this morning, and one of the teachers asked me to stay for "mat time," the singing/story time before they eat morning tea (and later they do it again before lunch and afternoon tea). (FYI for those of you not from NZ: morning tea and afternoon tea have nothing to do with tea, at least at Lilly's age, it's actually a fancy name for snacktime.)
So Lilly scampers down to sit next to one of her best friends, Mia, and I sit behind her. The teachers start singing a song in the Maori (native) language and Lilly not only knows all the signs (in fact, a split second before the teachers), but she's actually singing some of the words in that language. I had heard that she did this, but this was the first time I witnessed it. And the teachers were so proud too! And the signs for the song were actually fairly complicated. Such a proud mommy moment. (I'll think of it fondly later when she's screaming hysterically during a tantrum because I've done something horrible, like, wash her hair, or get her dressed.)
And because Lilly never does anything halfway, she decided to completely make my day when I picked her up this afternoon. She jumped in my arms, and then a little boy Aston came over and pulled on Lilly's leg. I bent down to say hi, and he gave her the biggest hug ever. And she totally hugged him back. Then she caught another boy's attention (can't remember that kid's name) and she took independent steps over to him and gave him a big hug too. My girl is a flirt! (Who'd have thought it? ;) ) Then both boys gave her big smooches! So not only is she learning a lot in school, but she's popular. She makes me so proud. (PS both boys also gave me a kiss, including the one that had a wet snotty nose that got on my face. But that didn't totally ruin the moment.)
Then Lilly took independent steps back and forth between me and the teacher again and again. Because she's such a show off. (I really don't know where she gets these traits from!) And as we left, the kids shouted "Bye Lilly!" With a few more hugs and kisses, of course.
And as we walk out, we see the bulletin board, where the teachers post a story of something that happened for each day of the week. Lilly was featured on Wednesday's story. She had managed, after a month of practicing, to climb up this long plank up to the top of this little house in their playground. Of course I was proud (but then again I'm proud of everything), but you could tell by their story and the pictures that the teachers were so happy of her too.
Preschool is wonderful.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I've never quoted Colin Farrell before (and probably won't make a habit of it), but he has a son with a angelman syndrome, and I love his quote: "As far as I'm concerned, he's exactly the way he should be." I feel the same way about Lilly.
She is everything her mommy always wished she would be, even before the thought of Down syndrome came into our world. Someday, I'd like to write our story. About being told at 3 months pregnant that something was probably "wrong" with our baby and that we had "options." And worrying for the next 6 months that our child wouldn't be "good enough" for the outside world. (And yet, somewhere along the way, I changed my prayer to God that my child would be blessed with Down syndrome, instead of the opposite. I knew in my heart that she was the right child for us.) And meeting miss Lilly Sherman and knowing that she was such a tremendous gift; and from the very first day feeling so protective. And realizing along the way that she was not only a beautiful baby (she looks like her mommy as a child!) but that she was so smart as well.
The only negatives that we've faced along the way are not from my precious Lilly, but from those outside our immediate family, those who tell us negative stereotypes, or misinformation, with the thought they're being helpful. I could rant and rave for days about what DS is, and what it isn't, but I think more than anything, Lilly speaks for herself. At 32 inches tall and 27 pounds, she is changing the world, with each person she meets, and with each funny dance move she does.
I am so proud of the little lady that Lilly is becoming, and thank God every day that I have such a gorgeous little girl in my life.