Sunday, August 31, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
And then we got her ready for bed, and Jon read her a story, and then she took the book (Madeline - one of her favorites) and read the book to him. I'm not sure what language she read it in, but she has a little girl's voice now when she reads, even if it is somewhat babble. And she reads so seriously, and then she'll say something (sounding like abu daba ding dong ooh) and she starts laughing, because obviously there was a joke that happened in the plotline of the story. So we laugh along with her. She looks at each page, and then looks up while reading out loud, and sometimes turns the book around and holds it up, like a little teacher reading to her class. Storytime with Lilly is so much fun.
But not everything is fun, of course, because she's 2. I've learned that in Lilly's World, she is always correct and mommy is always wrong (if mommy disagrees with whatever Lilly wants). Lilly also always reserves the right to change her mind. Because, since she's 2, her first instinct is to say no, before she even knows what the question is. "Lilly, do you want some toast?" "No-no-no!" And then grabs the toast from me and starts eating it. Same with milk, playing, getting in the car, taking a bath, sitting on the potty. Everything is "No" and then most of the time she changes her mind a split second after thinking about it.
For the past 2 months, Lilly hasn't been eating very much. She's become extremely picky about the foods she does like. Every now and then she'll have a good appetite, but still only for certain foods (bread, melon, apple, crackers, cookies, and french fries). Then last night during dinner, for the first time I gave her the mac n cheese (with veggies mixed in) in a bowl with a spoon and gave her complete freedom with what to do with it. Typically we feed her, since she's not good with a spoon yet. But last night, after making peace with the fact that she & the dining room would end in a complete disaster, I decided to see what would happen. (She had eaten toast for dinner most of the past week - her choice after not wanting anything else we gave her.) All of a sudden, she was eating on her own, and got maybe 40% of the food in her mouth - but the key part - was that she was interested in eating. So was that really the problem for the past few months, that she just had that 2 year old "I do it" mentality, and she wasn't going to eat things unless she did it herself? I tried again this morning with breakfast. She hasn't wanted yogurt for 3 months, but I set it in front of her with a spoon, and she fed herself again. It may not seem like much to make me happy, but with her pickiness I was starting to get concerned, so maybe we've turned a corner here.
I'm also not above bribery with this little lady. I really wanted her to eat something besides toast a few nights ago, and she loves syrup and will usually eat french toast, but I wanted it to be more nutricious. So I took a whole egg and lathered one piece of toast with it, and fried it like french toast (except it was obviously caked on each side with the egg), and then put syrup on it, and she ate the whole thing. (Of course at first she said "nonono and then after forcing her to taste the syrup, she was happy.) We're also using bribery happily with our potty adventures. She's so good at going to the potty, but doesn't like the intitial sitting on the potty. She contorts her body so that we can't put her on it, and whines, and sometimes we wait her out, or just force her to sit - and then she's fine. In fact, sometimes she doesn't want to get off the potty. But two nights ago I knew she had to poop (she had actually signed "potty"), so I told her "Lilly, you can have an mnm if you sit on the potty." And she sat on the potty without major struggle. So I gave her the mnm, and then told her "Lilly, you can have another mnm if you go poopoo or peepee." And she immediately "went" and I gave her another mnm. Could it really be this easy? Turns out, it's not that easy - not because of her, but because of me. You see, I can't allow mnm's to remain in this house without eating every last one of them. So by the next afternoon I had eaten all of them and had nothing to bribe her with last night. :)
Jon and I talked last night about how life would be if we didn't have Lilly. Certainly 99% of the joy of our lives wouldn't exist without her. She adds such a beautiful dimension to all our situations, and constantly keeps us on our toes. I honestly can't remember a time without her. She is a wonderful companion and is certainly the heart and soul of our little family.
(But ask me again after this weekend - Jon's working all weekend and it's me and Lilly on our own.)
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
It's been so long since I last wrote, that I don't know where to start.
Lilly's grandparents (Jon's parents) came to visit for 10 days, and it was nice having people in the same country as us who actually know us, and who we could do things with. Jon took most of the time off, and they had a great time touring Auckland each day. (I had to work.) We did take off for the weekend to Rotorua, which is a little town 3 hours south of Auckland, with great views, lots of touristy things to do, and a horrible smell from the natural hot springs. We celebrated Jon's birthday on the Sunday that we were there, and Jon and I went to the Polynesian Spa, relaxed in the hot springs there, and got massages, while Lilly hung out with Jon's parents. Lilly had a great time with her grandparents, and we were all sad to see them leave last week.
When we arrived in Auckland in June, the resident & his wife from Jon's program who lived here before us, showed us around town. One of the places we stopped by was the local library in St Heliers. I had been in the Charlottesville library less than 5 times in 5 years, so I really wasn't that interested. Typically, in the US, my reading consisted of US Weekly, Working Mother Magazine (thanks Deb!), the latest Danielle Steel or John Grisham book, any new book related to Down syndrome or raising a baby, and most importantly, my bi-weekly subscription to ABC Soaps In Depth Magazine.
However, since Jon's not always around at night, and TV here isn't very good, I've been reading a lot since we arrived. I can see why I got the tour of the library - books here are much more expensive than in the states. And I've been reading anything I can get my hands on. There were a few books that came with the house, so I started with those. One book, the Doctor's Wife, I thought would be a cute little novel; however, it turned out to be a story about a bunch of crazy messed up people. But I still finished it in a few days. There were also a couple little novels about husbands and wives, and families, and at the end of each book, the couple ended up breaking up, or something was left unresolved or unsatisfactory. But I kept on reading, although missing the perfect endings of my Danielle Steel books.
Another book on the shelf was called April 1865. It turned out to be a book about the month the Civil War ended - but with all the history behind it, and information about all the key players that I just didn't learn in history class. It was an incredible book, and I highly recommend it - it's kind of like the story behind the story. Which got me interested in history, so I ordered a book about Abraham Lincoln (trust me, very interesting), and the next book from the same author who wrote April 1865, which was a book about the world from 1788 to 1800. Yes, very uninteresting to most people - but you have to remember, I'm living on the other side of the world, away from family and friends, without quality tv (and without even tivo!), and it is somehow holding my interest. It's mostly about the American Revolution, the French Revolution, Russia during that time period, and everything in-between. It's actually fascinating (or maybe I should give credit to it's author who makes it seem fascinating by painting vivid pictures of all the leaders of the time, and going into descriptive interesting details about the events); but it's much slower reading than my Danielle Steel books. It also puts things into perspective - when reading about some of the French citizens, just going about their day, when all of a sudden for no real reason they are murdered in the most horrible ways (beheaded, or "quartered", or stabbed, or stoned), all because of a "revolution" that went out of control. And reading about the men and women who left their homes in Europe, got on small disgusting boats for months (where many died because of the conditions), getting off in a new country and starting from scratch with a new life. Building a house without a Home Depot or a general contractor - just going out into the woods and chopping trees and building their own house. Crazy. I think of how scared I am sometimes in a new country (it seems more dangerous here, and probably isn't, but it feels that way just because it is a different country), or how lonely we sometimes feel (and yet how easy is it for us to get on the internet phone and call home, or send an email to friends and family); yet we are probably the luckiest generation ever born. The things that are "hard" for us are nothing compared to the people of the past - literally fighting for freedom, fighting oppression, fighting for food or for religious freedom or one's life. And here I am in a beautiful city, with my wonderful husband and amazing daughter, complaining that I don't have a Target or Panera nearby. And complaining that it takes 2 weeks for my Soap Opera Weekly to arrive in the international mail. Perspective.
So there are definitely things about life that I take for granted (and we all do); however, we do miss home a lot. I think it's a credit to our great family and friends that we are so homesick. And it's a credit to the USA that we miss things so much back home. What a wonderful country, that has a CVS and Starbucks on every corner, a Target and Walmart across the street from each other in each town, and a Disney theme park on each coast. And internet shopping is so easy in the US. (It really doesn't exist here, from what I can tell.) Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother, and my soaps - I really do miss the American way of life. So it's ironic that I'm reading this book now about the American Revolution, and how all these people a couple hundred years ago fought so hard for all these ideals - I wonder what they would think of life in America now. If Thomas Jefferson would have Tivo and an iPhone (didn't he always have the latest inventions?), or if George Washington would shop at Banana Republic, or if Benjamin Franklin would love Disney World. I'd like to think so. Because in my mind, my home country truely is the best place in the world to live.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Lilly was a good sport about all the sightseeing, although she failed to hide her boredom a couple times when she fell asleep in the stroller. We went to the aquarium, the zoo, the wildlife adventure (or something), the Sydney Tower, Darling Harbour, and best of all (in Lilly's eyes) there was a carousel. She loved it the first time, and the second time was a little more fidgety (during the ride Jon had to move her from horse to horse to keep her happy, she probably sat on about 15 horses!).
Sydney is a 3 hour flight from Auckland, and Lilly was great on the flight there and back. We didn't even need to take out the DVD player on the plane (although it was watched plenty in the hotel). The hard part about international travel is the whole customs side of it - the more lines we have to wait on with Lilly, the more potential for her to have a breakdown. And, when you arrive internationally in each city, you're not allowed to get your stroller until you get your luggage - which means carrying a heavy little girl through much of the airport. So there was a lot of potential for things to go downhill, but luckily, Lilly was amazing. So, on with the pictures:
Jon & I in front of some statue (near the church that the pope spoke at last month)
Lilly looking at a smaller part of the statue.
Lilly on a bench. (She's wearing Julianne's hand me down jacket.)
Some koala's at the zoo. The top one has it's baby on its lap.
A kangaroo. (The animal pictures are dedicated to DB.)
Grandpa Ron, Grandma Myra, Jon, Lilly, and me with the skyline in the background.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Here is a picture of our garage, and the vines that fell down in the intense wind and rain last week. I was blocked in. I got the portable DVD player, set it up in the car, strapped Lilly in her carseat, and hung from the vines til they fell off (at least on one side), so I could back out.
Lilly's favorite thing about New Zealand: the little rides outside the grocery stores and in the malls. Here's her favorite one (but it wasn't plugged in that day, so she just sat on it with her pals).
Here's Lilly with a monkey in a banana car. This one did work (although its $2 per ride!), so the picture is fuzzy as it's moving. She initially refused to sit next to that monkey, he was a little scary.
Lilly and Mommy on mommy's birthday two weeks ago. We're facing our house, and behind us is the driveway that goes up to the street, and my car.
Monday, August 4, 2008
When we moved here (kicking and screaming on my part - no offense to NZ, but I just didn't want to leave the comforts of our house and Lilly's hometown for the unknown - but anyways...), I was under the mistaken notion that in moving to a place where we had no ties, no friends, and no obligations, we would have plenty of freetime. There would be no last-minute lunches with friends, no Little Gym or Kindermusik or signing classes or swimming lessons. No Down syndrome groups to organize (or new parent packets to put together), no brunches with Lilly's boyfriends and their parents. No shopping at Ann Taylor (and Loft), Gymboree, and (sob!) Target. :( There would be no weekend trips all over the US, no flying to Atlanta or NY to visit family. Here, we don't even have American TV shows that we like to watch (or even Tivo - can you imagine?), so the free hours in my day seemed like they would be endless.
Our only obligations would be our jobs and Lilly's preschool, but in the late afternoons, I imagined us taking long walks together, going to the beach or the playground (and how fortunate are we that the closest playground is on the beach!), and catching up on things we never have time to do in the "real world." I pictured myself cooking dinner every night, exercising daily, teaching Lilly numerous skills and concepts. I could start playing tennis again, get massages and my nails done regularly again. I would wake up at 6 am every morning, and go to bed early ever night. I'd do my hair every day, and put on makeup and wear coordinated outfits. I'd no longer need a cleaning lady every other week, I'd do it all myself. This could be the year I might finally start that book I've always thought about writing (or at least a good quality blog - unlike the mess I'm currently producing). I even thought that I might be bored here with so much time to spare.
Our days are so hectic, so filled, that I am always exhausted. I never have time to respond to emails, and sometimes forget to return phone calls. I sometimes make dinner, but more often it's something simple (buying premade pizza crust and adding sauce and cheese really is "making dinner" right?) or we've figured out some restaurants that are Lilly-friendly or we get take-out. Regarding cleaning my own house - I went backwards with that decision, and we now have a great guy that comes even more often, every week. But even that makes me busier, because every Tuesday night Jon & I clean for hours, putting away all Lilly's toys, the laundry, all the random papers, etc - in preparation for the cleaning guy to come do the "real" cleaning.
A typical day in Lilly's World (and her parents)?
Jon wakes up at 6 am, leaves the house at 6:55 for work. (I don't know why 6:55 instead of 7, it's just what he does.) We don't usually see him again until 6:30, although occasionally he's home at 5:30 and sometimes (like tonite) it's 9:30 and he's still not here.
I wake up at 6:55 when Jon gives me a goodbye kiss and tells me he's just made my coffee. Which is a wonderful way to wake up. (The coffee, not the kiss.) Then he stomps out of the house in really loud shoes on hardwood floors, and Lilly of course starts stirring. I get my coffee, wait until I hear "dada? oohhh!" or similar from her room, and get her. Sometimes I call work to check in before she wakes up, or start checking emails. Lately, I can buy some time by giving her a book while she's still groggy, and she'll read in her crib for 20 minutes or so.
Around 7:30 or 8, it's mommy and Lilly time. We eat breakfast (oatmeal, or toast and a banana, or sometimes she's picky and it's crackers, rock melon, and a cookie). While she eats, she watches Elmo (at the dining room table) and I'm able to run in my room and get dressed quickly. Then she sits on the potty like a big girl, and we sing and dance. Most of the time she requires that my eyes are closed while she's on the potty, or else she won't go. Then it's her turn to get dressed, and that usually happens while she's in motion - crawling out of the bathroom, into her bedroom, out of her bedroom, bear-walking through the dining room, a quick pass through the kitchen, into the living room, SHE turns on High School Musical, and by that time we usually have everything on except her shoes and socks. We watch a song or two (just to accomplish the putting-on of the shoes and socks) and if there aren't any problems, we are out the door by 8:30.
I drop Lilly off at her wonderful preschool, and she settles in after a couple minutes. Today, for example, we arrived right as they were doing "Ring around the Rosy" and she was thrilled. As I left, she blew me huge kisses and big waves, and no tears. That is the highlight of the year, the fact that Lilly loves where she goes every day. And they seem to love her too - when we walk into the class, multiple little voices shout "Hello Lilly" but in a NZ accent, its cute. I drive back home, start work, and work until 4 or 5. I drive back and get Lilly (who is, by this time, typically covered in paint, with clay in her mouth), and bribe her to sit in her carseat with a cookie or milk, or sometimes both. We either go straight home, or to the store to buy groceries for dinner. If Jon gets off early enough, we grab dinner out; but usually Lilly & I eat together, and then Jon comes home later and eats after she goes to bed. We watch High School Musical (of course, but just the singing parts), give Lilly a bath, play, read books (and Lilly can now sign "read book"), and she's ready for bed around 7:30. If Jon's home, he puts her to bed (she prefers him for bedtime). He lies on the bed next to her crib, and they hold hands through the bars, and usually he falls asleep first! Finally she falls asleep, and he wakes up about 2 hours later, disoriented. Meanwhile, I usually work another hour or two. Then Jon cleans the kitchen, and I take a shower (because usually my day is so busy it's the first chance I've gotten!) and we're asleep by 10 or 11.
Not that our day is very interesting, but it's pretty full. And usually, it's pretty much the same. Which makes the non-Lilly time very monotonous and boring. However, every day, it seems, there is some crazy catastrophe or drama - Jon would probably call it the daily "Cathleen is threatening to move back home" moment. Some examples:
- The spaceheater in Lilly's room catching fire while she was asleep in the middle of the night.
- Vines falling off the house, blocking my car in the garage. (I had my first "tarzan" moment, swinging from the vines trying to get them down so I could back out.)
- Lilly's two ear infections
- My headache that sent me in the ER twice and getting a catscan
- Flat tires (my car, and Jon's car)
- Paint on the front bumper of my car falling off - from me hitting a bush.?
- The garage ceiling falling down, and the deck on top potentially caving in as well.
- The sewage tank exploding in the yard.
- Bugs - baby roaches, ants, something bigger living in the attic.
- The bug guy asking me to leave for 3 hours while he treated the house. (Where am I supposed to go? I don't know anyone here!) But thank goodness for him - he found and killed the Mama Roach and no more baby roaches!
- Suspicious man stalking our house.
- Nonstop rain (and wind and hail).
- Constantly being cold.
- The central heat not working.
- The ceiling leak in the kitchen every time it rains.
- Outlets sparking every time we plug things in. Including the two fires shooting out from the nebulizer and from the back of my computer. (The nublizer was fried, but oddly enough my computer still works!)
- Jon's crazy work schedule.
- The Fedex moving boxes fiasco (having to repack everything and then re-unpack it all).
- Constant laundry - because the dryer takes 3 hours to dry a load.
For the most part, our days are in a lot of ways as busy as they were in Charlottesville; but it was a lot more enjoyable back home, having friends and family and lots of events that we looked forward to. Here, we have some family time on weekends, which is priceless, but overall, we're busier than expected. Jon's on call every other weekend, and on the weekends that he's off, we try to get some family time in (we have a great Sunday brunch spot that we hit each week after church) and have also been going on "dates" to the movie or to dinner. We have a great babysitter, one of Lilly's teachers from school. And we even have a cleaning guy who comes in each week, but in some ways it makes more work because every Tuesday night we're pre-cleaning the house. So, all the free time I anticipated for this year has not materialized yet.
Anyways, no one wants to read my blog for excuses on why I don't have new pictures of Lilly up (and especially no one even reads the text anyways; they just want the pictures); but I thought I'd let you all know that we're still here, we're still doing ok, and I haven't forgotten. And we miss you all and can't wait to get back to our normal crazy hectic schedule next year. :)