Posted by: Jill Croft | June 20, 2010

How to turn your Mini-Van into a Man-ly Van

I have a special post today for dads on How to turn your mini-van into a man-ly van.  Look no further – today you will learn how to improve the self-image of your mini-van!

If you’re reading this post to get ideas on how to surprise your dad by converting the van for him, let’s cover the basics:

1.  First of all, it’s important to remember that a mini-van and a mini are two different cars.

2.  If you don’t know the difference then here’s a clue:  If you have more than two kids in your family, it is not very likely your dad drives a mini.

So ….

For the dads out there, here’s a wonderful video.  The site is not rated, so please make sure you’re young enough to watch.  You should be fine if you can say, “Mini-van Manly” out loud at least ten times in a row!  Enjoy ….

The Manly Minivan (please click on the link)

For those of you who weren’t able to say, “Mini-Van Manly,” don’t be disappointed.  We aren’t all perfect.

Our next treat of the day is our Father’s Day Gift.  The kids and I finally narrowed down our choices for AJ and here they are:

1.  A tie

2.  New underwear

3.  A tie

4.  Soap on a rope

5.  A tie

6.  Loofah sponge mittens

7.  A tie

8.  A funny YouTube video sung by us

As I have had a croaky, hoarse throat for two weeks, we decided on a YouTube song of course.  Move over Simon!!!  Actually, this one definitely won’t win Canadian Idol (or any Idol for that matter).  Here it is …

Our Superdad (please click on the link)

To all the wonderful dads and AJ …… HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!!  We love you!!!!

Acknowledgements for “Superdad”

Original tune:  “Now you see him” from Little Mermaid

Words:  Chocolatecherrypie

Croakals:  Chocolatecherrypie

Vocal backup:  Claire

Piano:  Chocolatecherrypie

Camera:  Violet

Music recording:  Therapynotesfrommypiano

Editing:  Chocolatecherrypie

Posted by: Jill Croft | June 17, 2010

Soft, warm and … scary?

There are only two conditions that cause me to become naked in public.  One of those is my daughter, Claire, who has no inkling of what I go through to keep myself decent when she is around, and the other is the introduction of someone’s small, furry dog.  The combination of the two is highly embarassing.  It is also very difficult to wrestle my skirt back down over my head while trying to pry Claire’s foot out of my mouth as she desperately clambers up my body in an attempt to escape what she considers is certain death.

Julie, being visually impaired, has never had any exposure to pets other than the sensations of soft, warm, and furry.  She’s heard us yelling at goats trying to eat her wheelchair, deer trying to consume her science projects, and seagulls divebombing her sandwich … but has considered this a wonderful joke.  When she was younger she happily experienced hippotherapy (believe it or not, this involves horses not hippos) and has a soft spot for dogs.  Unlike her calm, collected older sister, Claire’s relationship to canines is tentative at best.  I have assisted her to overcome her fears – mostly in a gentle way – but have failed miserably!  After all, she’s still scared of dogs.  I’ve tried almost every technique I could think of, including persuasion, rational emotive therapy, and a Rogerian approach whereby I encouraged her to “just talk” about her fears.  The only technique I haven’t tried is “flooding.”  I will describe flooding for those of you who have never taken Cognitive Psychology, but please, please send all children out of the room while you read – it’s nasty and you may scar them for life …. are they gone? … here goes …

If, for example, you’re using flooding to cure someone who is arachnophobic, then your goal is to expose that individual to spiders.  You may start off with introductory visualization exercises – ie., “Picture a spider on the opposite end of the football field.”  Eventually, though, you may progress to locking that poor harmless innocent in a room with hundreds of spiders until she calms down enough to realize that she is still alive.  (Honestly, though – do you think a person would appreciate this type of therapy?????)  If I were locked in a room full of spiders I’m sure I would say a lot of things I would later regret.  I might even fake a heart attack to teach that nasty therapist a lesson!

Strangely enough, Claire’s fear extends to dogs but not to other animals.  She is the self-proclaimed “guardian” of the garden, watching vigorously for errant squirrels, crows, racoon, and deer.  Fortunately for our little animal-lover, we live in Crazy Camera, Canada – which is teeming with wildlife.  Today, alone, Claire managed to stalk a squirrel, “rescued” five slugs from her murderous mater, and stood sadly by the grave-site she had built for “Alice” – a young squirrel who had died in a windstorm.  (I’m rather glad Alice is still there, actually, as she wanted to dig her up to show to a friend last week).  Claire is also the “protector” of Julie’s strawberry and tomato plants.  Bounding up the rocks yesterday and screaming the blood-curdling scream of a five-year-old banshee, she charged an adolescent stag at full tilt in order to save Julie’s greenery.  She was completely oblivious to the fact that this badly-behaved beast sported adult-size antlers.  Apparently he was too, judging by the expeditious rate at which he turned and bolted!

While Claire may not appreciate canines, she is very aware of the wildlife around her and our role as protectors of the environment.  For Claire, this fragile balance was never more obvious than this weekend when we went for lunch at an outdoor beach cafe.  She watched impatiently while crows and seagulls dive-bombed our platters of saturated fat and then decided to chase them away.  After running around and screaming, “Caw! Caw!” at the top of her voice she managed to scare all the crows and seagulls for miles.  She soon realized that she had made a big mistake – birds are much more interesting than going for lunch on the beach yet again!  For the next ten minutes we were relegated to the sight of Claire running round and around in a circle, waving her arm in the air and trying to tempt the birds back with a large, crispy onion ring!

As a parent I find it difficult to understand why a child would be comfortable with most animals and be terrified of dogs.  I suspect that because we warned Claire at a young age to be careful of strange dogs that she may have mistakenly assumed all dogs were vicious.  Julie, being confined to a wheelchair, received no lessons in fear as she was unlikely to run after any little dogs with the intent of pulling their fur.  Our lives aren’t exactly fraught with danger at every turn (ok … I’ll admit we sometimes have cougar sightings in amongst our picturesque rose bushes), but we often feel the need to protect our kids from their natural inclination to explore and experience.  Unfortunately for me, I will now have to “undo” the damage that has been done – which means that our future might well contain leashes, walks with Daisy-belle, and pooper scoopers.  Until then I will have to embark on my obligatory duty to protect Claire from all public beaches, parks, playgrounds, friends houses, schoolyards, tv shows,  and internet sites that have been exposed to snarling coal-eyed canines!

PS.  By “subscribing” to this blog you will receive an alert when I add new posts :)

Posted by: Jill Croft | June 15, 2010

Just believe

Tonight I donned a haute-couture lead apron at our local emergency x-ray department.  I’m not usually togged out in such glamour, but have been known to grace this establishment on more than a few occasions with Julie.  It’s an odd dance, the one taken by a parent when a child becomes desperately ill.  The child is really the patient … but the parent is definitely part of the equation.  It’s so interesting to see first-time parents and remember  what we used to be like and how we used to react.

The emergency room parent encounters the most difficulty when their baby or non-verbal child is screeching and screaming.  It is often harder for this parent to allay their own fear than that of their child.  I’m sure you’ve seen the parent (actually we’ve all been there) who gasps to the triage nurse, “I’m not sure what is wrong.”  As the nurse starts to write in the chart they then blurt out something that sounds like, “his tongue’s gone green” …  or “I am sure her hands weren’t that pink and purple colour yesterday”  …. or even a tearful “I lost the paring knife while I was making the soup … and I’m sure she swallowed it without me noticing!”

When we first started on this road, AJ and I were no different.  Our baby may have had multiple medical problems but we were not ready to be her parents and continually flubbed it.  We found it difficult to decide what was important and what wasn’t.  We missed ear infections, and then took Julie into emergency with nothing more harmful than a stomach ache.  We tried our best, but we couldn’t sift important information from the ordinary.  We were both horrified and hopeful.  We “listened” to the advice, but didn’t really understand many of the medical terms.  I suppose it’s no different when you’re learning a new computer program.  At first it’s almost impossible to learn, and then you “get it.”  The first piece of software is the worst, and then you learn to navigate around almost any program you’re given.  After a while you find that you’re becoming more “savvy” and you catch on comparatively quickly.  It is the same with being a parent of a kid who has complicated medical issues.  And sometimes … to be honest … it’s better to not know what the future holds.

I still remember our fear when we were told that our baby was going to be delivered at 28 weeks.  I can’t imagine how scared we would have been if we had been told that Julie would have congenital heart disease … acquire brain damage from the surgery … develop a blood clot … end up with liver disease … develop immune deficiency … and so on and so forth.  If that had all been dumped on us right from the start then I can tell you without a doubt that we would have lost our hope.  It may sound odd, coming from a parent of a child who has developed such complications, but you really do need to keep a picture in front of you at all times of what you hope for your child.  If you can’t do this, then try and surround yourself with people who are there to support you and your child and just keep your heart open.

Twelve years ago someone reached out to support me during a time when I was at risk of losing hope.  I was walking forlornly down the hospital corridor one evening, pushing Julie in her baby stroller after having visited emergency yet again.  Our little baby who had survived being born at 28 weeks, had then developed further brain damage following open heart surgery.  Our trip to the neurologist the week before had been like a nail in our coffin, so to speak.  “She’ll never be normal,” he had said.  “Just take her home and enjoy her.”  Instead, I had cried my eyes out.  What parent would enjoy being told that their beautiful, happy baby would never be normal.  It was one of the saddest moments of my life.  As I wandered despondently down the corridor I saw a nurse who had known me from the antenatal unit.  She asked how things were going and I told her.  She didn’t know all the “facts” but she sensed my turmoil.  Twelve years later I still remember her next words as they burned into my soul.  “Just believe,” she said.  Simply … “Just believe.”  I have never forgotten that moment.

When I was able to finally “hope” again, I changed the world for Julie.  Instead of just accepting medical diagnoses I started to reflect on this information.  With the support of her wonderful pediatrician I initiated decisions as to when she should have her blood tests, and even had the results faxed to our house so I could get a “feel” for what was happening.  As the numbers of physicians involved in her care started to increase (at one point I think she had 14 or 15 physicians and specialists at a time) I found that I became an important part of her care.  I was the person who provided the stability and the continuity as I was the only person who was attending all the appointments with her.  When I started reading medical journals on the internet to make sure I understood the jargon … interesting thoughts and theories began to materialize.

“Hmmm,” I thought, and prompted an ultrasound technician to check Julie’s liver during a routine kidney ultrasound.

“She seems to be missing some hepatic veins,” she said.  “I think I’ll call a doctor!”

That was the start of many more appointments, and also the beginning of new hope for Julie as light was shed on her condition.  It was heartbreaking to learn that Julie had tested positive for high amounts of ammonia in her blood, and it was also a big shock to realize that her brain damage had been ongoing and that some of it could have been prevented by better controlling these chemicals.  As we explored her conditions, it led to much more knowledge, culminating in a better approach to her care.

Tonight, Julie left emergency with no clear diagnosis.  She had many tests and will go back tomorrow for more.  In the meantime, she was fussed over by all the important people in her life who love her and who help her to cope.  One of these important people is her sister Claire.  By combining her endless energy, goofy behavior, and penchant for inventing “on-the-spot” rap music (today she invented a song about a butterfly who forgot to fly and fell out of a tree) she managed to get Julie to calm down.  Once Julie was in the examination room and slightly more cheerful, Claire started inventing rude noises with her mouth in honour of “Oglington Fartworthy,” one of Julie’s favorite characters in Nanny McPhee.  When she then followed this with “Je m’apelle Stinky” and phrases unlikely to have been picked up in French immersion, Julie actually grinned and chuckled.

Many years have passed since Julie made her first trip to emergency and she is now starting to become her “own person.”  As we hold her hands and walk her journey with her, we can only hope that she is able to develop her own sense of hope.  Until then, we show her how much she means to our family, help her to be courageous, and encourage her to … “Just believe!”

Posted by: Jill Croft | June 12, 2010

Sleep, sleep, or lack of it!

We seem to have a universal lack of sleep at our house.  Gone are the university days when we stayed up late studying only to find ourselves safely ensconced under cosy covers at noon the next day.  When I became a parent I suddenly found that I had become …. what’s the word? …. scheduled!

In the days of freedom anything went.  If I was tired I’d sleep.  If I felt like recreating I’d go to a movie – no need to check showtimes or ratings.  If I was hungry, I’d open a can of tuna, squeeze a dollop of mayo on top, and pick up a fork.  I didn’t even have to recycle the can after my impromptu picnic as there was never any little elves staring at me with wide horrified eyes!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Kids train parents! If any of you disagree with me on this one, please let me know.  Before you casually hit the “comment” button, stop and think about it for minute.  Are you actually convinced you do have power over your offspring …. or are you just living in denial.

Let me give you some examples ….

Exhibit A:

Think about preparing a meal.  You dish out the food on everyone’s plate, you all sit down happily to your repast and … “Mommy – can I have some more mashed potatoes please?”  In your mind you measured out the perfect amounts – happily there were no extras to sit in bowls in the fridge and rot – and you have not one mouthful to spare.  Actually … you do.  You have what’s on your plate.  Hungry or not, what would you likely say:

a)  “You can have it if you want, but I already spat on it.”

b)  Yell, “It’s mine and you aint gettin’ any of it!”

c)  Produce your best crocodile tears to accompany the words, “It’s not fair, I don’t ever get what I want!”

d) Quickly gobble them down at high speed, not waiting to swallow so that you can get in as much as you can.  Fait accompli!

e)  Sigh … and hand ‘em over!

Answer:  Hmmm.  See – I was right!  On to the next question:

Exhibit B:

When you find out that every child in your kid’s class has been “asked” to bring a Barbie to your little wonder’s birthday party, and grandma has been cajoled into the latest Barbie movie, you:

a)  Gently explain that you care about her self-esteem and body image, and hand her a Kleenex to drown her tears

b) Say, “Cool!  I wonder how many Barbie’s it would take for Mythbusters to light a bonfire in October?”

c)  Warn the mothers, and post a Barbie-proof “bouncer” at the door to ward off disreputable guests

d)  Pretend to bake a “Barbie Cake” (don’t forget to put the movie in there too!) and forget to check the oven

e)  Change the birthday theme to “Malibu-Barbie-Princess-Fairy” and hand over the popcorn!

Answer:  Need I say it!  (For those of you who don’t have kids and think you have even the slightest chance – think again!  Even AJ has been cajoled by the dulcet darlings into watching each and every Barbie movie at least twice!)

EXHIBIT C:

When junior climbs into your bed for the seventh time since midnight for the fourth night in a row, do you …

a)  Spit out, “It’s my room.  Kids are not allowed!  Didn’t you read the sign!”

b)  Practice your latest Karate throw, hoping they arrive intact at their bedroom door

c)  Give your kid a hug while gloating in the fact that you purposefully ate garlic for dinner and didn’t brush your teeth – that’ll send ‘em back in a hurry!”

d)  Drowsily rally all your mental power to follow Supernanny Jo’s advice and gently lead your kid back to bed each time

e) Turn to your husband/partner and blearily growl, “It’s YOUR turn to sleep on the couch!  Move it!”

Answer:  See!  Answer (e) is becoming a trend with you!

I hate to say it folks, but I rest my case.  We like to think we’re in control … but we aren’t!  We have been brainwashed – retrained into becoming newer, brighter, shinier, and more sleep-deprived!  The good news is that all of this flexibility may lead to longer life.  Or perhaps our new lease on life may come from the glee we experience when we see our erstwhile tormentors retrained by their own kids.  Until then, in the words of climate-change scientists, “We are doomed!”  Our only hope is to occasionally stick out our tongue behind the back of our juvenile taskmasters.  If this doesn’t make you feel better, you could always blissfully hiss under your breath, “Just wait until you have kids of your own!”

Posted by: Jill Croft | June 11, 2010

Anne’s dream

Just a note:  Thank you everyone for responding so heartily to my latest post.  I had to change the kids names once again (in order to be more obscure) as this site is starting to be more well-read than I had realized.  It’s better to do this at the “beginning” but rest assured I won’t do it again.  Sorry for the confusion.  Back to my blog ….

This evening I heard very sad news from a friend.  Her dear father passed away today after battling cancer for many years.  He went in peace, but leaves a legacy of people who love him very much.  His daughter, who came to be known in our family as “Anne of Green Gables,” lived with us for over a year as a foreign adult student from Taiwan.   Anne’s dream was to finish her graduate degree in an English-speaking program, and she eventually “toughed it out” and now has her doctorate.  This feat is amazing, no less because she had all the cards stacked against her.  Having done a graduate program myself, I fully understand the pressure and sheer amount of determination to complete the workload.  Not only did Anne surpass many of her classmates who speak English as their first language, but these were the years during which her father was dreadfully ill.  Supporting him from afar, she was alone with her fears and grief.

We are surrounded in our lives by an invisible mesh of friends and acquaintances who touch us in ways we can’t comprehend.  We will never know how hard it was for Anne to pursue her dreams, and we can only hope that we were there to support her at the moments when she needed it most.  We have a happy home – perhaps this helped Anne to “stay the course.”  To be honest, though, the happiest parts of our lives are those spent with family members and those who have shared in the lives of our dear ones.  Anne was a valuable part of Julie and Claire’s life experience, and was actually living with us when Claire came home from hospital for the first time as a baby.  I would like to think that I altruistically helped Anne, but to be honest I think that she helped me as much as I helped her.  My previous experience of pregnancy, with Julie, had been fairly grim and she was three months premature.  Eight years later we were finally brave enough to consider have another little one, discovering almost simultaneously that our older daughter Julie had life-threatening issues that involved her liver.  As if this weren’t bad enough, we were told halfway through the pregnancy that I was going to have a really rough time … and that we should consider termination.  Apparently my life was at risk, the baby’s life was at risk, and/or I would end up with another child who had disabilities.  Deciding to continue with the pregnancy was a terrifying decision, but one I have never regretted despite the outcome.  Claire was delivered at 31 weeks, did remarkably well, and now runs circles around us.  The effect on my body, however, was severe.  Due to post-surgical complications I didn’t clot, needed five units of blood, and had to have the incision reopened to drain over several weeks as the swelling from the internal bleeding started to cause nerve damage.  A short time later I developed auto-immune disease and it took many years before I was free of pain and before my iron levels (with the help of multiple transfusions) returned to normal.

It was while I was in hospital following Claire’s delivery that I met Anne for the first time.  I was surprised at how well she spoke English, but also quite surprised that she managed to walk right into a terrible situation like this and not be bothered by it.  When I returned home she was kind and non-demanding, and I found that I really enjoyed her perspective on life.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that Anne was struggling with the illness of her father and was willing to talk about “issues” … or perhaps it was due to the fact that Anne had a soft-spot for Julie and the discussion seemed to often focus on the topic of disabilities.  Either way, we found many things to discuss, including the treatment of individuals with disabilities in Canada and in Taiwan.

Anne confided in me that life is not always good for kids with disabilities in her country.  I had heard of this before but I was, nevertheless, shocked at what she had to relate … As Taiwan has no nationally supported education system, families have to pay for their child to attend school and have to pay for the extra supports that are needed by that individual.  If you are born with a disability in Taiwan, as in many other countries, you may be relegated to a life of incredible misery and deprivation.  If you come from a well-to-do family who can afford to send you to school then there is no problem.  However, you may fall through the cracks and experience abject misery if you are born into a low-income family.  In some cases, Anne related, the child is left on the floor next to a pile of food, and the parent will depart for work.  She told me that this happened very often … this was almost inconceivable to me.  I can’t comprehend the decision tree that would lead a parent to make such a bad choice for another human being  – their own child.  I would rather not try to imagine being that child.  Being alone and crying … but with no-one to hear or respond.  No-one to care for you or comfort you.    As we have “lived the life” with our Julie, this really bothers me.  Julie can’t talk or walk, struggles to use her hands, and is considered deaf-blind.  However, she is so sensitive and emotionally fragile.  So … alive!  It just breaks my heart when she becomes sad and her big grin is replaced by tears.  In the case of these poor children in Taiwan, they are not considered “human” in the same way we are.  The community and government have forgotten about them.  They have become “non-entities.”

I hadn’t meant to write a blog that was SO sad today, but I wanted to prompt my readers to think very carefully about their own lives.  Sometimes there are things we can do without, and sometimes there are excesses we don’t need.  For as little as $35 a month you can actually change someone’s destiny by sending a child with a disability to school.  We have had many heartaches in our family in recent months, and have struggled in many areas.  All around us, the effects of the recession rage.  Our reaction to those events have the potential to destroy our very soul within us and render us sub-human.  Within this darkness we have a chance to redeem ourselves – as we reach out to others we are, in fact, healing ourselves.   The potential of what we can do may be far-reaching and change the destiny of one child – or perhaps entire families or villages.

Five years ago we found a young boy in India to sponsor so that he could attend school, and have watched his progress with baited breath.  His daily educational struggles haven’t been easy for him, and we appreciated the charity for charting his progress in an honest yet respectful way.  Now that he is older and becoming fluent in sign-language for the first time, we are feeling very proud of his progress.  When we first “found” him I was a bit disappointed as I had wanted to sponsor a child in Africa.  However, it took many phone calls before we found a charity that actually had enough information on each child that they could tell us within a day or two who the child was, their level of disability and support needed, and other needs of the family.  Most charities said they would “research” the question but never actually found us a child with a disability.  The Christian Children’s Fund of Canada guaranteed that they would assign a child with a disability to us.  They had special sponsorship requests for kids with disabilities, had partnerships with local schools in developing nations such as India,  and – despite their Christian mandate – would accept any child of any religion for sponsorship within the support of their own family and culture.  In addition, local groups within certain countries have formed partnerships with CCFC so that they can take a greater initiative in improving their own community.  Our “child” attends one of these schools in just such a village.  The community surrounding this boy decided not to let their kids with disabilities suffer.  They took it into their own hands to improve his life, and the lives of children like him.  We are happy to say that due to our sponsorship this boy is able to attend his local school, is now receiving transport to a school for the deaf several days a week, has had orthopedic support with braces and surgery for his cerebral palsy, and has even had enough money to take a small “holiday” with his parents.  Throughout the year we are also given the option of gifting his family with chickens, cows, goats, or other items that can be used in a micro-enterprise to improve their economic status.

There are many days when we go about our lives in much the same way we did the day before.  We “act” upon the world around us, but our actions merely affect how much cream goes into our coffee, how much detergent goes into the laundry, how much plaque we brush off our teeth, etc.  It is Anne’s dream that children with a disability will be given a chance for an education.  Please join our family and act in a way that really counts – help to change the life of a vulnerable child with disabilities.  For those of you who know Anne, please consider sponsoring a child today as we remember Anne’s father.  For others who have joined this blog, please consider helping in honor of those we love who have cancer, and also for all the brave children in our lives who have disabilities.

Christian Children\’s Fund of Canada

Posted by: Jill Croft | June 9, 2010

Porcelain Sea-Goddess

I hate midway rides!  I hate them with a passion.  If possible, I try to avoid them at all costs!  The only thing I can think of worse than the former is a certain ferry ride from Scotland to Northern Ireland about eleven years ago.  I was an unwitting victim late one Sunday evening after a pleasant weekend spent in Belfast visiting AJ’s family and little gran.  Julie and I had spent two weeks in Edinburgh so she could experience “hyperbaric oxygen therapy” for brain damage at the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic in Leith.  The treatments were incredible, and the volunteer staff amazing.  It was with high hopes that I then took my two-year-old on the train to the coast for what was to become one of the most talked-about trips of my life.

The Irish countryside was beautiful, the food incredible, the people amazing.  It wasn’t until I was sitting on the ferry for the return trip that I wondered if something was wrong.  The ferry stayed on the dock for the L-O-O-O-N-G-E-S-T time.  Unbeknown to me, they had cancelled all ferries that Sunday and this was their first run of the day.  They had delayed – as was sensible – due to the size of the waves and because (at the last minute) they had started to have doubts.  If they had just warned us … I would have had a fighting chance!  Instead, I hungrily handed my money over at the buffet, drawn in by the promise of a high-class gargantuan feast and a chance to relax with Julie.

When the ferry headed out I had barely looked at my plate.  Suddenly I found I couldn’t look at my plate.  Nonplussed by this turn of events, and never having been seasick in the past, I decided to take control over the situation by ordering a glass of fine Irish Whiskey to “settle my stomach.”  It soon became obvious that my stomach no longed liked it’s favorite Irish blend.  Within minutes, it was impossible to look at my plate, and the waiter (snickering obsequiousely) made a few insincerely supportive comments and offered to refund my money.

I cannot remember much more of the trip except that I tried to order Julie a McDonald’s meal to make it up to her.  I also remember with clarity the large number of washrooms on board that vast beast.  I visited them all … one by one!  I also tried to go outside and get some fresh air, but the deck – alas – was tinged with the salty-sour smell of sea-spray mixed with human stomach.  I was unable to find an inch of railing that wasn’t lined with some poor prisoner or another, and finally returned to my ill-fated grande tour of the porcelain sea goddess’ lair.

Julie thought the whole experience was wonderful!  Being visually impaired, she loves movement of any kind.  She was also intensely fascinated by the gutteral stomach sounds emanating from her mom and couldn’t stop giggling.  The louder the sound, the louder the laugh.  Perhaps she thought this was some sort of playful experience put on as a special treat for her benefit!  Eventually, I could no longer manipulate Julie’s stroller through the accumulated stomach slime of the masses, and started to worry that I would pass out from the effort of vomiting.  I had to think fast!   I opened the washroom door … picked a “nice” looking older couple (after all, this was an Irish Ferry and there were security guards everywhere) and handed them my baby with a desperate plea for help.  I spent the rest of the trip sitting close by with the occasional sprint to the aforementioned closet.

Upon arrival in Scotland three hours later (the typical crossing takes 45 minutes) the last train for the night had long since departed.  The only way to get to Glasgow to catch my connection to Edinburgh was by a hot, stuffy tour bus through the mountains.  I cannot tell you how I made it to Glasgow, but I can tell you without a doubt that I experienced every single bend in the road through those mountain passes.  I don’t know what gave it away – my ghastly green countenance or the smell of my breath, but there weren’t too many people who sat next to me on that ill-fated trip!  I held Julie with all my might and concentrated on a specific spot on the floor next to the stairs.  If I were to throw up again, I told myself, it would be advantageous to aim for that spot as it would cause the least damage to those around me.

Many years later, this experience came back very clearly at a certain midway last weekend.  I avoided going on all the rides with Claire, nudging AJ to accompany her as often as I could.  Julie is now too big for the kiddie rides as she can’t “fit” into the carriages even if I wanted to accompany her.  Knowing how much she loves “wild and crazy” I felt sad for her, but bought her a bag of cotton candy to keep her busy.  The adult-oriented rides all had warnings that participants should be able to sit independently.  That definitely ruled out Julie!

Fifteen minutes prior to leaving, I was overcome with guilt and stupidly asked an attendant if there were any options for people with disabilities …

“You mean this girl,” he said.

“Yes,” I responded.

“Well, she could go on this ride.  It’s not too bad.”

I looked up quickly at the spinning spyder full of screaming, flailing humans and felt a vast sense of panic.  “Couldn’t she fall out?!” I squeeked

He affirmed that she would be safe and I manipulated Julie’s wheelchair closer to AJ.

AJ looked at the ride, considered Julie’s weight and the effect of centrifugal force, and said, “No.”

No amount of persuasion worked and I found myself strapped in, hanging onto Julie with all my might, and trying to be brave.  All I can say is that I was brave … I only screamed a little bit and I even managed to open my eyes occasionally.  The force of the spins whipped us around at top speed, and it was reminiscent of the bus ride through those Scottish mountains to Glasgow.  If I concentrated really hard I could squint through the rain at the ocean in the distance, but I didn’t dare let go.  There wasn’t much choice involved … if I had let go of Julie I am sure we would have both perished, strung up on a treelimb somewhere in someone’s yard a few blocks away.

Upon return to earth, the first thing I noticed was that the Spyder was right next to a hotdog stand.  And they obviously served the hotdogs with onions.  It was very, very obvious.  I grinned a big “thank you” to the helpful attendant and then ran for fresh air as soon as it was possible to do so without losing dignity.  AJ went to get the car while I weakly leaned against the wheelchair.  I desperately needed a quiet moment but I have noticed that peace never naturally occurs in motherhood.  I did my best to allow the nausea to abate while trying to avert Claire’s scowl and the “20 questions” she was throwing at full speed including “Why didn’t I get to go on the Spyder?!  It’s not fair!”  When the van pulled up I was content to settle into the seat and close my eyes, and I am happy to say I managed to make it home with the cotton candy still intact!

If you’re wondering about Julie … no, she didn’t throw up either!  She had the best time she has had in over a year and LOVED the Spyder!  She laughed and giggled for most of the ride, and had a big, cheesy grin on her face for at least half an hour afterward.  I am SO glad I managed to take her on a ride, and SO glad that the attendant “bent the rules” so she could be included.  As for me, I still hate Midways!  I could tell you with conviction that I will never repeat this experience ….  but the smile on Julie’s face was worth more than winning the lottery!  Something tells me that I may just find myself at a midway again next year …. and if I should find myself accidentally on a Spyder … well, you can bet Julie will be grinning right next to my terrified face!

Posted by: Jill Croft | June 5, 2010

Graduation

I dragged myself out of bed this morning, madly throwing clothes at people, and finally we were all dressed for Claire’s preschool graduation.  Except for me, of course.  For those of you who don’t know, we are staying with the in-laws while our house is being “renovated.”  Challenges on days like today include finding items that you just knew were there last time you looked.  I looked everywhere for my good shoes but eventually had to clunk to the car at top speed donning wide-toed flats.  Under normal circumstances these shoes look rather good with dress pants.  Today, with an elegant skirt …  well … let’s say they weren’t exactly the height of fashion!

To be quite honest, my five year old thinks I’m beautiful in a variety of unlikely circumstances and I also don’t have any challenges from my thirteen year old who can hear my voice but whose visual impairment protects her from knowledge of my flaws.  How could your mother be anything but beautiful if you can’t see her clearly!  Even if I was the most ugly woman on the planet, their view of me is guaranteed to make me feel like a million dollars no matter how I’m dressed!

The other day I heard a radio announcer discussing physical appearance – most specifically the “average” woman.  For those of you who don’t know, Barbie is not the average woman!  The average woman is, in fact … ME!   After listening to the John Tesh Radio Show I discovered that I am the epitome of “average.”  I am the average height and weight of all women in North America.  Just imagine – even if you don’t know who I am, you could get an idea by walking down the street.  Anyone who looks “average” could actually be me!

In my desire to look a little better than average, we were actually late for Claire’s graduation.  When we arrived there was a cheer in the room where the kids were anxiously gathered, and I hurriedly took out my makeup purse, powdered Claire’s nose, dragged a brush through her hair, and then chased her with lipgloss while the kids started to line up at the door.  It was definitely worth it.  When her class entered the auditorium she was literally glowing!

Claire wore a long pink cotton dress and looked so cute!  She rubbed at the powder on her nose, scratched at her leggings, but then soon settled down.  She looked so gorgeous up there – my heart glowed and I was a really proud parent today!!

Claire’s best friend, Daisy, was in the front row.  Her biological dad hadn’t come, just her adoptive grandparents, and it was hard not to notice how sad she looked.  My heart went out to her, and I wondered if he knew how much he was missed.

Claire surprised me by knowing all the words to the songs.  She, and her fellow grads sang about fishes bubbling in the sea, monkey’s in the trees, and God’s love for everyone.  After this, she lined up with her fellow grads for her graduation certificate and a photo with Miss Terry her favorite teacher who has a lovely smile and long, blonde hair.

The mood following the party was somewhat jovial, spoiled by a momentary fight between Claire and her friend Daisy, who was still not feeling as happy as she could be.  Claire ended up in tears until Daisy relented, and then the little divas had a goodbye hug before piling into their respective cars.

We took our kids, the happy grandparents, and Julie’s helping friend Violet to Tim Hortons for a celebratory doughnut.  Poor Julie had sat so patiently through Claire’s graduation ceremony, and decided to let us know that she was not going to sit still a moment longer.  It’s very difficult when a child who is in a wheelchair doesn’t like to be thus confined, and she cried and fussed until AJ lifted her up.  When I returned to the table with our doughnuts and coffee, it was to the sight of AJ sitting with our thirteen year old draped over his shoulder – a rather tall thirteen year old who was obviously experiencing cramps in her crooked back from sitting still for so long.  When she had been given a backrub and returned to her chair, she did what teenagers do very well, and inhaled everything she was fed.  It was lovely, for me, to have her helping friend along today, as Claire didn’t want to share me with anyone on her special day.

As a special treat, Claire was allowed a small iced cappuccino, which became self-evident on the way home.  After bouncing up and down a few times, rolling her window up, rolling her window down, rolling her window up, rolling her window down, rolling the window up, rolling the window down, etc. (I’m sure you get the picture), AJ finally reached the end of his patience and clicked the “parent control” from the drivers seat.  I caught a gasp and a momentary look of dismay on Claire’s face as her window closed.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  “Nothing!” she hissed softly.  Then, seeing the look of enquiry on my face she leaned over and confided in a whisper … “When the window closed, my piece of snot was trapped!”

Well … so ends another wonderful day in chocolatecherrypie land!

Posted by: Jill Croft | June 4, 2010

Hello world!

This is my first exciting day blogging as chocolatecherrypie.  So …. grab your cuppa cocoa and read with me.  I want to write about an amazing journey as the mom of two very special children, and the wife of a soon-to-be-nominated saint.   I had a very eventful day, as days go, as I had to take a certain young lady to her kindergarten orientation.  It was a proud moment as I walked away to the parent room, knowing that I had fully prepared her, held her back a year to improve her self-esteem, and that she could handle anything!  My world fell apart in the car when she announced, “Mommy, why did they say Claire (not her real name) is a boy’s name!  It isn’t but they said I had a boy’s name!”

Suffice to say that I lost my breath and could have had a car accident!

“You were named after a princess,” I said reassuringly, thinking quickly.  “A Disney Princess!  How many princes do YOU know who are called Claire.  None?  That’s right, because Claire is a PRINCESS’ name!”

Arriving home, the little princess ran upstairs to watch tv while I plotted my next move … stop her from starting school altogether and have her remain in preschool for life …. or ask the principal to let her skip kindergarten altogether and forge straight ahead to grade one.  Two emails to the principal later, I opted to take a deep breath and try to recover from the trauma I was experiencing.  You know it – the trauma of being a mother when your youngest is starting school for the first time.  It is almost as bad as when they start preschool.  I still remember the moment.  Claire turned three and then announced casually a few days later, “Mommy, I’m ready to start school now.”  Shocked and bewildered, with all my dreams of homeschooling dashed, I took her to the local preschool to “check it out.”  My little baby marched right up to the supervisor and said, “Hi!  My name’s Claire.  I’m here to start school today.”  She started two days later, and I was still in shock two weeks later saying to myself, “What happened!”

Well, here I am reeling with self-pity and blogging about her first kindergarten experience while she calmly snores away in our bed, plotting in her little five year old brain how she is going to explain her sleepwalking the next day:  “Mommy, when you take me out of your bed and put me back in mine …. I feel ….. REJECTED!”   – and not even noticing where she spilled her glass of water all over the sheets.  C’est la Vie!  Soon she’ll be thirteen!

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