all hallows


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From the forest that my father planted, under whose shade he knew he'd never sit. A good Da visiting place. 

If the planning permission can be finagled, we plan to convert the stables in my Ma's house into a wee house for us. This seems the right thing to do, though I am taking a leettle time to adjust to the idea. There are pros and cons, that being the nature of things. It's a very pretty place, of course, there's that. Foresty and grassy, with deer and foxes, a lovely place to grow up, you would hope. My parents lived there since 1989 only, so it was my family home for only a few years before I flew the proverbial, but I did enjoy living there. There's always something to do in the country, funnily enough, there's always a dog that had pups or some blackberries to pick, or a hawk to spot, you'd be alone but never lonely. (Not like in town, where everyone else seems to be enjoying a hilarious joke over a pint of Guinness. (Could be just me.)) Jay can go to the local school and have an outdoorsy sort of life, quite different from what we have in our more gritty part of Dublin, of which I have grown so fond. He'll have a different accent, his friends will have The Latest Gear and he'll go probably go on school holidays to Paris. He'll be less likely to be in school with other minorities, too. It'll be Quite White and Fairly Affluent. It's about an hour drive to town, or a long and slightly inconvenient drive-train-walk but quite possible all the same to keep up with my beloved tribe. 
Ooh, but I am Very Excited about converting the Stables, on the other hand! It'll be like my own episode of Fixer Upper!
Also, space, space. No more walking Jay up and down the same 11 steps between his room and our window and back, and up and back, to get him to sleep. He's had a chest infection this week, poor kid, so I am extra-twitchy on the subject.

He's going through a huge learning phase at the moment; you can practically see the sparks fly. He pokes screens, thinking they are touch screens. He's learnt how to pause and change programs on the washing machine - he plays that thing like Charlie Parker. He notices everything, tries to catch shadows and steam, laughs, complains, has a big personality. He is not quite walking but nearly nearly is - but he's added Show Pony and Prancer to his crawl repertoire and stands holding on to my leg very easily. We go to toddler groups (hence: germs) and he gives things to other kids and feeds us. A soggy piece of bread off the floor, just what I always wanted! He's smiley. He's worked out how to open the childproof locks on my bedside table drawer, but he politely closes it again after ransacking the interior. He hides his face when he feels shy, he gets frustrated and throws mini-tantrums, he stares at you carefully when you explain something to him. He's fabulous, glorious, wonderful. 

He's been referred to the physio and speech therapist for some finger-wagging (what's up with these people? Do they not like children?) but I am not worried at all. He's smart, he'll be fine. 

And that concludes the update from the mild and calm for now Western Seaboard of Europe.
Happy Halloe'en, everyone! I have some candy to give away but what with the chest infection have not managed to decorate. (Fast forward to the JB and I gobbling Penguin bars in a darkened kitchen?)

Hope you're all well, kind readers.
T


finally finally finally

Life goes on.

Wednesday the 20th September 2017, after a wet walk and a crowded bus ride into town, we formally finalised our adoption of Jay. It, weirdly enough, was in a office centre for business high-flyers, with a fancy video-conferencing system as mandated by the US court. We played on the nylon carpet floor around the boardroom table with Jay and a fellow adoptive family for an hour or so until the screen erupted into life and we could see one of those small wooden furnished court rooms with a judge and our lawyer, waving at us. 


It was a odd mixture of serious ceremony and celebration, a bit like getting married. We had to raise our hands to swear to be truthful, and Jay raised his hand too. (Judge: Oh, I'm loving this!) We confirmed our identity, our date of marriage, that we'd been caring for Jay continuously since we took custody and promised we'd continue to until he was eighteen. Then she congratulated us and we clapped and cheered. It was a moment to remember. 

Jay Pearl (sounds like a rapper). HURRAY! 

 

 

 


more on Da

The funeral went well, I think, as much as it could. Brother gave a serious and funny talk about our father, all about his (many) misadventures and lifelong losing battle with implements, machines and tools. He couldn't change a plug, it's true, or at least not without a lot of bad language. He couldn't boil an egg. He would have died in a week without my mother, of starvation. He was a terrible swimmer and driver. But he had a great feel for business, he cared about his employees, he looked after people. Quite a few people came over to tell me how much he'd helped them in their careers - he gave my newly-widowed aunt a car when she really needed it, he kept various family members and friends afloat financially at critical moments. I read 1 Corinthians 13, one of the few passages from the Bible I a) know and b) like, and the one my father read at my wedding eleven years ago. About 150 people came to say goodbye and he was buried in a lovely spot in the church graveyard. We had a nice lunch in the golf club, everyone admired Jay, who was extra-charmy and nice to cuddle.

So that was that. I've since become very interested in the dusty box of photos we inherited from my father's mother when she died. Granny kept piles of perfect black and white photos and wedding invites, and some newspaper cuttings. She never wrote anyone's name on the back, though, so it's become a game to piece it all together. I've even joined one of those heritage websites and am trying to work out who went where. I never was remotely engaged by this stuff before, almost found it embarrassing; I suppose now it's part of trying to make sense of my family. Also, I find I want my father to be remembered. The other night, not long after he died, I burst into tears. No-one will remember him, I wailed to the JB.  This is the grief, he said, It seems wrong that the world will close up around him and just goes on. I know. 

People have been very kind. I love my cards - now I'm on the receiving end, my belief in them is confirmed. I'm glad I sent them too when it was my turn, despite the doubts I felt at the time. It really IS nice to know people are thinking of you. It's not annoying or intrusive and the gifts of cake and sweets are lovely too. Someone gave us some After Eights, a thing I normally never eat, (because it's not 1977 and we didn't just have a dinner party) but I've been consuming them steadily over the last number of nights, with gratitude and a particular satisfaction. 

Ah. I better go, it's 12. Jay needs his nap.
Thanks for your thoughts and good wishes, everyone. 

T

Here's my Granny and Granddad with my da in the front, looking like a little old man. 
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Da

I’ve never been a lover of the telephone, have you? Ever since I answered the phone when I was 12 to my distraught aunt - she’d found my uncle collapsed after a heart attack. No, it’s reserved for arrangements, and long conversations only when a face-to-face is not possible. So it was a mercy that the JB answered my phone last night. My brother was on; my father had died at the hospital.

He’d been there for six weeks, since the last time I posted, he had fluid around the heart after a fall in June, but after diuretics recovered slowly from that, then they wanted to investigate a polyp and other relatively minor things were discovered, and it dragged on and on, his recovery seemed to lag, and then he seemed a bit better, on Sunday. Sitting up in his chair, finally. It had been long enough for the dashing up and down the N11 to visit a few times a week to seem like normality. We’d bring his favourite treats, (dates, and biscuits and at some point this became a tradition of a Magnum ice-cream everyday at 2pm. One time I brought him two, not sure which flavour he’d prefer, and he ate one, paused, and ate the other.) put Nivea on his face and hands. Talk a little, interact with the friendly staff. I cut his hair once with the clippers, I’m glad to say - I wouldn’t want my Da to look neglected or unloved.

The JB came upstairs last night with the unenviable task of telling me the news. It was 10.30pm, I was in bed, listening to a podcast. He told me gently, he's kind. It seemed, still does, unreal. I cried.

Brother went down to say goodbye last night, but I didn’t want to. I want to remember my Da walking purposefully in his everlasting shoes to his office after a long 1970’s style work lunch, all sideburns, plans and high energy.


mixed bag

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This about sums it up.

Here's a real first world problem: I'm getting a bit envious of people who have bigger houses. It seems I have become petty bourgeois, but we are quite cramped in our house. 

Me, shimmying through the narrow space between the playpen (which is not a playpen more of a cat enclosure) and the bench: No wonder Jay loves going to my mother's house - she has corridors. We have no corridors.
The JB: No, our house is a corridor. 

We're lucky we have so many parks around, in which to crawl, and a lovely warm summer, so far. Jay is showing not much interest in walking but is taking crawling to a Olympian level, with all sorts of stylised moves, including a rather special reverse moon-crawl with leg kicks that inspired the JB to ask me if Jay could be related to Michael Jackson. 

Yesterday, looking for something else, I came across the email our agency sent us on this auspicious day with the photos of the little Jay looking like a very beautiful frog, and his birth mother. I tell her every time I sign off our letters we think of her every day; it's absolutely true, we do; I hope every day she is okay. Now, Jay's so strong and wily, and wilful and a bit trantrum-my. He's giving up his morning nap, but MARVELMARVELMARVELLOUSMARVEL, his first molars are all in place and he is sleeping quite a bit better, as much as 3 or even 4 hours at a time, even though his eye teeth are now making an appearance, poor kid. Going away this summer doesn't seem like an option at the moment; the idea of being all together in a hotel room being woken every three hours is.. unappealing. At home, it's fine, we divide the night and Jay's next door so the other parent can sleep. I suppose all the Earning My Biscuits at night have paid off, because he's very attached to me, and wants me to carry him a lot. He likes to see what I'm doing, I think, it's both flattering and inconvenient. He does bite, mind you, GAH, right on the shoulder just when you think he's leaning in to give you a hug. It must feel nice for his teeth, the little tike.

My father is not doing very well, on the other hand. I feeling my status as the meat in the sandwich generation. He seemed to recover quite well from a fall he had in the bathroom a few weeks ago but he's dreamy and disconnected from reality, only at intervals himself. He seems content - poor Da, though. In a rare moment, we the original four Pearls were all together in their sitting room last Sunday, while the JB and Jay rambled outside in their wild flower meadow.  It's hard not to wonder how many more such times we'll have.

Well. I have no idea how to wrap it up after that sombre note and yet, I have to. I know, I'll just abruptly stop writing!
I hope you're all well. Have a great weekend.

 


always something

The hopeful prompt BLOG is always on my google to-do list, it's just all these other things keep finagling themselves in above, things like FIND BABYSITTER, FIND SMART WATCH FOR DA, BRING CAR TO LESLIE RE LIGHT ON IN DASHBOARD. PICK UP BOOKS FROM PRINTER, GET RECHARGER FOR MA, BUY CAT FOOD, GET MOISTURISER, on and on it goes. So BLOG gets neglected for weeks and weeks and even months. And, it's not like the $8.99 a month is going to break the bank but it seems a bit wrong to just keep giving it away to typepad when surely MSF or someone could make better use of it, so I'm going to migrate over to my hosting space, I reckon, where I also park my professional (hollow laugh) website. I'm going to.. fffuh-llly away! Leave your.. loo-ove to yesterday! etc etc. Fond as I am of this blog, I plan to turn it into a book form over which I can muse in later years, a notion that sounds simple enough, but it, my 12 year long monster blog, has already broken two websites who claim to be able to handle this sort of thing. Time will tell.

I feel all kinds of personal shifting going on these days, so maybe it's a good time to make a change. I feel more grown-up, sort of more measured, and not as invested in everyone's good opinion of me. Just as well, since I am the grown-up in the parenting gig, (tee hee, imagine). This comes out in unexpected ways, for instance, a new interest in good furniture, and rooms. A feeling our car should now be reliable and fuel efficient and I should remember to wear a cycling helmet. 

Jay is growing fast, in the meantime. He's been in his own room since he turned one. (I approve heartily of being able to read at night again and have a proper grown-up bedroom. The relief of that milestone was lovely - a little bit of free time to myself to lie there on the bed! Simple pleasures, eh.) He has all sorts of new skills, pulls himself up with huge grunts, plays hide-and-seek with his father, brushes his own teeth, feeds himself, passes the ball. (And chooses not to wave goodbye or point.) He's healthy and bonny; he has had two haircuts already. His teeth are causing him (us) all sort of disturbance at night, poor boy; not a word of a lie, he has been waking every 2-3 hours since he was 10 months, with only a few exceptions. I was complaining about this to my friend the other day, and she said (she has a similar non-sleeper and is therefore Permitted to Comment) what I needed was Perspective and a Sense of Humour, and I said, yeah, no, I don't have either of those, anything else? We laughed. Really though, I have reached a sort of precarious resignation to the Sleepless in Dublin situation. I mean, it's teething, it can't go on forever, actual molars are appearing, and surely we're over the worst? He will sleep eventually. He used to sleep, for goodness sake. He's 14 months old, it's normal. In the meantime, with all the walking up and down with him at night, I'm certainly earning my biscuits. He eats very well, like a fastidious supermodel, in fact. No, ma, I'd prefer not to sully the temple that is my body with your salmon goujons, thank you. Enough peas, cucumber and berries to sink a battle ship instead, please! And perhaps a little brown bread. All quite amazing. 

Unbelievably, we're still waiting for our court date for the finalisation of the adoption, and are now in the ridiculous process of having to redo our documents (it's just too annoying to explain more fully). This will be finally done in a month or so, and then we'll be lined up for our court date, where we'll be linked by video to the court in the USA. It's a bureaucratic nightmare, but it's also only a formality; it's caused the JB and me unending stress. Our usual pattern is him getting anxious, irrational and depressed, me pulling him out of it like a middle-aged Irish cheerleader, him feeling better, me feeling drained. Or, in scenario two, him not feeling better, but me getting impatient, offended and hopeless when I can't "fix" him, goddammit, who does he think he is, having feelings! So I have been doing what I refer to in my own head as Therapising Myself. I've been getting some advice from an online therapist, which has been helpful. (I had to switch - the first dude kept saying impenetrable things like: It's not a fatalistic dynamic. And sweeping things like: All little girls marry their father. The second one was great though.) I have a lot more clarity about how far my responsibility to him goes, and how I have to let him have his feelings and not jump in all the time with the impossible self-appointed task of trying to make him happy. I've noticed this frees me up to be more compassionate toward him, funnily enough. Jay is an excellent reason and motivator in this, of course; I do want to be a good example. The JB is going to do some CBT to help him with his anxiety, in the meantime. 

We are finding more time for ourselves, too. The afore-mentioned babysitter is so we can go out for dinner together. We flop on the sofa in the evening when Jay is off to sleep and watch nice, reassuring TV (How Things Are Made, touring programmes that make good use of drone cameras and house restoration shows are highly recommended, for instance). 

Be the living hokey, I have blogged!
Press publish, quick before it vanishes. 

I hope all is well with you.
T

  IMAG2605

 I'm the baby.
 [She's been a great pet, so patient and sweet with him. Ah, Kitty, everyone said I wouldn't love you like before, but I do.]


one is one

Arg, everyone, we've been having an interesting time of it. We missed our court date (for reasons I will moan about in a later post), Jay is having a prolonged sleep regression where he wakes four or five times a night, and we are fairly wrecked.

However! This is not a weekend for complaining; we must celebrate, for Jay is one tomorrow. He is here. What a year. What a year. WHAT A YEAR. I'll be processing this for ever, I reckon. During the day, (she carefully stipulated) he is a marvel. All exploration and studying how hinges work, gazing into the washing machine in fascination, trying words out, charming shop assistants (the stranger danger is over, thank the heavens), much more relatable and biddable. Smiley, sweet, loud, thrilled with life. He eats fruit and pasta like a champion. He is just great. Many happy returns, little chap, your Ma loves you more than she can say.

I am going to go and make him a cake now.

Thank you for sticking with us this year, all. Be well. 

T

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happy new year

These posts are getting so compressed. Soon enough, I fear, it'll be a two line paragraph summing up a whole year. And yet, I persist in my half-arsed blogging because I love rereading this wonky, holey record, scribbled down in real time, as it happened. It's something to look back on, like when you're hiking and you look back and see the carpark and your miniature toy car far below. You can see how far you've come. 

I did mean to update last week but Jay had bronchitis. I wore a path in the floor walking him back and forth at night, him bellowing in my ear. It was the very opposite of fun. He's better now, just as suddenly as he got sick and lord knows, it's only the second illness of his life, so, you know, we got off lightly. 

So! It is 2017 and we have crawling. And we have clinging on with strong fingers, and we have a lot of shrieking with excitement and quite a bit of wilfulness, and complaining loudly when things aren't done quickly. And at the end of the day, we have leaden tiredness; he's heavy in my arms as I lift him into his cot.  Discovering the pleasure of physical tiredness, the effortless slipping into sleep, must be a joy. We also have (shudder) a sleep regression, especially in the early part of the night. He might wake 5 times in the night, and will be fobbed off with water maybe two of those. It helps if you hold him, so maybe some of it is developmental. (Or just mental as we say in our house.) Advice on this welcome, even of the reassuring this will pass EVENTUALLY type. I read somewhere this (10 and a half months) is a classic sleep regression time, because of all the leaps he's making to crawl and so on. His excitement about being mobile is the sweetest thing -he unsteadily makes his way over to me when I come home for a hug, thrilled with the miracle of motion. Ah. These are the moments that make it all worthwhile. 

There's so much still to do. I don't know when I'll accept that there'll never be an end to the to-do list, probably never? I really do seem to believe that one day we'll get it all done and be able to rest, despite a lifetime of evidence to the contrary. At the moment, we need a new front door and to get these dopey sliderobes taken out of Jay's room

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so we can fit in his cot and the single bed. This means our clothes will need to go.. somewhere until his cot is taken out of our room, making space for a new wardrobe. And yet the cot can't fit in his room until the slide robes are gone. It's like sudoku. Or one of those slide puzzles where you're supposed to put the picture together. I used to take those apart to solve them, did you? My Rubik's cube also used to - ehem - come apart sometimes. Spontaneously, like. 
Since we're talking about house improvements, also feel free to admire this recently acquired upcycled chest of drawers.
I love it. 

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As ever, I have run out of time. Time to publish, warts and all. 
Happy New Year, all who pass this way. 
Be well.
T


Who's Santa?

Twangy is Santa! Ah

I have more to say about Jay, of course, and what a says is true: I should write it down now before I forget it all. Even now, certain things have been lost in time - like when did we stop burping him? When did he stop making the dinosaur noises? File not found. Our letters to his birth mother do document some of this, it's true. We have those, and we've started his Life Book, with all the photos and mementoes from the hospital. These will always have the power to make me teary; I can't imagine a day when I get blasé about this one, for instance, which was stuck over his cot, (put there by a volunteer, I think):

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The physio gave him a glowing report this week, according to which he is doing very well. He's creeping, he's grasping, he's rolling over: all things desirable in a nine-month old. (A creeping, grasping adult being a different matter.) He's following people's gazes, he's "talking". He's lively and responsive. The creeping mostly works in a backwards direction, mind you. The other day I turned back to him to find he'd backed his lower half under the bed, and was looking up at me in confusion. Putting his sleeves is like birthing a breech chihuahua pup, trying to straighten his thumb out and pull it through while he complains loudly, arg. When his hand emerges, he rotates it carefully in front of his face, as if to check it's all still there. 

We said goodbye to Beautiful Tony, our social worker, by the way. He's gone to work in the Probation Office. [Twangy briefly considers turning to crime as her best bet of seeing BT again.] Fare thee well, Beautiful Tony! I sincerely hope you never read this. (I would be deeply morto.) We believed it would be our last social worker visit, but as it turned out, our final final court date to finalise our final adoption of Jay finally slipped until mid-February, which means we must have another visit in January. Of course the very last bit of the process had to be loooong and draaaawwwn out, of course, but hey ho. I was waiting for the official date to announce Jay's existence to the old friends we don't see often, (due to jinxy feelings) but I think I'll start emailing people.

There's more of course but it's Christmas Day and there's no time. We are off to see my family later and breakfast has to be thrown around the kitchen first. I hope you're all well, everyone reading this, and have a lovely holiday (or 25th December, whatever that means to you).
Be good to yourselves.
Love from Ireland
T


How how

How do single parents do it? HOW, HOW, and often with multiple kids? [Twangy faints from sheer amazement]. The JB has been away for THREE nights eating bonbons in a bubble bath (academic conference, my eye, he's not fooling me) and I am an empty husk with a muscle in my eyelid jumping away like a jumping bean, and an unexplained burn on my hand. Also, I've become very stupid with tiredness. Last night, I stood in the hallway for minutes wondering how I could leave the front door locked and still allow him to enter with his keys. If I left the key in the lock, his key wouldn't be able to enter and turn, I reasoned, very, very slowly. If I unlocked the lock with my key however and removed my key, I would leave myself open to thieves, robbers and highwaymen. More time passed while my brain groped agonisingly toward its conclusion. REMOVE THE KEY LEAVING THE DOOR LOCKED, it shrieked in eureka-like style, in slow motion. Ahh.

The physical strength component to parenting is another thing I didn't know to expect. I have better upper body strength than in my whole life (probably not saying much), actual muscle definition. He is 24 or so pounds and likes to be held so this is a simple physics formula. I go through calories like a barn on fire, too. 

Uhhhhh. I've been very busy, apart from that. There was a funding deadline, a work deadline, anther work thing, a whole lot of hoo-ha about finding people to stand in for me at the two work gigs I missed because of the bonbons, a Betty head which lasted a week, the world is on fire, I got overwhelmed and demoralised, like everyone, (everyone normal that is, there are those who are making this happen, after all) and I dunno, the rest is lost in the mists of time. 

We are now deep into the time of tossing food on the floor with force and peering after it with interest, a time of rolling over in the cot into up dog, and saying EYE for hi, and even knowing that the sheep says baa and the duck says ACK. He's at peak baby. He's great company. He giggles in a half-horrified half-thrilled way when I offer him new food as if to say: Okay, Ma, I'll go along with your mad caper, but then we're going back to the proper food, right? He takes little squares of toast very carefully in his fingers, as if they might be booby-trapped, and sucks off the butter. He'll eat most things, and about half the time he'll sleep what they call through the night, from 1 to 6 or but is actually merely through the wee small hours. He has an upper tooth now, an incisor (I think) which he uses to make appalling gnashing noises with his lower ones. Ahhh! It's awful. I took him on the train to see my mother and he enjoyed looking out the window enormously. He was thrilled. We were moving! He can see so much further, his life is expanding. It's much easier to relate to him; he's less mysterious. He goes swimming now and to baby yoga and enjoys these as long as no strangers look at him too closely. He is not fond of strangers, mostly, except when he is and then they are favoured with a broad smile. 

It is frosty out today in Eastern Ireland, in case you were interested. I must hit the road in an effort to get some presents for the Christmas, so this will have to do for now. Better done than perfect, will be written on my tombstone. More soon, friends.
I hope you're well.

T