A Day in This Life

June 7, 2017

Both my people are making sort of funny faces in this photo, but it’s the only photo I have from the school I’m about to talk about for a full 1500 words ūüėȬ†

Earlier this year, after 15 months at home with Maya (and several years working for myself as a freelancer) I took a job at Michael’s school (where he’s the guidance counselor) as their English tutor. I spent most of second semester working one-on-one with a handful of kids who have failed the Texas standardized tests in English. I took the job because we really needed a second income to get some breathing room and afford to travel a little more, and because I needed an emotional break from the rollercoaster we’d been on over the last year.

We had another failed infant adoption at Christmastime, a jail mom who had chosen us to parent her baby when it arrived in March. But when she was transferred to another prison for a longer sentence, she changed her mind. That was definitely the straw that broke my year-long, adrenaline-fueled positivity. In case you haven’t been keeping track, we had a failed infant adoption in April, Baby J who left very unexpectedly in July, second baby J (who was actually our failed infant adoption) who left very unexpectedly also in November, and then our second failed infant adoption in December, right between Christmas and the New Year. And those are only the situations that really came to pass – or almost did, at least. There were countless other phone calls from our agency that made my heart stop and shaved months, if not years, off my life.

I’d describe it as one of the best and hardest years of my life. I was finally a mom, and Maya was and is utterly perfect. We fell into foster care and I will never, ever regret that. It was one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever been given. And neither Michael nor I regret having had either Baby J’s (or the two other very temporary babes)¬†in our home. In fact, I think we feel the most positive about those situations. Those were difficult, but we feel strongly about our role in them. God needed us to stand in the gap for both of those perfect souls in order to set them on a better path when they left our home.

But failed adoptions without ever meeting the baby? Pffft. No, thanks. Those just plain old stunk. I know that our role was likely to give a mom in crisis the feeling of a safety net for her child. And maybe having us as her safety net allowed her to regain strength to decide to parent. So I can’t say that those situations were fruitless either, it was just much more difficult to tangibly feel our impact. Honestly, those two situations felt a little mean. I know this is what many people go through before they are able to bring a single baby home by adoption, and I am ever so grateful we had the reverse version.

Needless to say, after that year I needed a change of scenery and a change of focus. Our family needed to heal and grow together, just the three of us. We needed time to breathe and just be. And I had been feeling like Maya needed to see more than just me every day for a few months. She is a social toddler and it was becoming clear that she needed to be around other kids and other adults. Daycare has been an easy transition for her, for the most part.

So when Michael called me at Christmastime and said his principal was asking if I would be interested in¬†the English tutor job, it was perfectly timed. I started in late January and I’ve been powering through every since. And I love it. Like fully, unexpectedly¬†love it. We have two more weeks of summer school left and all I can think about is how¬†I can somehow replicate this sort of job when we return to Dublin. I’m not entirely sure that’s possible, considering I don’t have any sort of teaching degree and Ireland hasn’t embraced the charter school mentality like the United States has (for better or for worse – that’s a conversation for another day). So for now, I’m trying to soak it all in.

Let me take a moment to explain that the school we’re in is approximately 6 blocks from our apartment. It’s also super small, around 240 kids in an old bank that doesn’t even have a gym. They do all their PE classes out on the parking lot next to the school. The breakdown of kids is about 70% Hispanic, mostly ESL (English as a second language – as in most of them don’t speak English outside of school and a lot of their parents don’t speak any English). About 15% is African American, and 5% is white. Many of the teachers and staff speak Spanish as a native language. The kids have almost all arrived at our school from other, bigger or tougher high schools. Many of them failed out or were forced out because of discipline reasons. Our school is the end of the road for a lot of them – the last option to get a degree after spending many years in an education system that doesn’t fit their needs. For a reference point, it’s not unlike the movies¬†Dangerous Minds¬†or¬†Freedom Writers.¬†Teen pregnancy, teen jail time, parent jail time, foster situations, extreme poverty, extreme neglect, and many families split or struggling because of immigration.

I spent the second semester working one-on-one or one-on-two with kids who needed extra help trying to pass the state standardized English test. The funding for our charter school is dependent on a certain number of those children passing the standardized tests, so I was working with the kids who had the most likelihood of passing. They were just on the cusp – and I found out last week that many of them did pass. (Phew!)

Toward the very end of the semester, I happened to be sitting in the special ed room when a student needed help with a worksheet. The other two aides were occupied, so I offered to help even though he wasn’t one of my kids. Well, he is now. He straight up broke my heart, not unlike both Baby J’s did last year. The idea that he would graduate next year without being able to reasonably read a menu at a restaurant or read a letter from a utility company or read his kids a book a decade (hopefully) from now broke my heart.

I’ve been working with him ever since. Every day, we work on reading. Very basic reading. We work on digraphs and blends and flash cards and sight words. We chat, I encourage eye contact, I tell him he is improving, I tell him he’s smart.

Within a few weeks, the principal could see that I was ready to break down walls to get this kid to be able to read and she found a handful more with similar needs. They are now my babes, my daytime foster kids I don’t have to take home (although sometimes, truthfully, I wish I could). It’s about two parts reading and one part counseling. I’m one part tutor and one part cheerleader. I am happiest when they smile with pride that they’ve just cracked a word they couldn’t yesterday. Some days I must utter “Well done!” and “Amazing!” hundreds of times. My job is their reading and writing improvement, but my job is also¬†their value and their dignity and their worth, things I believe have been slowly ground down over their school years.

I think, in the last year, my focus has honed. I think about my time in Dublin fondly, but almost like I was a different person. God brought our family to Houston to adopt Maya, but God also brought me to Houston to break my heart for what breaks His. I’ve always wondered if I would like volunteering with adult literacy, and as it turns out, it’s pretty darn satisfying to me.

Of course, meanwhile, I’m writing part time for Romper about motherhood (and infertility and relationships), and newly writing a weekly interiors column for the Irish Mail on Sunday. I get several hours in the morning with Maya, and then another several most afternoons before she goes down to bed. One night a week I might zip to the coffee shop down the road for a few hours to file my interiors column or get ahead on my articles for Romper while Michael hangs with Maya. But the nice surprise is that I don’t feel like I’m missing her whole childhood like I thought I would. Those hours every day are concentrated time with her, and I try to be as present as possible and fully soak her in before I have to get down to business. I miss her until I pick her up, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out, if that makes sense.

Blogging has been the casualty, obviously, of the more-than-full-time-working-mom situation. I miss it, but I’m giving myself space to get to it when I have the energy to fully commit, rather than feeling obligated. I haven’t had my camera out much lately, but I’m hoping that will change this summer when school is out in a few weeks.

So that, long story very long, is what this life, right this minute, is about. If you managed to get to the bottom, thank you for sticking with me. This post, for me, was therapeutic to say the least. xx

One Year Ago We Made It Official

June 3, 2017

Two years ago, we moved out of our apartment and started this wild journey, and one year ago we were prayerfully looking forward to Maya’s adoption day. With the flooding and stormy weather, we weren’t at all sure we’d have an adoption court date to go to. But for the second time, God split the sea so we could walk right in.

The day before Maya’s adoption day, the courthouse was closed because of the flooding. We were checking their website every twenty minutes for updates, but on the morning of adoption day we just headed that way and hoped for the best. We’d been seeing the flooding from the Brazos River on the Weather Channel because it was the worst in the country, so we couldn’t believe it when the sun shone through on our drive down there.

We may not always celebrate Maya’s adoption anniversary (I’ve been calling it her adopt-aversary); at some point she may shrug it off and not want to make a fuss. And in fact, she was our daughter from the first moment we laid eyes on the first photo of her, so it won’t be the biggest day we celebrate every year. But tomorrow we’re going to head to our same local spot for lunch, where we celebrated after the court business was over last year with our friends and family, and we’ll head to the same local park to play, the same park where we had a bigger celebration late in the day last year with even more friends. We’ll relive the emotions of the day – both joyful and sorrowful, our enormous gain and someone else’s enormous loss – and squeeze our little chica tight.

And we’ll rejoice in the line Judge Walter said at the end of Maya’s adoption. “No take backs, no do-overs.” Forever and ever, sweet girl, you are ours and we are yours.¬† We’ve also been thinking so much about how many people made Maya’s adoption possible. What a village it took to get us into that courtroom. We will always be so grateful and will so enjoy thinking about our wide-ranging crew this time each year.¬†

Two Years Ago We Took a Leap

June 2, 2017

I’m not usually so moved by those Facebook memories that pop up at the start of your feed every time you log in. Nearly every one of those memories is a photo I posted on Instagram, and it turns out I posted a whole lot of photos of beautiful (but not terribly memory-evoking) skies over Dublin back before photos of Maya took up all the memory on my phone. But when I saw this photo come up earlier this week, I couldn’t believe it was two years ago already. Two years ago we packed up the last of our belongings from our beloved tiny apartment in Dublin(into his parents’ trusty minivan) to take the biggest leap of faith either of us had ever imagined. It still feels like yesterday that we moved, but it also feels like a million years ago.

I remember the terrified excitement we had when we moved out of our apartment, stored all our belongings away (thanks, in-laws for still dealing with that mess!), and packed two suitcases for a journey to Houston to build our family.

It’s obviously weird to think generally about our life before we became a family of three, but it’s also incredible to think about how blindly we leapt from our stable life in Dublin into the complete unknown – all with the wild goal of adopting a baby. And it’s incredible to think that we didn’t know that Maya was waiting for us at the end of a summer, or really at the end of a very long road to wondering when our family would grow. It’s unbelievable¬†to think that we had no idea how soon she was coming, or that our crazy¬†plan would work at all.

We’ve come a long way since we packed up that van. I’m so glad we did this crazy thing.

Flying With a Toddler

May 26, 2017

(This was one of Maya’s first flights when she was only about 3 months old!)¬†

I’ve had a few friends ask me lately how we keep Maya occupied on airplanes. And do we ever have experience in that category! I figured someone else might benefit from me sharing what’s worked for us on 20+ flights in her 19 months of life.

First, a disclaimer. Maya is pretty small for her age, so keeping her contained isn’t as difficult as, say, my nephew, who was much (MUCH) bigger and stronger at her age. She is pretty wiry, though, and strong willed, so keep that in mind as you’re reading through this.

(First flight home to Maine with Maya girl, happy mama much?) 

We haven’t yet had to buy a seat just for Maya. We’ll have to starting in October, but for now she’s a lap child and FYI – we always call and add her as a lap child prior to the flight.

Now, let’s start with gear. Here’s what we always bring.

  • Stroller with car seat – our infant car seat attached to our stroller, so for as long as Maya fit in the infant car seat (until 18 months!) we brought both of those things. We gate check stroller and car seat. Now that Maya has a convertible car seat, we’ll be getting one of these roller thingies that the car seat sits on. We’re hoping we don’t have to upgrade our car seat bag (see below) to accommodate the larger seat but we haven’t tested that out yet.
  • Car seat bag – this was a great suggestion a friend made before our first flight. It’s kept our car seat in great condition but it’s also great for stashing a package of diapers or even giant ziploc bags of formula when we were traveling with two babies last summer. Definitely invest in a carseat bag. It’s incredible how quickly the thing has gotten dinged up from bopping around under the plane – it takes a beating so the car seat doesn’t have to!
  • Baby carrier – I was hand me downed an Ergo 360 and it has been amazing on every flight. Maya is very agreeable when it comes to the Ergo, which does help. When we (or I – I’ve flown on my own with her successfully several times!) get ready to board, we take her out of the stroller and load her into the Ergo. That way when we walk down to the plane, we have both hands to carry the diaper bag or
  • Diaper bag – I have a bag with a bunch of pockets, and I fill them all. More on that below!

(On the floor of the plane back from Maine after Christmas Рand the last time with her paci!) 

For the entertainment of the toddler:

  • All the snacks. Many, many more snacks than you think you’ll need, and lots of new-to-Maya snacks along with some must-haves. While Maya’s never run out of toys, we have run out of snacks. When Maya was younger, I made sure to pack several of those squeezy baby food pouches that I refuse to buy otherwise because they’re terrible for the environment but are perfect for the plane. Most flights I’d pack blueberries, frozen peas (they thaw, obviously), animal crackers, fig bars, anything that doesn’t make a monstrous mess and might hold her attention for a little while. Blueberries were saved for the most disastrous moment because they are Maya’s all-time favorite. She would choose blueberries over her parents any day. Obviously, if they pass out snacks I try to get an extra few just for the novelty of opening them and taking out each and every pretzel.
  • Small toys in bags. For instance:
  • Animal finger puppets – we’ve gotten so much mileage out of these puppets my mom sent at Christmastime. Maya loves taking them out of the little drawstring bag and putting them on her own fingers or mine, then putting them back in the bag.
  • My mom also sent little zipper pouches – they’re about 2 inches across and sparkly (these would work). I put tiny plastic animals in them and again, we unzip, explore, re-zip, repeat.
  • Cups and ice – this one sometimes makes an annoying mess, but Maya’s obsessed with ice and moving it from cup to cup. So if the flight attendants are nice, I ask for an extra few cups and we play with ice or pretzels in cups for a while.
  • I stock up on a few tiny new toys from the dollar section in Target or from the dollar store, things that she hasn’t seen before and that will capture her attention for just a little while. For our last road trip, I found one of those Water Wow books that has a little water-filled brush and reusable pages that dry off after just a little while. I think that might come on our next long flight since it’s fairly compact.
  • I always bring a few small board books, a¬†baby doll and its little bottle, and maybe a new stuffed animal. I used to bring cotton balls and feathers as well – Maya is one tactile kiddo!
  • If she wants to pull out the safety manual from the back of the seat and look at it 17 times, so be it. We also “read” the in flight magazine and mostly look for puppies or babies in all of the pictures.

The basics: We obviously bring diapers (about 6 per flight, which is what she’ll go through in about 2 days, so it’s like packing for a major emergency), a sippy cup we can fill with water, a whole package of wipes and one change of clothes for her. If we’re going through security, I take out the pouches of baby food and any water I have along for her and they check it separately but that doesn’t usually take much time.

 (This was our red-eye flight to Ireland last fall, all she wanted to do was play with my hair! But she eventually fell asleep.)

Some rules we try to enforce:

  • She’s not allowed to slam that darn tray in front of us up and down, up and down. I can’t think of a more annoying thing if you’re sitting right in front of her. Ha! She’s allowed to play with toys on it, but she’s not allowed to move it, no matter how tempting that little latch is.
  • No getting down and walking around. I always thought that once Maya started to walk we’d inevitably have to be walking her up and down the aisles. But then we didn’t and now I’m trying not to let her ever know that walking around is an option. We’ll see how long it lasts! So far, 22 flights and only on one flight when we had a seat between us did we let her get down on the floor.
  • She has to be in the carrier when we get on and off the plane. Thank goodness she still fits into it, because that thing is a lifesaver.
  • No screens. That’s just our preference, so we try not to rely on ipads or our phones to keep her occupied or calm on the plane. We may get to that point, but I’d really prefer not to until she’s at least 2. She almost never watches screens at home unless we’re FaceTiming with grandparents, so that’s her normal for now.

Traveling with her has gotten a little more exhausting as she’s gotten older, but it isn’t yet as hard as I thought it would be at this stage, thankfully! Once she turns 2 in October I think it might get a little more difficult to keep her sitting in her seat, but we’ll just try to stock up on little age-appropriate toys to bring with us and hope that keeps her attention until she falls asleep! (With our Baby J on the flight we took with 2 babies, 8 and 6 months old. We dominated!) (Before our first international flight with Maya! Will never fly United again, but we survived!) (Heading to Maine, I think, for Christmas? Getting a head start on the packing ūüėČ And that suitcase has been with me since I moved to Ireland. It was one of the two I brought when I moved there, and one of the two we brought when we moved to Houston. Samsonite for the WIN!)

 

Around Here

May 5, 2017

This week… illustrated with some (mostly unedited) photos from my phone at the bottom. That’s always my favorite part of this type of post, so for those as nosy as I…

Maya woke up at 4:30am one morning (2 year molars, we think) and only wanted to be held in your lap sitting up. No cuddles, but she insisted on falling asleep sitting up.

The AHCA and Jordan Edwards broke my heart this week. When will it end?

Daycare called to say they thought Maya had a spider bite and “she needs to go to the doctor to make sure it isn’t going to eat the flesh from the inside, lay eggs, and hatch.” Cue me freaking out for six hours before I could take her to the pediatrician, who decided it looked more like one of her enormous swollen mosquito bites and prescribed some steroid cream. Ugh.

I’ve been proctoring make-up state standardized tests all week, and I’m still so torn as to standardized tests. These kids need to pass English I, English II, History, Biology and Algebra before graduating. And I can report that¬†much time¬†has gone in to training them to pass. Wasted time drilling facts? It’s a tough one.

I’ve been tutoring an 11th grader who is really struggling to read, which has broken my heart for how isolated he must and likely will feel for the rest of his life. What a gift – a gift I often take for granted – that I can read and enjoy it with all my heart. Also, how do you make it to 11th grade unable to read more than single syllables? Ugh.

I went walking with a friend one evening this week and along the bayou there’s a field of wildflowers – black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace, the latter was my Grandma Catharine’s favorite flower. I’ve been missing her quite a lot lately.

We’ve been watching (I use we loosely here) the NBA playoffs. Michael’s Celtics and our collective Rockets are both in the playoffs still, meaning my television has been monopolized every evening lately. When I can squeeze in an hour, I’ve been watching the newest two seasons of¬†Call the Midwife.¬†Did you know it had new seasons? That was such a fun treat that resulted from this post! We also watched the latest season of¬†Catastrophe,¬†which we loved before but didn’t love so much this round. It was a tad depressing and six episodes is not very many!

I’ve written some passionate articles for Romper lately – like this one about helping foster kids, about things you don’t think about until you’re an adoptive parent, and tricks I actually use to get my kid to sit nicely at a restaurant.

I think I’ve developed either carpal tunnel or really bad tennis elbow that stretches down to my wrist? Lifting all 20 pounds of Maya isn’t the easiest at the moment. Thank goodness she’s so tiny! Any carpal tunnel fixing tricks?

We’re heading to Dallas this weekend for a two-year-old birthday party. Fingers crossed Maya stays chill for the whole ride!

Maya requisitioned my popsicle when I got one out for both of us. A cute little video on my Instagram as well… Sometimes we need the big guns to leave the park. Maya using an old pan to make soup? She took baby out and said, “Hot, hot!” Apparently a modern take on this house. Love our neighborhood architecture. Love when I catch magnolias at nose-level. It’s rare!¬†

 

Where I Get My News

May 4, 2017

(Maya gets her news from the pamphlet in the seat back pocket, but she takes it terribly seriously. Unrelated: Michael can sleep through being pummeled by Maya on a flight. I cannot.)

One of the things that actually kept me from blogging for¬†all that time the last few months (basically since Christmas) was the internet. It was giving me major anxiety to spend so much time on it every day reading about the next apocalyptic thing going on in the world…or mostly in or caused by Washington.¬†What’s happening in this country on an almost-hourly basis overwhelms me and terrifies me and it almost always seems like anything I do won’t make enough difference.

Around February I pinpointed my exhausting anxiety to looking at Facebook and Twitter much too often looking for the next apocalyptic thing going on. So I took Facebook and Twitter off my phone.¬†I still peeked at them for a few minutes every few days on my computer, but I spent much less time on those apps overall. Shocking absolutely no one, it made a big difference to my general level of agitation. Not hearing about the hourly apocalypse lessened that stress and I decided to replace that time with learning. I want to be informed without being enraged 100% of the time. I think some people can maintain that level of outrage, but I was realizing I didn’t have it in me – and also realizing it was affecting the people who had to spend all their time with me.

To that end, I thought I’d share the sources I look at daily or weekly to stay up to date on what’s going on around the country, without having to see so many outraged (although very well-meaning) posts from friends. I’d love to hear where you get your news and also how you manage to stay at a reasonable level of outrage without going totally bananas.

The Mash-Up Americans: Weekly newsletter (and website) about all things racial. Last weekend alone, I read these three articles they linked and they stuck with me all week: Why Poverty Is Like A Disease, Ludacris Rapping Llama Llama Red Pajama (just try to get that out of your head within 3 days and also when are they coming out with a rapping children’s book album to replace the painful options I refuse to play now), and The NFL’s Racial Divide. As a wife to a bi-racial man and a mama to a mixed race daughter, I try to learn as much as possible on this topic constantly. (Oh, also this article about Rachel Dolezal and a short list that explains cultural appropriation.)

The Skimm: Daily news at about 6am in simple, sometimes punny, digestible fashion. I usually open this one first as I wake up. It’s easy to read and makes me feel like I’ve done/learned something from the get-go.

Quartz Daily: Sort of more markets-based with an international focus. I definitely get more Asian news from this than I do anywhere else. It’s a great round-up with quirky stories from around the world at the bottom.

The New York Times Morning¬†Briefing and Weekend Briefing: All the news that’s fit to print, except condensed into a single email where you can click on stories for more in-depth reading.

News & Guts: Dan Rather is 85. Can you believe that? But he’s fired up and ready to question everything Trump does, as well as analyze a lot of what’s going on in politics and science at the moment. There’s something reassuring and grounding¬†about Rather, perhaps because he draws from decades of experience as a journalist.

Vox Media: Vox Media is great for explaining things you think you already understand just because you hear about it constantly. Turns out, most of those things need more detailed explainers.

And one last thing.¬†This video of Senator Elizabeth Warren (of “…and still we persisted” fame, lest you forget) speaking at the NAACP in Detroit last month, it is incredibly moving and will make you wonder if she’s positioning herself for a presidential run and also wish she definitely would.

Where do you get your news? I’d love to have more suggestions.

Austin, Texas / A Trip to the Capitol

May 1, 2017

My parents were in town a few weeks ago so we thought we’d do a little Texas exploring, despite the fact that we really wouldn’t have to leave our Houston¬†neighborhood to stay busy for days. My parents haven’t spent as much time in Texas as we have, so we thought we’d show them Austin. This trip to Austin, the weather wasn’t quite good enough for Barton Springs, which we loved last year when we visited. But we managed to walk along the river, visit the capitol (we’ve enjoyed the free tour twice now!), and see the bats coming out from under the bridge. It’s the largest urban bat colony in North America! And it’s smelly. Two little known facts for you right there.

These photos are from a wander around the grounds of the capitol building, a reward to Maya who mostly sat quietly in her stroller for the whole thirty minutes. And thirty minutes is her max for being cooped up in the stroller, high chair or car seat. So, we wiggled and chased birds for a little while!

These two. 1000% too sweet together.

We stayed in a cute Airbnb in a cute neighborhood near a cute street full of shops and restaurants. Sort of the epitome of Austin, even down to the massive hill it was set on. That, to me, is the main difference between Houston and Austin: Houston is FLAT and Austin is hilly. And quirkier. With more food trucks than could possibly be sustainable.

Maya likes to bring you tiny pieces of dirt and twigs she finds. It’s very generous and sometimes exhausting.

 

A Texas Beach Day!

April 28, 2017

A few weeks ago, during spring break from school, we took Maya to the beach for the first time. We drove an hour-ish south of Houston down to Surfside Beach. We’d been to Surfside before, but when the weather was stormy a few weeks before Maya arrived. It was so different with the sun shining!

To the left, you can drive your car onto the beach, and the right is a pedestrian beach. For spring break, it was pretty calm and wasn’t that crowded. The water was still pretty chilly for us to get in, but we enjoyed playing in the sand – some of us more than others! Maya was a little nervous about the sand touching her feet and at first only wanted to wear her sandals. But she got used to it and was soon¬†flinging it over her head and into her hair. She never warmed up to the water, although did understand what it was, saying “ma,” while pointing at it. “Ma” is, of course, her word for any liquid. I think she was wary of the waves and couldn’t figure that part out. The temperature didn’t help, either. She loves pools, so I’m thinking a few more visits she might be more interested. We joined friends for the afternoon and they brought bocce, which I had never played before. I liked it, and I’m not much of a game person. Plus, it was a serious workout to do it with Maya on my hip, because at that point she was all sanded out. The drive to Surfside is just about the perfect length for Maya’s nap, so I assume we’ll be spending more Saturdays here as the weather gets even sweatier!

Very Real Family Photos

April 21, 2017

A few months ago, I connected with the loveliest photographers, Cindy and David, who as a team compose Henkl Photography. They’re based in Houston not far from where we live, and I jumped at the opportunity to have them photograph our little family of three. The one thing I had really missed in Maya’s first year was that we never had proper photos taken of the three of us. Michael’s sister captured some photos when Maya was born and occasionally throughout the year, but not a proper session like I imagined we’d eventually do.

We cancelled once with Cindy and David because it was like 94 degrees out and I just knew that I would be dripping with sweat. And we nearly cancelled the morning of these photos because Maya had been so sick for what felt like months. Honestly, it was months. She was sick 3 weeks of every month from October to maybe last month, with thick goo running out her nose, hacking cough and very, very grumpy disposition. Looking back on it, it was actually quite a hard time for us as a family. It was stressful to have her ill and not know what was wrong (pediatrician says “babies get sick” but¬†my intuition now says allergies). When she went to her 15 month appointment with the doctor, she had actually lost weight because she had no appetite when she was sick and snotty.

Looking back at these photos is funny because she’s by far the skinniest we remember her, but it’s also a testament to Cindy and David. Maya was miserable and barely cracked a smile at the park. She only started to perk when we saw Ratt the Cat (our neighbor’s cat) on the way back. Ironically, that day was the turning point and she actually started getting progressively better that day. By the evening, we returned to the park and I caught a few photos of her grinning.

But while we didn’t get a whole lot of big smiling Maya photos like I enjoy the most, Cindy and David perfectly captured what this season was for us, which is so important. It wasn’t shiny and it wasn’t perfect. It was a little fragile and subdued, and that’s how I’ll remember this time whenever I look at these photos. I’m so glad to have a little snapshot of this time in our Houston home before we move on. This is the place we brought Maya home to our family for the first time, and it’s the place we’ve really grown into a family of three. It’s where she first crawled and then walked. It’s where we had two Baby J’s and a Baby Little Bird.

Maya asking if she can have some of her dad’s coffee.

We love our little park. It’s only a few blocks from our house and we spend so much time there. We even had Maya’s adoption day party there. Fond, fond memories at that little park.

Big fan of those rocks, Maya is. I love these big trees, and I love that they’re barren and spooky looking because this was January. This was the season we were in, for sure. Despite being so thin, she was munching on crunchy things constantly. I had brought cookies along with me to bribe her into cooperating but all she wanted to do was grab big handfuls of them. It kinda backfired.¬† And then Ratt the Cat came on the scene and Maya’s mood started to lift. Ratt is the neighbor’s cat and when she (or he?) is lying down on the driveway taking a nap, she looks as flat as a pancake. I think she’s about 15 years old and Maya is obsessed with her. When we turn onto our street, Maya says “meow! meow!” based solely on the trees across from the house where Ratt lives. We stop to pet Ratt just about every day and it’s a highlight of Maya’s day. Favourite photo of me and my girl. A smile with only those 4 teeth on top and bottom and the 1 year molars poking through. She’s got a whole mouthful now!

Such big thanks to Cindy and David. They are Houston based and so, so chill to have in your home or with you on a run to the park. Even their cameras are small an unobtrusive so you don’t feel like a jerk at the park on a Saturday at 10am!

And Here We Are

April 20, 2017

It’s been so very long, and I’d rather not belabor that point at the moment. Instead, how about a little update?

1.¬†I’ve been working full time and loving it. I’ve never been so tired and I’ll be relieved to hit summer vacation, but I’m really enjoying both jobs. I’m in Michael’s school as an English tutor most days each week, working with kids who are primarily English language learners (meaning they do not speak English at home. It’s been so eye opening because the school primarily serves kids who have gotten passed through grades without necessarily learning necessary knowledge. One of my seniors recently revealed she never knew there was a rule dictating when to use a rather than an. I nearly cried except she was so excited to have a rule to look to now!

Then three days a week I write for Romper.com about being a mom, which is oddly therapeutic. I’m tasked with only writing about what I’ve experienced, which makes it quite fun.

2. I’ve begun writing for the Daily Mail on Sunday back in Ireland. My long-time blog friend Kim was ready to go full-time with her screen printing business (Damn Fine Print) and asked me to take over. It’s been so fun to be writing about interiors again, and fun to be writing about Ireland again. At the moment, the pieces are only in the print edition, which you can obviously only find in Ireland. I’m hoping to be able to start sharing¬†some of the content online here.

3. Maya has been doing really well in daycare. She loves her teacher, Miss Angie, who calls her “my baby,” which is possibly the most comforting thing this working mom could hear. She was sick for quite a while over the winter, which we now think might be down to the excess of pollen here in Houston, but she seems to be coming out of that and really trucking along. She knows so many words and is adorably silly. She’s also becoming increasingly independent, and doesn’t love spending much time in the car seat or stroller, which is exhausting!

4. I spend much more time each day cleaning up after Maya than I ever imagined possible. I thought two babies was a lot, but toddlers are no joke. She can cover the floor of our 750 square foot apartment with toys and books and anything else she can get her hands on in about 20 minutes. She does not seem interested in putting anything back, although she really enjoys sweeping.

5. It’s already into the 80’s most days in Houston, although this spring has been much cooler than last spring. It’s nice to not already be too sweaty!

6. One of the reasons I didn’t write here in so long was because the track pad on my very old Mac found a life of its own and wouldn’t respond to my command. And the external mouse I use when that happens had had a battery acid leak. With so little brain space I couldn’t quite get over the hump of figuring either of those problems out. Luckily, the tech guy at the school helped me fix the battery acid leak and I’m back with my wonky Mac and external mouse. I have so many photos on my camera to upload from the last few months.

7. I’ve been posting rather regular updates (mainly Maya related) on my Instagram account, in case you need a cute toddler fix.

8. I’m in the market for a new television show, preferably Neflix or HBO Go or Amazon. Michael and I just watched¬†Big Little Lies¬†in record time and I thought Nicole Kidman did an incredible job. The counseling scenes were fascinating to me.

9. We had a lovely Easter, and Maya wore her biggest bow yet along with ruffle socks and little white shoes.

10.¬†I’d like to start blogging regularly again, but I’d like also to not put myself under too much pressure about it. Life is busy at the moment, and I’m trying to enjoy Maya when she’s little as much as possible, and trying to enjoy life as our little family of three.

It’s getting late now, and in the name of getting this up and into the internets, I’ll say goodnight. I hope to be back again soon. Xx